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> 21. The Fights of Lapusna
Posted: January 07, 2004 07:31 pm
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by Stefan Balasan

The defensive fights of Lapusna performed by the 15th Infantry Division (subordinated to the III Army Corps) in the days of July 10, 11 and 12, 1941 in the southern part of the Cornesti Mountains Chain, were the result of the enemy's strong offensive responses launched to halt the Romanian-German forces advance towards the Dniester.

The 15th Infantry Division had forced the Prut river on July 4 in Nemteni-Rasesti sector, achieving that night a 10 km wide and 2-3 km deep bridgehead on the eastern bank of the river. The following days, the division's forces, after defeating the enemy's resolute resistance, developed the bridgehead and, later, turned to following operations, together with the 11th Infantry Division, introduced in combat at the 15th Infantry Division's left flank on July 9; these two units' forward forces reached the Stolnicesti, Hancesti, Carpineni line, 30-35 km east of the Prut river. In the afternoon of July 8, the 35th Infantry Division, that was advancing eastward, at the III Army Corps left flank to contact the 11th German Army was defeated on the Bucovat Valley, and on July 9 the air surveillance had discovered significant Soviet concentrations in front and at the right flank of the III Army Corps; consequently, General Ion Antonescu, Commander of the Romanian-German Front, ordered a temporary defensive operation, in a "hedgehog" deployment, as he foresaw an imminent strong enemy counterattack.

Truly, in the morning of July 10, the enemy launched the counterattack in the 35th Infantry Regiment's sector, at the 15th Infantry Division's right flank, with forces of about 2 battalions strength supported by artillery; on July 11, it intensified the attack introducing in combat 2 infantry regiments, on each side of the Hancesti-Lapusna highway, forces supported by 4-5 artillery battalions and 8-10 light armoured cars. The forces at the 15th Infantry Division's right flank and at the 11th Infantry Division's left flank where the enclenchment occurred oposed a strong resistance, succeeding in giving up no inch of their land and, in the morning of July 12, the enemy was completely annihilated and forced to retreat as a result of a counterattack conducted at its flank by 2 battalions from the "General Dumitriu" Tactical Detachment, which was moving from Stolniceni to Bujorul with a view to occupy its defensive sector.

I took part in these fights with the 23rd Artillery Regiment, as the leader of an artillery unit from the 8th Battery (the 3rd 100 mm "Skoda" Howitzer Battalion) and I was very proud that my battalion took its share in the success of our forces by the support given so timely and accurately to 35th Infantry Regiment.

The III Army Corps' success in the fights of Lapusna had significant operational impact, as it further allowed to maneuver the Cornesti Mountains Chain from the south-east with the 4th Romanian Army's left flank and from the north-west with the 11th German Army's right flank, an operation that resulted in quickly conquering this mountain chain and in the liberation of Kishinev. These fights have also allowed the Romanian military leadership to learn significant lessons and led to conclusions for the organization and conducting of future operations. As to the enemy forces it was by hypothesis advanced that, under the strong blows given by the German troops that operated in the north, they would retreat from Bessarabia without opposing a serious resistance. Quite the opposite, the enemy showed a firm resolution to resist and to maintain the occupied territory, as well as a strong ability to quickly regroup its forces on certain lines, with a view to achieving the superiority and to vigorously respond offensively. Likely, the enemy showed its readiness in matters of camouflage, his preference for surprise, as well as great quantities of available ammunitions (which he used without any restraint). As regards our own forces, the conclusion was reached that the commands or both big units and units proved good tactical preparedness and flexibility, managing to quickly pass from following to defensive operations, to rapidly develop the defensive line and to respond, calmly and audaciously, to the enemy strong blows. The infantry troops confirmed they were well-trained and resolute in their defence, while the artillery proved it was capable to quickly and accurately support the infantry, both through the timely contact and through the permanent support during the fights.

Shortcomings also resulted, such as the camouflage of the defensive lines at all echelons, as well as the difficulties -due to the limited transport capability available for ammunition supply, mainly for artillery ammunition, of which the units were short after merely 2-3 days of fighting.
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