Romanian Armed Forces
in the Second World War
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Marshal Ion Antonescu
General Gheorghe Avramescu
General Petre Dumitrescu
General Gheorghe Mihail
Lt. general Nicolae Ciuperca
Lt. general Nicolae Dascalescu
Lt. general Corneliu Dragalina
Lt. general Nicolae Macici
Lt. general Mihail Racovita
Lt. general Nicolae Sova
Maj. general Radu Băldescu
Maj. general Ioan Dumitrache
Maj. general Mihail Lascar
Maj. general Leonard Mociulschi
Maj. general Ioan Sion
Brig. general Radu Korne
General of Air Squad Aviator Gheorghe I. Jienescu
Lt. general Corneliu Dragalina
Virgiliu and Corneliu (right) Dragalina in mourning after the death of their father, general Ioan Dragalina, in 1916
lt. general Corneliu Dragalina
General Corneliu Dragalina, prior t othe war, wearing the Mihai Viteazul Order 3rd class won during WW1.
General Corneliu Dragalina, 6th Corps' commander, during the autumn of 1941 at Odessa
General Corneliu Dragalina with members of his staff, still having the rank of major general.
General Petre Dumitrescu (left) and general Corneliu Dragalina (right) in Russia during 1942
Lt. gen. Dragalina (left)and lt. gen. Avramescu (right) at a hunt.

11 November 1916: Mihai Viteazul Order 3rd class

1 January 1940 - 20 March 1943: 6th Corps

9 August 1942: Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross

1 September 1942: Mihai Viteazul Order 2nd class

? ? 1942: Coroana Romaniei Order Grand Officer class

? ? 1942: promoted to the rank of lieutenant general

Corneliu Dragalina was born on 8 February 1887 in Caransebes. In 1905 he was admitted in the Artillery and Engineer Officer School, from where he graduated in 1907 and received the rank of 2nd lieutenant. In 1910 he was 1st lieutenant and in 1915 captain in the 4th Artillery Regiment, with which he participated in the 1916 campaign, commanding one of the few heavy artillery batteries of the Romanian Army. His regiment was part of the 19th Infantry Division, which fough hard on the front in Dobruja in the autumn of that year.

On 10 October 1916, while his battery was located behind the 51st Infantry Regiment, a powerful Bulgarian attack broke the front of the 3rd Battalion, causing the soldiers to flee. They started retreating in disarray, passing by his battery. Seeing this, Corneliu Dragalina got on the first horse he found, drew his sword and ordered the trumpets to sound the attack, while he rode in the direction of the enemy. This action made the Romanian infantry stop and then follow him. The Bulgarian attack was repulsed and the front line was restored, but Corneliu Dragalina was wounded by a bullet that passed close to his heart and didn't get out. A barge took him and the other wounded on the Danube to Galati, where, his brother Virgiliu, who was the aid of the Navy's commander, took him directly to the hospital. He was operated and the bullet was taken out. For this feat, he was later awarded the prestigious Mihai Viteazul Order 3rd class. In only a couple of days, the two brothers were in Bucharest, by the side of their dieing father, general Ioan Dragalina, commander of the 1st Army, who had been mortally wounded in the fighting on the Olt Valley.

In 1917 he was again promoted (like most of the active Romanian officers at that time). Between 1919-1921 major Dragalina attended the Military Academy. He then rose up in the military hierarchy: lieutenant colonel in 1920, colonel in 1928, brigadier general in 1935 and major general in 1940.

On the 1st of January 1940 he was named commander of the 6th Corps, based in Cluj, a position which he would hold for the next three years. He received one of the first great responsibilities in this high position in August the same year, when he was part of the Romanian delegation that took part in the Turnu Severin Conference with Hungary. The talks aimed at settling the Transylvanian issue between the two countries. Following the Second Vienna Award, general Dragalina had the very unpleasant assignment of head of the Romanian commission in charge of the evacuation of the Northwestern part of Transylvania ceded to Hungary.

The 6th Corps left Cluj and pulled back to the Brasov area. During the legionnaire rebellion in January 1941, general Dragalina with his troops restored order inside the city and occupied the radio broadcast station at Bod. From there he dismissed the news circulated by the legionnaires that he was marching towards Bucharest in front of the 6th Corps in order to help them gain power. This myth, however, still lives on in legionnaire "folklore"

The 6th was moved to the Banat, where, in April, it received the mission to intervene in the invasion of Tugoslavia and occupy the Serbian part of the Banat, should Hungarian troops also attempted it. The Romanian government informed the Reich of its intentions and eventually the Serbian Banat was occupied by German troops and the conflict was avoided.

After the war had started in June 1941, the 6th Corps was kept in reserve inside Romania and was sent to the front only in October 1941. Thus it took part in the final phase of the battle of Odessa, fighting in the northern sector and then entering the city. It was then sent to Crimea for a short while, and then, in the spring of 1942, the 6th Corps moved on the front south of Izyum. It took under its command 4 Romanian infantry divisions (1st, 2nd, 4th and 20th) that had arrived in the area during the Soviet winter counteroffensive. In total there were 64,120 men - a small army.

In May 1942, general Corneliu Dragalina led his troops very well during the second battle for Kharkov. The Romanian troops took no less than 26,432 POWs, as well as a large number of T-60 light tanks, but also the first T-34 and KV-1 tanks captured intact by the Romanian Army. The 6th Corps lost 2,983 men during these operations.

For the German summer offensive, general Dragalina was subordinated to the 1st Panzer Army. The 6th Corps had to keep up with the advance of the German motorized units. On 22 June it forced the river Donetsk and continued the offensive towards the Don. It marched and fought over 450 km in 20 days, a real performance for an infantry unit. From 19 July on, the 6th Corps was subordinated to the 4th Panzer Army, which it helped to force the river Don. At the beginning of September, general Dragalina and his troops were in positions south of Stalingrad.

He received the Ritterkreuz and the Mihai Viteazul Order 2nd class for his corps' actions. He was also promoted to the rank of lieutenant general.

However, the 6th Corps was exhausted. Its divisions had been continuously on the front from the beginning of 1942. On 20 November, when they were assigned to the 4th Romanian Army, general Dragalina's troops received the brunt of the Soviet offensive South of Stalingrad. One of its divisions was surrounded and another two suffered heavy casualties. They pulled back and managed to establish a new defensive line with the help of the German 29th Motorized Infantry Division. The Soviet 51st Army attacked these positions on 25 November, but it was repulsed. The 6th Corps took part in the Wintergewitter Operation advancing towards the Mishkova Valley until 16 December. In the early months of 1943 the remains of the corps returned to Romania.

General Dragalina was replaced at the command of the 6th Corps on 20 March 1943 and named military commander of Bukovina. He abolished the obligatory wear of David's star by the Jews in Bukovina and later obtained from marshal Antonescu the permission to evacuate the remaining Jews in the Cernauti ghetto, before those could be deported or executed by the Germans during the retreat from Bukovina. It is estimated he saved in this manner the lives of 14,750 people.

On 24 March 1944, after the red Army occupied Bukovina, he was put at the disposal of the Ministry of Defense, being sidelined. After 23 August 1944 and the fall of Antonescu's regime, he returned to active duty as General Inspector of the Mechanized Troops from 15 November 1944. On 24 March 1945 he was definitively retired, along with many other senior Romanian commanders. He later lost his house and was harassed by the Communists, but wasn't arrested. He passed away on 11 July 1949 in Bucharest, escaping a tormenting end in the Communist prisons.

Author: Victor Nitu
Axworthy M., Scafes C., Craciunoiu C., Third Axis, Fourth Ally, Hailer Publishing 2007

Dutu A., Dobre F., Loghin L. Armata Romana in al doilea razboi mondial (1941-1945) - Dictionar Enciclopedic, Editura Enciclopedica, 1999

Otu P. Imbratisarea anacondei � Politica militara a Romaniei in perioada 1 septembrie 1939 � 22 iunie 1941, Editura Militara, 2006

Wexler T. Generalul Dragalina a salvat mii de evrei din Cernauri, in Magazin Istoric March 2001 issue

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