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> 29. A Balance Sheet and a few Concise Conclusions
Posted: January 27, 2004 01:06 pm
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by Alesandru Dutu

In the mililitary operations for the liberation of Bessarabia and the North of Bukovine were involved 3 Armies ( 1st and 4th Romannian Armies and 11th German Army), including 10 Army Corps (VII Romanian Army Corps: II, III, IV, V, XI Army Corps, Mountain and Cavalry Corps and 3 German Army Corps: XI, XXX and LIV Army Corps) which were composed of 20 divisions (14 Romanian divisions: 5, 6, 7, 8, 10, 11, 13, 14, 15, 21, 35 Infantry Division, 1st Border Guard Division, 1st Guard Division, 1st Armoured Division and 6 German Division: 22, 50, 76, 170, 198 and 239 Infantry Division), 3 Romanian Mountain Brigades (1, 2 and 4 Mixed Mountain Brigades), 4 Romanian Cavalry Brigades (5, 6, 7 and 8 Cavalry Brigades), 2 Romanian Fortification Brigades (1 and 2) as well as numerous nondivisional units. Romanian Air Forces and Navy joined the land forces mentioned above. The efectives of the Romanian Infantry Divisions oscillated between 13,000 and 15,000 people, of the Mountain Brigades between 11,000 and 12,000 people and of the Cavalry Brigades between 4,000 and 5,000 people.

The documents of the time mentioned the participation in the military operations of more than 470,000 Romanian military (18,300 officers, 17,200 NCOs and 437,000 soldiers) from which 24,396 represented losses (5,011 officers, 14,898 wounded and 4,487 missing).

As numerous Romanian commanders noticed, the offensive military operations carried out for the liberation of Bessarabia and the North of Bukovina bore the mark of the conceptions elaborated within the interwar period concerning the development of the operations, which laid stress upon defensive. Generally speaking, the remarks with reference to offensive reduced themselves to ripostes for the annihilation of the hostile forces which could have penetrated into the Romanian territory. Under the circumstances, the material and spiritual efforts were directed towards strenghtening the defensive system of the country and the troops were mainly trained for defence.

Offensive itself was attributed a secondary role. Consequently, this form of fight was less studied and experimented, especially at the level of the strategic and operative echelons. The negative effects were to be noticed even from the very beginning at the General Headquarters level as well as at the level of the Armies and Army Corps Commands. The same negative effects appeared in connection with the act of execution, especially in the places where the enemy put up a bold resistance, as it happened in the operative area of the 4th Army. Stressing upon the fact that "the offensive spirit was not sufficiently cultivated within the Romanian armed forces", General Vasile Atanasiu - commander of the III Army Corps -noted that, at the end of the fights in Bessarabia, our soldiers and officers "easily adopted themselves the offensive spirit, which, as a matter of fact, was specific to our race". However, the inadequate edowment of the units led to the weakening of confidence in the Romanian armed forces own strenth, because, as General Atanasiu added "one can not fight stripped to the waist against the tanks, one can not defend oneself only by retiring to a place of safety during the air attacks, it is not possible for the attacker to take by surprise and disorganize an enemy that is much better equipped with all sorts of weapons, so one can not follow a withdrawing motorized enemy with pedestrians, one can not tape enemy artillery and automatic armaments with an ammunition consumption which had been calculated not taking into acount enemy's reaction, but according to different echelons availabilities". As a conclusion, General Vasile Atanasiu mentioned that "offensive provides victory, but requires a huge and continous materials consumption. Half measures influence the offensive spirit and offer the defender the opportunity to react taking advantage of the attackers weakness. The loss of the initiative is the immediate result of this miscalculation and compromises the offensive".

Along the same line, Lieutenant -Colonel Alexandru Dobriceanu - chief of staff of the Guard Division, analysing the military operations carried out in Bessarabia, called for military schools and units "to give up the defensive smooth spirit they were educated in, incapable of initiative and courage, pressed only by their chiefs' supervision of the spirit of initiative and of courage, as well as training the units in the spirit of the offensive, the only one capable of providing victory."

However, military operations pointed out the capacity of the commands and headquarters to organize and lead troops during the fights, the necessity of making decisions taking into account the realities existent on the battlefield, the direct and permanent contact with the commanders and troops in the field, the need of issuing short and direct orders to lower echelons as well as of providing them with the liberty of action they needed to fulfil their mission.

Military operations carried out by Romanian formations and units stressed upon the fact that defensive "must be active, with rapid offensive reactions - on its own initiative whenever necessary, the aim always being the destruction of the enemy". Another conclusion was that during the enemy's offensive it is essential for the units to "have the necessary calm in order to let the enemies draw near, a short way off, and then to destroy them by means of efficient fires of the whole armament". Considering that the counterattacking reactions on the units own initiative were only seldom and shyly used, General Nicolae Dascalescu - commander of the 21st Infantry Division - appreciated that "the best means of defence was counterattack".

The fierceness of the fights was also determined by the strong resistace put up by the Soviet forces in the first stage on the Prut river, with the highest intensity, in the area east of Falciu. After the crossing of the river and as a result of their defeats in Galitia, the Soviet forces have lost the initiative, confining themselves to delay the issue by bitter opposition and local counter attacks, for limiting the penetration of Roumanian and German forces or disengaging their units in trouble. Continually reversed from the north, the Soviet defence finally turned into a withdrawal covered on some directions by strong rearguards equipped with artillery and motorized infantery which were sometimes making counterattacks even during the night to facilitate daylight retreat.

The Romanian military completely liberated until July 26, 1941 the territory occupied by the Soviets a year ago, permitting the General Staff of the Romanian-German Front Command to communicate to the whole country: "The fight for liberating the Eastern Romanian land is over. From the Carpathian Mountains to the Black Sea, we are again masters within our forefa-thers' frontiers".
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Posted: February 01, 2004 04:29 am
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The end of World War I divided Europe in two camps: the countries pleased by the new border layout, and those who weren't.

The countries satisfied with the world as it was were interested in maintaining the status-quo. Thus they were interested to defend what they got, against any unwanted changes. They did not want anything more, thus they did not feel the urge to start a new war, so they were not interested at all in offensive.

Their interest was in having a good defensive.
France built the Maginot Line, Belgium built Eber-Emmanuel and other forts, Czechoslovakia built fortifications at the border with Germany, Romania built some fortifications in both Bessarabia and Transylvania. Great Britain did not need forts, but they were willing to spend in their fleet and aviation, for defensive needs first of all.

After losing the war, the Germans tried to figure out what went wrong. The same strategy who worked for the Allies (immobile fight in trenches, and a long term attrition war), could not be good for Germany, an overpopulated country unable to feed its own population, and unable to offer all what was needed for industry from that country alone.

The main rule for the Germans, when the new war occurred, was the short term campaign, the only sustainable by an economy haunted by lack of resources. While Liddell Hart in England and Charles de Gaulle in France could not find the needed support to give the tank the role it deserve, Guderian found the full support in the person of Hitler, who said the famous words: "That's what I need". Unlike the French and the British, Guderian organized the armor in massive compact units, carrying in the same time supply trucks with food, gasoline and ammunition. Also the units had their own field and AA batteries, able to run at the same speed with the tanks, and also their own motorized infantry driving along. This allowed the German armored division to advance without waiting for the support of additional units. This was very useful, especially considering that more than 2 thirds of the German army in 1939-1940 were foot soldiers, or travelled in horse pulled trucks.

The Russians were also unhappy with the aftermath of World War I. They prepared Red Army for big offensives yet to come, to recover the lost territories and also because Communism was an aggressive ideology willing to expand. They also had big compact armored units, like the Germans. Under marshal Tuchachesky, the first division of paratroopers in history was created for the Red Army. In early 30's the Soviets had few of the best fighter and bomber planes available. Fortunately or unfortunately, Stalin's paranoia gave a huge blow to the Red Army in 1937-1938.

So the leadership of the Romanian army was indeed unfit for the needs of an offensive style war, but the Romanians were a part of the rule, and not exceptions from it. The exceptions were only the Germans and the Russians, as I said. (Mussolini also dreamed to make the Italian army an offensive one, but considering its performance in battles does not deserve further consideration.)
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