Romanian Armed Forces
in the Second World War
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Organization and equipment
The Infantry
The Artillery
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The Tanks
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The Infantry
Romanian infantry crossing the river Donetsk. One of the soldiers is carrying a ZB 30 LMG
Infantryman in the 1941 campaign uniform
A soldier from the 21st Infantry Division escorting two German prisoners. The contrast between their equipment and the Romanian is obvious
A sergeant from the 18th Infantry Division armed with a German Sturmgewehr 44
Infantry squad equipped with mannlicher M1895 rifles
Infantry platoon, a week before departing for the front in 1941. One of the soldiers is carrying a ZB-30 LMG without the clip

At the beginning of Operation Barbarossa, the Romanian Army had 19 front line infantry divisions: 1st-11th, 13th-15th, 18th-21st and the Guard Division. The 12th, 16th and 17th Infantry Division were disbanded in 1940, when the regions from where they recruited the soldiers were lost.

The Guard Division had the same structure as an infantry one, but it also had protocol duties. The selection for this elite unit was very strict. All the soldiers had to be educated, had to have a very good physical condition and were subjected to more intensive training.

The infantry division was organized after the German model: 3 infantry regiments, one partially motorized recon group, one AT company (6 47 mm Schneider model 1936), a pioneer battalion and two artillery regiments. It had in total 17,500 men.

During 1941, several reserve divisions were formed: the 25th, 27th, 30th, 31st, 32nd and 35th. Only the 35th Reserve Infantry Division actually took part in the battles for Bessarabia. They had the same organization as the normal divisions, but were formed from the recently mobilized regiments: 41st – 81st, 111th and 112th, which were equipped with older weapons. There was also the 1st Fortification Division, created from the battalions which were guarding the A.F.N.B. defensive line.

The infantry regiments (1st – 40th, 82nd – 96th) and the "Vanatori"(hunters) regiments (1st – 10th), from which the active divisions were organized, had the same structure. The name was only a 19th century tradition. Each regiment consisted of 3 battalions (each battalion of 3 companies, each company of 3 platoons, each platoon of 3 sections), a heavy weapons company (a 81.4 mm Brandt mortar platoon, a 37 mm Bofors AT gun platoon and a 47 mm Schneider AT gun platoon; each one with 6 artillery pieces) and a recon company. At battalion level there was also a heavy weapons company: a machine-gun platoon (8 MGs) and one mortar platoon (6 60 mm Brandt).

The main infantry weapon was the Czech ZB (Zbrojovka Brno) model 1924 rifle. It was modified version of the German Mauser 98 K. It used the standard 7.92 mm cartridge. The reserve units received the older Mannlicher model 1895 rifle, which were modified from 8 mm to 7.92 mm. Each infantry section had a ZB model 1930 light machine-gun, Czech or Romanian built (at Copsa Mica-Cugir). The soldier that fired it also had a 9 mm Steyr model 1912 pistol. In the first months of 1941, the units started to receive the new Czech ZB-53 model 1937 machine-gun. The rest were equipped with the Austrian Schwarzlose model 1907/1912 modified for the 7.92 mm cartridge. In the first months of the war the Czech Kyser grenades were also used alongside the Romanian MAN grenades.

As one can observe the Romanian troops were well equipped with modern infantry weapons. The main problem was the artillery. A Romanian infantry division had only half of the firepower of a German division and was somewhat equal to a Soviet one (but the Soviet division had fewer soldiers). Another important handicap was the lack of mobility. The majority of the transports were still horse-drawn.

After the campaign of 1941, the infantry divisions in Romania and Trans-Dnestra (the 5th, 6th, 7th, 9th, 11th, 13th, 14th and 15th Infantry Divisions) were fully reequipped and reorganized during the winter. The divisions that were on the front line (1st, 2nd, 4th, 10th, 18th, 19th and 20th Infantry Divisions) were only partially reorganized and had lower combat potential. The process was planned to be finalized around Rostov during the following winter, but the events prevented it.

In the spring of 1942, the infantry regiment received a scout company and a pioneer company. The number of battalions was reduced from 3 to 2, but the platoon was upgraded from 3 sections (30 men) to 4 sections (40 men). Each section had a light machine-gun and 60 mm Brandt mortar. The battalion's heavy weapons company was reorganized into 4 machine-gun platoons (4 MGs each) and one mortar platoon (4 81.4 mm Brandt). The regiment's heavy weapons company was also reorganized. It had 3 platoons of 37 mm AT guns (6 Bofors model 1936 each) and one platoon of 47 mm AT guns (6 Breda/Schneider/Böhler). A heavy mortar company was created and had 3 platoons (2 120 mm PM/Resita each). In October 1942, the infantry divisions on the front were reinforced with a 75 mm AT guns platoon (6 Pak 97/38). After the reorganization, the infantry division was reduced to 13,500 soldiers, but had more firepower.

Because of the lack of equipment, some units received captured material like the 7.62 mm Mosin Nagant model 1891/30 rifle. A modified version became the standard sniper weapon in the Romanian Army. Also the platoon commanders and the scouts started using, on their own initiative, captured PPD-40s and PPSh-41s. These are only a few examples.

The battle of Stalingrad was a disaster for the Romanian Army. The losses in men and material were huge. Practically all the divisions were under strength and an immediate reorganization and reinforcement was necessary.

In March 1943, from the survivors of the 7th and 11th Infantry Divisions was formed the 24th Infantry Division. In September it was joined with the remains of the 4th Mountain Division to create the 4/24th Infantry Division. The 4th and 18th Infantry Divisions were reorganized with the elements of the Frontier-guard Division (which was disbanded). In August the 18th Infantry Division was transformed into the 18th Mountain Division. The troops in Trans-Dnestra were used to fill the gaps in the 5th, 15th, 9th and 6th Infantry Divisions. In July and August 1943, the 1st, 2nd, 11th, 14th and 20th Infantry Divisions were reorganized with troops from Romania. In September, the 7th and 13th Infantry Divisions were also brought back to battle-readiness. This process was possible due to the existence inside Romania of a third battalion for each regiment that was on the front.

On 28 October 1943 the Law for the organization of the Armed Forces was promulgated. Thus the regimental command company was strengthened with a traffic police platoon, a cyclists platoon and an AT section. The pioneer company received a fourth platoon, which had 3 Brandt 60 mm mortars. The battalion's heavy weapons company was also reorganized: 3 machine-gun platoons (4 MGs), one AA machine-gun platoon and one platoon of 47 mm AT guns (3 artillery pieces).

The submachine-guns became officially the standard weapon of the platoon and section commanders. The firepower was increased after large quantities of MG-34s and AT rocket launchers, like the Panzerfaust, were imported from Germany. Since 1942, each platoon had soldiers trained to fight against tanks. They were organized into teams of two men: the "destroyer" and the "lookout". They used grenades, mines, explosive charges and Soviet AT rifles. The AT defence increased after the introduction of the new Romanian 75 mm Resita DT-UDR 26 gun alongside the German Pak 40 and Pak 97/38.

At the end of 1943, 19 training divisions were formed (1st-9th, 13th-15th, 18th-21st, Guard). They were made up from recruits and had 6 battalions, 4 75 mm guns and 2 100 mm howitzers, a few 47 mm AT guns and between 2 and 4 20 mm AA guns. These units were supposed to be the reserve of the active divisions. But the events of 23 August 1944 changed this and some of them were used in the initial fights with the Wehrmacht.

According to the armistice protocol, the Romanian Army was going to participate in the war against the remaining Axis forces with 12 divisions. But the number was too small. There were already 19 divisions on the front. After negotiations, in 1945, in Czechoslovakia, there were 15 Romanian divisions fighting the Germans. The Romanian Army was practically halved. All the training divisions and the 1st, 4th, 5th, 7th, 8th, 13th, 14th, 15th and 20th Infantry Divisions were disbanded. The 18th Mountain Division became the 18th Infantry Division.

Because the Soviets refused to free the prisoners and return the equipment they captured from 24 August onward, the infantry division had to be reorganized. The number of artillery regiments was reduced to one, which had 3 battalions and each battalion had 3 batteries composed of 4 guns. The first one was made up of 75 mm AT guns, the second one of 100 mm cannons and the third one of 120 mm mortars. Even the units, which had been partially motorized in the previous years, used horse-drawn vehicles. The supplies were low, because the Soviets used the Romanian industry and the Army's logistics. At the end of the war the Romanian infantry was in an inferior state to that of 1941.

Scafes C., Serbanescu H., Scafes I., Andonie C., Danila I., Avram R. Armata romana 1941-1945, Editura R.A.I., 1996
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