romanian army – soviet breakthrough (south through Iasi)

source : ‘the romanian army in 1944’ by Wayne Turner

Early on 21 august the 18th mountain division was finally overrun, forcing the supporting 1st armoured division Nestor detachment to withdraw on the fortified Traian line to the positions of the 101st mountain command. Soviet forward momentum continued with 18th mechanised corps moving south through Iasi and penetrating the front lines of the romanian 3rd infantry division.

breakthrough at Iasi 20-1 aug 1944
breakthrough at Iasi 20-1 aug 1944

On the right of the main penetration the romanian 1st and 7th corps we left relatively unmolested. The romanian 1st infantry division (german 57th corps) was hit in the flank by the 23rd tank corps forcing them and the 4th infantry division and german 46 infanteriedivision to withdraw through Tirgu Frumos to the Traian line.

By the end of the day the soviets had broken through the Traian line, getting as far as the counterattack assembly positions of 1st armoured division’s 3rd motorised regiment at Poiana de Sus and driving them south during the night of 21/22 august. The line had been well and truly broken and Hitler finally agreed to fall back on the FNB line that Antonescu had first suggested during the summer.

On 22 august the romanian fourth army began a phased withdrawal on the FNB line (fortifications in the 80km Focsani-Namaloasa-Braila gap on the lower Siret river). The 7th corps and the 20th infantry division moved to hold the passes in the Carpathian passes. The soviets attacked the 1st and 7th corps on the same day with the aim of collapsing the whole romanian front, but the 103rd mountain command (a brigade sized unit) and the 6th infantry division repulsed the soviet infantry assault. The 4th infantry and Guard divisions also successfully held off attacks on the Traian line. However, the 13th infantry division did come under heavy pressure.

Meanwhile general Korne’s 1st armoured division reunited around Boghicea and Bira, less the 3rd motorised rifle regiment that had been driven off at Poiana de Sus. Under constant air attack they reorganised and counterattacked the soviet assaults on the 13th infantry division’s positions. The two divisions held off the soviets until midnight on 22/23 august when the line of the 4th motorised rifle regiment was breached, forcing the romanians to withdraw. A 1st armoured division counterattack held the soviets advancing out of Boghicea, allowing the Guard, 4th, 13th, 1st infantry divisions and the german 46 infanteriedivision to cross the Siret river north of Roman during morning of 23 august.

Despite being driven from Poiana de Sus the 3rd motorised rifle regiment held up further soviet advances during early 22 august, but with dawn the overwhelming presence of the soviet armour forced them to retreat south once again.

As 23 august dawned the retreat had proved too much for the 1st and 13th infantry divisions who had disintegrated during the chaos of the night. The 1st armoured division and the relatively intact 5th corps (Guard and 4th infantry divisions) were tasked with covering the next phase of the withdrawal to the FNB line from the Siret river to the Moldova river.  The 4th army’s last reserve division, the 8th infantry, was committed to the fight to hold a bridgehead at Bacau for the retreating forces. Relations between the german 20 panzerdivision and the 8th motorised cavalry division (training to become the 2nd armoured division) ended with the germans seizing all the tanks and heading north to cover the german 6th army’s withdrawal and the romanians being ordered to assemble on the FNB line.

A number of other training division were also ordered to assemble on the FNB line. All the romanian medium 88mm and 75mm anti-aircraft guns were also ordered to be relocated on the FNB line from Bucharest and the Ploiesti oil fields.

The 1st corps continued to hold up against soviet attacks throughout 23 august, beating off one as late as 20.40 hours that evening. At 00.30 hours on 24 august romanian units of the 4th army were formally ordered to cease-fire.


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