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> 33. Between the Dniester and the Dnieper Rivers
Posted: March 31, 2004 03:48 pm
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by Vasile Pricop

After the Northern part of Bukovina and the Hotin zone were liberated (until July 8, 1941 ), the 3rd Romanian Army (commander: General Petre Dumitrescu), including the Mountain and Cavalry Corps, was regrouped (until July 12) in the area north-west of Moghilev; in succesion it was given the order (on July 13) to force the crossing of the Dniester river, between Vasilauti and Cozlov and to advance towards Sargorod.

In the front of the Army were defending Soviet forces withdrawn from the Northern Bukovina, and also well trained troops, previously prepared for fighting in the fortified area "Stalin".

The attack of the 3rd Army's troops began on July 17, at dawn.

The Journal of Operations of the Mountain Corps noticed, at that moment: "At 3.45 a.m., the fire of the 35 artillery sections broke instantly and it made a fierceful noise it the valley of the old Dniester river. The moment is very impressive and the Romanian troops, encouraged with the storm of the artillery bombardment, are embarked and are floating on the assault bridges to the opposite bank".

By achieving a total surprise, the Mountain Corps' troops, together with the ones of the Cavalry Corps - both in the first echelon of action - have assaulted the fortified position of the enemy on the other bank of the river, reaching in the end to hand to hand fights. The casemates were destroyed by using explosives and with the direct fire of the machine guns, antitank cannos and mountain cannons against embrasures. The enemy troops disposed in the platoon defending positions between the casemates were crushed. Until 14.00 p.m., the 3rd Army established the brigade bridgeheads. Towards the end of July 17, the first riposte of the enemy has come. As was expected, the counter attack has been performed on the left flank of the Army, carried by troops of the 164 Soviet Motorized Infantry Division, between 17.00 and 19.00 p.m. The first offensive riposte was stoped, also three hostile tanks were destroyed, but the second one has rejected the troops disposed on the left flank of the 1st Mountain Brigade at roughly 1,5 km distance backwards. In the area that was defended by the Cavalry Corps, the enemy's reactions were weaker, so that they could be rejected on the move.

The day of 18th of July was decisive for the maintaining of the bridgehead established by the Army. The enemy started his counter attacks at 5.30 a.m., on the left flank of the Army (from north to south), using the forces of the 130 and 164 Infantry Divisions, backed by tanks, with the view to cut off on its base the bridgehead. The counter attacks were repeated, successively, at 8.30, 10.30 a. m. and at 18.10 p.m., when the Soviet forces tried, with a final effort, to annihilate the bridgehead. The fight was bloody and the enemy managed to penetrate between the 4th and the 1st Mountain Brigades. Yet, the 9th Mountain Group of the 4th Mountain Brigade resisted, with the cost of heavy losses. By launching a stormy attack, after a powerful artillery curtain of fire has been delivered, the 1st Mountain Brigade (disposed in the flank of the counter-attack group of forces of the enemy) re-established the situation. "The resistance of the 9th Mountain Group's fighters - noticed the Journal of Operations of the big unit - and also the attack performed by the 1st Brigade saved the situation of the troops disposed in the bridgehead. The Ā«StalinĀ» line was penetrated".

Being menaced in the north due to the advance of the 17th German Army, the Soviet forces began to beat a retreat towards east. Without stopping, the 3rd Army started, on July 19, 1941 to chase the enemy to the general direction Moghilev-Vosnesensk. The main characteristic of this action was the tight with the strong rearguards of the enemy for holding the communications, for conquering the passing points and for impeding the retreat of the hostile columns to the eastern bank of the Bug river. In this respect, the commander of the Army decided to change the Cavalry Corps into a Mobile Group, thus depassing the Mountain Corps. "The discontinuous front, the advancings by infiltration performed on both sides - enemy and our troops - the convulsions of the Russian columns that were coming back from the line of the Bug river, where the Vosnesensk crossing had been already intercepted by the Mechanized Corps of the 17th German Army, all these gave birth to situations often bizarre. Each unit must assure all around its area and also it must attack boldly". The most important fights took place at Cozinti, Vierhovka, Konceba, Krivoe Ozero, Lubasevka, Vradsvka etc., so that the Romanian big units reached, until August 13, the line of the Bug river, in the Vosnesensk area.

After a short break, following to Hitler's demand from August 14, 1941 that the Romanian troops would participate further in the military operations, also after Marshal Ion Antonescu gave his consent to Fuhrer's proposal, the 3rd Romanian Army was assigned to cross the Bug river and to advance towards the Dnieper river to the direction Krivoi Rog - Sofievka (in the north) and Dimitrievka (in the south).

The most successful operations were carried out by the 3rd Romanian Army, starting with August 17,1941: forcing the cross of the Dniester river; destroying, without stopping, the enemy's forces disposed between the Dniester and the Bug rivers; establishing the defensive disposition on the line of the Dniester river - a position that was to be very useful for for rejecting, between September 1-15, all the actempts made by the Soviet forces to cross the river, thus purposing to penetrate in the rear of the 11th German Army. Heavy fights have been carried out by the Mountain and Cavalry Brigades at Fisch - Sablukovka (September 3-5), Balka (September 5), Leonitievka (September 7) and Gavrilovka (September 9).

The military men of the 3rd Romanian Army proved their great capacity to carry a heavy effort, and our Headquarters and Commands showed their special capability to lead the troops in combat.
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