Jassy–Kishinev Offensive

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Jassy–Kishinev Offensive
Part of the Eastern Front of World War II
Karte Operation Jassy-Kischinew 01.png
Soviet advance
Date20–29 August 1944 [1]
Location
Eastern and southern Romania
Result

Allied victory

  • Destruction of the German 6th Army
  • Romania undergoes a coup and defects to the Allies
  • Bulgaria enters the war against Nazi Germany [2]
Territorial
changes
  • German forces begin evacuating the Balkans
  • Soviet Union regains control of Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina
Belligerents
Flag of the Soviet Union (1936-1955).svg  Soviet Union
Flag of Romania.svg  Romania
(23–29 August)
Flag of the United States (1912-1959).svg  United States
(Air support only)
Flag of Romania.svg  Romania
(20–23 August)
Flag of Germany (1935-1945).svg  Germany
Commanders and leaders
Flag of the Soviet Union (1936-1955).svg Rodion Malinovsky
Flag of the Soviet Union (1936-1955).svg Fyodor Tolbukhin
Flag of Romania.svg Michael I
Flag of Romania.svg Constantin Sănătescu
Flag of Romania.svg Gheorghe Mihail
Flag of Romania.svg Nicolae Macici
Flag of Romania.svg Ion Antonescu
Flag of Romania.svg Ilie Șteflea
Flag of Romania.svg Petre Dumitrescu
Flag of Romania.svg Ioan Mihail Racoviță
Flag of Germany (1935-1945).svg Adolf Hitler
Flag of Germany (1935-1945).svg Johannes Friessner
Flag of Germany (1935-1945).svg Otto Wöhler
Flag of Germany (1935-1945).svg Maximilian Fretter-Pico
Flag of Germany (1935-1945).svg Alfred Gerstenberg
Units involved
see below see below
Strength
Soviet Union:
1,314,200 [3]
16,000 guns
1,870 tanks
2,200 aircraft
Romania:
465,659 [4]
Romania:
1,163,347 [5]
(as of 15 August 1944)
1st Armored Division
(80 tanks and 12 armored cars)
800 aircraft
Germany:
250,000
(Army Group South Ukraine)
Casualties and losses

Soviet Union:
13,197 killed or missing
53,933 wounded or sick [3]
60+ tanks
111 aircraft [6]

Contents

Romania:
8,586 killed or wounded [4]
Romania:
8,305 killed
24,989 wounded
170,000 captured or missing [7]
34 AFV (1st Armored Division)
25 aircraft [6]
Germany:
150,000 killed,
wounded or captured [8]

The Jassy–Kishinev Operation, [1] [9] [10] [11] [Notes 1] named after the two major cities, Iași and Chișinău, in the staging area, was a Soviet offensive against Axis forces, which took place in Eastern Romania from 20 to 29 August 1944 during World War II. The 2nd and 3rd Ukrainian Fronts of the Red Army engaged Army Group South Ukraine, which consisted of combined German and Romanian formations, in an operation to reclaim the Moldavian SSR and destroy the Axis forces in the region, opening the way into Romania and the Balkans.

Iași County Seat in Romania

Iași, also referred to as Jassy or Iassy, is the second largest city in Romania, and the seat of Iași County. Located in the historical region of Moldavia, Iași has traditionally been one of the leading centres of Romanian social, cultural, academic and artistic life. The city was the capital of the Principality of Moldavia from 1564 to 1859, then of the United Principalities from 1859 to 1862, and the capital of Romania from 1916 to 1918.

Chișinău City in Moldova

Chișinău, also known as Kishinev, is the capital and largest city of the Republic of Moldova. The city is Moldova's main industrial and commercial center, and is located in the middle of the country, on the river Bâc, a tributary of Dniester. According to the results of the 2014 census, the city proper had a population of 532,513, while the population of the Municipality of Chișinău was 662,836. Chișinău is the most economically prosperous locality in Moldova and its largest transportation hub.

Soviet Army Name given to the main part of the Armed Forces of the Soviet Union between 1946 and 1992

The Soviet Army was the main land-based branch of the Soviet Armed Forces between February 1946 and December 1991, when it was replaced with the Russian Ground Forces, although it was not fully abolished until 25 December 1993. Until 25 February 1946, it was known as the Red Army, established by decree on 15 (28) January 1918 "to protect the population, territorial integrity and civil liberties in the territory of the Soviet state." The Strategic Missile Troops, Air Defense Forces and Air Forces were part of the Soviet Army in addition to the Ground Forces. The former official name Red Army continued to be used as a nickname by both sides throughout the Cold War.

The offensive resulted in the encirclement and destruction of the German forces, allowing the Soviet Army to resume its strategic advance further into Eastern Europe. It also forced Romania to switch allegiance from the Axis powers to the Allies.

Background

The Red Army had made an unsuccessful attack in the same sector, sometimes referred to as First Jassy–Kishinev Offensive,[ who? ] from 8 April to 6 June 1944. In 1944, the Wehrmacht had been pressed back along its entire front line in the East. By May 1944, the South Ukraine Army Group (Heeresgruppe Südukraine) was pushed back towards the prewar Romanian frontier, and managed to establish a line on the lower Dniester River, which was however breached in two places, with the Red Army holding bridgeheads. After June, calm returned to the sector, allowing the rebuilding of the German formations.

First Jassy–Kishinev Offensive military offensive

The First Jassy–Kishinev Offensive, named after the two major cities Iași (Jassy) and Chișinău (Kishinev) in the area, refers to a series of military engagements between 8 April and 6 June 1944 by the Soviets and Axis powers of World War II. According to David Glantz, the offensive was supposedly a coordinated invasion of Romania conducted by Red Army's 2nd and 3rd Ukrainian Fronts, in accordance with Joseph Stalin's strategy of projecting Soviet military power and political influence into the Balkans.

Wehrmacht unified armed forces of Germany from 1935 to 1945

The Wehrmacht was the unified armed forces of Nazi Germany from 1935 to 1945. It consisted of the Heer (army), the Kriegsmarine (navy) and the Luftwaffe. The designation "Wehrmacht" replaced the previously used term Reichswehr, and was the manifestation of the Nazi regime's efforts to rearm Germany to a greater extent than the Treaty of Versailles permitted.

Dniester River in Eastern Europe

The Dniester River is a river in Eastern Europe. It runs first through Ukraine and then through Moldova, finally discharging into the Black Sea on Ukrainian territory again.

Heeresgruppe Südukraine had been, until June 1944, one of the most powerful German formations in terms of armour. However, during the summer most of its armoured units were transferred to the Northern and Central fronts to stem Red Army advances in the Baltic states, Belarus, northern Ukraine, and Poland. On the eve of the offensive, the only armoured formations left were the 1st Romanian Armoured Division (with the Tiger R1), [12] and the German 13th Panzer and 10th Panzergrenadier Divisions.

Baltic states Countries east of the Baltic Sea

The Baltic states, also known as the Baltic countries, Baltic republics, Baltic nations, or simply the Baltics, is a geopolitical term, typically used to group the three sovereign states in Northern Europe on the eastern coast of the Baltic Sea: Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. The term is not used in the context of cultural areas, national identity, or language, because while the majority of people in Latvia and Lithuania are Baltic people, the majority in Estonia are Finnic. The three countries do not form an official union, but engage in intergovernmental and parliamentary cooperation. The most important areas of cooperation between the three countries are foreign and security policy, defence, energy, and transportation.

Belarus country in Eastern Europe

Belarus, officially the Republic of Belarus, formerly known by its Russian name Byelorussia or Belorussia, is a landlocked country in Eastern Europe bordered by Russia to the northeast, Ukraine to the south, Poland to the west, and Lithuania and Latvia to the northwest. Its capital and most populous city is Minsk. Over 40% of its 207,600 square kilometres (80,200 sq mi) is forested. Its major economic sectors are service industries and manufacturing. Until the 20th century, different states at various times controlled the lands of modern-day Belarus, including the Principality of Polotsk, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, and the Russian Empire.

Ukraine Sovereign state in Eastern Europe

Ukraine, sometimes called the Ukraine, is a country in Eastern Europe. It is bordered by Russia to the north-east; Belarus to the north; Poland, Slovakia and Hungary to the west; and Romania, Moldova, and the Black Sea to the south. Ukraine is currently in a territorial dispute with Russia over the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia annexed in 2014. Including Crimea, Ukraine has an area of 603,628 km2 (233,062 sq mi), making it both the largest country entirely within Europe and the 46th largest country in the world. Excluding Crimea, Ukraine has a population of about 42 million, making it the 32nd most populous country in the world. Its capital and largest city is Kiev. Ukrainian is the official language and its alphabet is Cyrillic. The dominant religion in the country is Eastern Orthodoxy.

Failure of German intelligence

Soviet deception operations prior to the attack worked well. The German command staff believed that the movement of Soviet forces along the front line was a result of a troop transfer to the north. Exact positions of Soviet formations were also not known until the final hours before the operation. [13] By contrast, the Romanians were aware of the imminent Soviet offensive and anticipated a rerun of Stalingrad, with major attacks against the 3rd and 4th Armies and an encirclement of the German 6th Army. Such concerns were dismissed by the German command as "alarmist". [14] Antonescu suggested a withdrawal of Axis forces to the fortified Carpathian–FNB–Danube line, but Friessner, the commander of Army Group South Ukraine, was unwilling to consider such a move, having already been dismissed by Hitler from Army Group North for requesting permission to retreat.

Operation Uranus strategic operation in World War II

Operation Uranus was the codename of the Soviet 19–23 November 1942 strategic operation in World War II which led to the encirclement of the German Sixth Army, the Third and Fourth Romanian armies, and portions of the German Fourth Panzer Army. The operation was executed at roughly the midpoint of the five-month long Battle of Stalingrad, and was aimed at destroying German forces in and around Stalingrad. Planning for Operation Uranus had commenced in September 1942, and was developed simultaneously with plans to envelop and destroy German Army Group Center and German forces in the Caucasus. The Red Army took advantage of the German army's poor preparation for winter, and the fact that its forces in the southern Soviet Union were overstretched near Stalingrad, using weaker Romanian troops to guard their flanks; the offensives' starting points were established along the section of the front directly opposite Romanian forces. These Axis armies lacked heavy equipment to deal with Soviet armor.

Battle of Stalingrad Major battle of World War II

The Battle of Stalingrad was the largest confrontation of World War II, in which Germany and its allies fought the Soviet Union for control of the city of Stalingrad in Southern Russia.

Order of battle

Soviet

2nd Ukrainian Front

The 2nd Ukrainian Front, was a front of the Red Army during the Second World War.

Rodion Malinovsky Soviet military commander and politician

Rodion Yakovlevich Malinovsky was a Soviet military commander in World War II, Marshal of the Soviet Union, and Defense Minister of the Soviet Union in the late 1950s and 1960s. He contributed to the major defeat of Germany at the Battle of Stalingrad and the Battle of Budapest. During the post-war era, he made a pivotal contribution to the strengthening of the Soviet Union as a military superpower.

6th Guards Tank Army

The 6th Guards Order of Red Banner Tank Army was a tank army of the Soviet Union's Red Army, first formed in January 1944 and disbanded in Ukraine in the 1990s after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. During its service in World War II, the army was commanded by Lieutenant General of Tank Troops Andrei Kravchenko.

Axis forces

Army Group South Ukraine [15] - Generaloberst Johannes Friessner

1st Romanian Armoured Division

The 1st Romanian Armored Division did not have all of its units immediately available for opposing the Soviet offensive. Some of its units were still in the interior as of 20 August. Therefore, an ad-hoc organization of the Division's units which were actually available for opposing the Soviet offensive lists the Division's 80 front line tanks as follows (not including the Division's 12 armored cars): [16]

NameTypeCountry of OriginQuantity
Panzer IV Medium tankFlag of Germany (1935-1945).svg  Nazi Germany 48
Sturmgeschütz III Assault gunFlag of Germany (1935-1945).svg  Nazi Germany 22
TACAM T-60 Tank destroyerFlag of Romania.svg  Romania 10

The Division also had a dedicated anti-tank battalion. Its main weapons were entirely of Romanian origin: 10 TACAM T-60 tank destroyers and 24 75 mm Reșița field/anti-tank guns. [17] The 24 guns were the first ones produced of this model. [18]

The 1st Romanian Armored Division had lost 34 armored fighting vehicles by 23 August, but claimed 60 Soviet tanks on 20 August alone. [19]

Soviet strategy

Stavka's plan for the operation was based on a double envelopment of German and Romanian armies by the 2nd and 3rd Ukrainian Fronts. [1] [20]

The 2nd Ukrainian Front was to break through north of Iași, and then commit mobile formations to seize the Prut River crossings before withdrawing German units of the 6th Army could reach it. It was then to unleash the 6th Tank Army to seize the Siret River crossings and the Focșani Gap, a fortified line between the Siret River and the Danube.

The 3rd Ukrainian Front was to attack out of its bridgehead across the Dniester near Tiraspol, and then release mobile formations to head north and meet the mobile formations of the 2nd Ukrainian Front. This would lead to the encirclement of the German forces near Chișinău.

Following the successful encirclement, the 6th Tank Army and the 4th Guards Mechanised Corps were to advance towards Bucharest and the Ploiești oil fields.

Progress of the offensive

General

Both the 2nd and the 3rd Ukrainian Fronts undertook a major effort, leading to a double envelopment of the German Sixth Army and parts of the Eighth Army. The German–Romanian front line collapsed within two days of the start of the offensive, and 6th Guards Mechanized Corps was inserted as the main mobile group of the offensive. The initial breakthrough in the 6th Army's sector was 40 km (25 mi) deep, and destroyed rear-area supply installations by the evening of 21 August. By 23 August, the 13th Panzer Division was no longer a coherent fighting force, and the German 6th Army had been encircled to a depth of 100 km (62 mi). The Red Army mobile group managed to cut off the retreat of the German formations into Hungary. Isolated pockets of German units tried to fight their way through, but only small remnants managed to escape the encirclement.

Soviet Operations, 19 August-31 December 1944 RedArmy19Aug31Dec44.jpg
Soviet Operations, 19 August–31 December 1944

Detailed study of the Soviet breakthrough

The main effort of the front was in the sector of the 37th Army, commanded by Lieutenant General Sharokhin, by the 66th and 6th Guards Rifle Corps. The 37th Army had a 4 km (2.5 mi)-wide breakthrough frontage assigned to it. It was divided in two groupings, two corps in the first echelon, and one in reserve. According to the plan, it was to break through the German–Romanian defence lines in seven days, to a distance of 110–120 km (68–75 mi), with the goal of covering 15 km (9.3 mi) per day during the first four days.

The 66th Rifle Corps, under Major General Kupriyanov, consisted of the 61st Guards Rifle and 333rd Rifle Divisions in the first echelon and the 244th Rifle Division in reserve. Attached were the 46th Gun Artillery Brigade, 152nd Howitzer Artillery Regiment, 184th and 1245th Tank Destroyer Regiment, 10th Mortar Regiment, 26th Light Artillery Brigade, 87th Recoilless Mortar Regiment, 92nd and 52nd Tank Regiment, 398th Assault Gun Regiment, two pioneer assault battalions, and two light flamethrower companies.

Corps frontage: 4 km (2.5 mi)
Corps breakthrough frontage: 3.5 km (2.2 mi) (61st Rifle Division 1.5 km (0.93 mi), 333rd Rifle Division 2 km (1.2 mi))

A German Panther tank in Romania, August 1944 Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-244-2321-34, Ostfront-Sud, Panzer V (Panther).jpg
A German Panther tank in Romania, August 1944

Troop density per kilometer of frontage:

Superiority:

There is no manpower information on the divisions, but they probably had between 7,000–7,500 men each, with the 61st Guards Rifle Division perhaps mustering 8,000–9,000. The soldiers were prepared over the course of August by exercising in areas similar to those they were to attack, with emphasis on special tactics needed to overcome the enemy in their sector.

Troops density in the 61st Guards Rifle Division's sector per kilometer of frontage was:

Troops density in the 333rd Rifle Division's sector per kilometer of frontage was:

Initial attack

The 333rd Rifle Division put three regiments in the first echelon and had none in reserve. The 61st Guards Rifle Division attacked in a standard formation, with two regiments in the first echelon and one in reserve. This proved to be fortunate, because the right wing of the 188th Guards Rifle Regiment was unable to advance past the Plopschtubej strongpoint.[ clarification needed ] The 189th Guards Rifle Regiment on the left wing made good progress though, as did 333rd Rifle Division on its left. The commander of the 61st Guards Rifle Division therefore inserted his reserve (the 187th Guards Rifle Regiment) behind the 189th Guards Rifle Regiment to exploit the breakthrough. When darkness came, the 244th Rifle Division was assigned to break through the second line of defense. It lost its way, and only arrived at 23:00, by which time elements of the 13th Panzer Division were counterattacking.

The German–Romanian opposition was XXX. and XXIX. AK, with the 15th and 306th German Infantry Divisions, the 4th Romanian Mountain Division, and the 21st Romanian Infantry Division. The 13th Panzer Division was in reserve. At the end of the first day, the 4th Romanian Mountain (General de divizie, (Major General) Gheorghe Manoiliu), and 21st Romanian Divisions were almost completely destroyed, while the German 15th and 306th Infantry Divisions suffered heavy losses (according to a German source, the 306th Infantry lost 50% in the barrage, and was destroyed apart from local strong-points by evening). Almost no artillery survived the fire preparation.

The 13th Panzer Division counterattacked the 66th Rifle Corps on the first day, and tried to stop its progress the next day to no avail. A study on the division's history says 'The Russians [Soviets] dictated the course of events.' The 13th Panzer Division at the time was a materially underequiped, but high manpower unit, with a high proportion of recent reinforcements. It only had Panzer IVs, StuG IIIs and self-propelled anti-tank guns. By the end of the second day, the division was incapable of attacking or putting up meaningful resistance.

At the end of the second day, the 3rd Ukrainian Front stood deep in the rear of the German 6th Army. No more organised re-supply of forces would be forthcoming, and the 6th Army was doomed to be encircled and destroyed again. Franz-Josef Strauss, who was to become an important German politician after the war, served with the Panzer Regiment of the 13th Panzer Division. He comments that the division had ceased to exist as a tactical unit on the third day of the Soviet offensive: 'The enemy was everywhere.'

In Mazulenko, results of the operations of the 66th Rifle Corps were described: "Because of the reinforcement of the Corps and the deep battle arrangements of troops and units the enemy defenses were broken through at high speed."

German survivors of the initial attack stated "By the end of the barrage, Russian [Soviet] tanks were deep into our position." (Hoffman). A German battalion commander, Hauptmann Hans Diebisch, Commander II./IR579, 306.ID, commented "The fire assets of the German defense were literally destroyed by the Soviet fighter bombers attacking the main line of resistance and the rear positions. When the Russian infantry suddenly appeared inside the positions of the battalion and it tried to retreat, the Russian air force made this impossible. The battalion was dispersed and partly destroyed by air attacks and mortar and machine gun fire."

Alleged Romanian collapse

It is often alleged that the speed and totality of the German collapse were caused by Romanian betrayal. For example, Heinz Guderian wrote of Romanian betrayal in his book Panzer Leader. The study of the combat operations by Mazulenko indicates that this is probably not correct. Romanian formations did resist the Soviet attack in many cases, but were ill-equipped to defend themselves effectively against a modern army due to a lack of modern anti-tank, artillery, and anti-air weapons. In contrast to German claims, for instance, in the symposium notes published by David Glantz, or in the history of the Offensive published by Kissel, it appears that Romanian 1st Armoured Division did offer resistance against the Soviet breakthrough. However, Mark Axworthy states in his book that the battered 1st Armoured Division maintained cohesion, experiencing some local, costly successes before being forced to cross the River Moldova. [21] Axworthy claims that the postwar Communist government would have obviously used this act of betrayal for propaganda purposes. Also, there are no Soviet reports of collaboration before 24 August 1944. [22] The Soviet rates of progress imply an ineffective defense of the Romanian troops, rather than active collaboration and en-masse surrender. [23]

I. S. Dumitru was a Romanian tank commander in the battle of the Romanian 1st Armoured Division against Soviet tanks and he described the battle in his book. [24] According to Dumitru, fighting took place near the village of Scobâlţeni in the vicinity of a town called Podu Iloaiei on 20 August. The Romanian division destroyed 60 Soviet tanks and lost 30 tanks. At the end of the day, Romanians decided to retreat to the south after an analysis of the military results of the day.

The complete collapse of the German 6th Army and the Romanian 4th Army was more likely caused by the inability of the numerous horse-drawn infantry divisions to maintain cohesion while retreating and under attack of the Soviet mechanized troops. [25] This claim is reinforced by the fact that the only Romanian division which retained its cohesion under the Soviet attack was the 1st Armoured Division, which had the mobility and the anti-tank weapons needed to do so.

The surrender of Romania took place at a time when the Soviet Army had already moved deep inside Romania, and the German 6th Army had been cut off from the rest of the Wehrmacht in Romania. The opening of hostilities between the Wehrmacht and the Romanian Army commenced after a failed coup d'état by the German ambassador.

German–Romanian combat

Military operations, 23-31 August 1944: red = soviet Red army; yellow = Romanian troops; blue = axis forces, frontlines. CampanaRumana1944.svg
Military operations, 23–31 August 1944: red = soviet Red army; yellow = Romanian troops; blue = axis forces, frontlines.

Simultaneously, a coup d'état led by King Michael of Romania on 23 August deposed the Romanian leader Ion Antonescu and withdrew Romania from the Axis. By this time, the bulk of the German and Romanian armies had either been destroyed or cut off by the Soviet offensive, with only residual and rear-echelon forces present in the Romanian interior. [26] Hitler immediately ordered special forces under the command of Otto Skorzeny and Arthur Phleps, stationed in nearby Yugoslavia, to intervene in support of the remaining German troops, which were mostly concentrated around Bucharest, Ploiești, Brașov and Giurgiu. General Gerstenberg, commander of the Luftwaffe defenses around the oilfields at Ploiești, had already ordered a column of motorized troops to attack Bucharest on the evening of 23 August. Open hostilities between German and Romanian forces began the following morning on the city's northern outskirts. After capturing the airfield at Otopeni, the attack stalled, and by 28 August Gerstenberg and the remaining German forces in the vicinity of Bucharest surrendered. The fighting here featured the only instance of cooperation between Romanian and Western Allied forces during the campaign, when Romanian ground troops requested a USAAF bombing raid on the Băneasa Forest. Poor coordination however led to friendly fire when American bombers accidentally hit a company of Romanian paratroopers. [27]

Meanwhile, Brandenburger special forces landed at Boteni and Țăndărei airfields on 24 August in an attempt to immobilize the Romanian aircraft there, but they were overpowered by Romanian paratroopers and security companies before they could achieve their objectives. [28] A proposed operation to rescue Antonescu, led by Skorzeny and inspired by the Gran Sasso raid which liberated Mussolini in 1943, could not materialize as Antonescu's whereabouts were unknown even to the Romanian government until 30 August, when he was handed over to the Soviets and shipped to Moscow. [29] Another group of Brandenburgers joined Gerstenberg's unsuccessful drive on Bucharest on 25 August and were captured three days later. Altogether, these events constituted one of the worst defeats suffered by the German special forces in the war. [28]

The German situation was further complicated by the loss of Brașov and the Predeal pass, both of which were secured by the Romanian 1st Mountain Division by 25 August, thus cutting off the most direct route of reinforcement or retreat for the remaining Wehrmacht formations to the south. The following day, the Romanian 2nd Territorial Corps captured Giurgiu and neutralized the German AA units there, taking 9,000 prisoners in the process. [30] The 25,000-strong German presence around Ploiești, consisting mostly of flak troops and their security companies, was at first locked in a stalemate with the Romanian 5th Territorial Corps, which had a similar numerical strength. Over the following days however, the Germans were gradually confined to the city's immediate surroundings and became heavily outnumbered as Romanian reinforcements began arriving from Bucharest and also from the east, together with lead elements of a Soviet motorized brigade. On 30 August, an attack by the 5th Territorial Corps, now numbering over 40,000 men, reduced the Germans to a pocket around the village of Păulești, roughly 10 km (6.2 mi) north of Ploiești. They surrendered the following day after a failed breakout attempt. About 2,000 Germans were able to escape to the Hungarian lines across the Carpathians. [31] Other major cities and industrial centers, such as Constanța, Reșița and Sibiu were secured by the Romanians with relative ease. By 31 August, all German resistance in Romania had been cleared. [32]

During the fighting between 23–31 August, the Romanian Army captured 56,000 German prisoners, who were later surrendered to the Soviet Army. [33] A further 5,000 Germans were killed in action, while Romanian casualties amounted to 8,600 killed and wounded. [32]

Romanian sources claim that internal factors played a decisive role in Romania's switch of allegiance, while external factors only gave support; this version is markedly different from the Soviet position on the events, which holds that the Offensive resulted in the Romanian coup and "liberated Romania with the help of local insurgents". [20] [34]

Aftermath

Romanian and Soviet soldiers shaking hands in Bucharest after the coup, 30 August EjercitoSovieticoEnBucarest1944.jpg
Romanian and Soviet soldiers shaking hands in Bucharest after the coup, 30 August

The German formations suffered significant irrecoverable losses, with over 115,000 prisoners taken, while Soviet casualties were unusually low for an operation of this size. The Red Army advanced into Yugoslavia and forced the rapid withdrawal of the German Army Groups E and F from Greece, Albania, and Yugoslavia to avoid being cut off. Together with Yugoslav partisans and Bulgaria, they liberated the capital city of Belgrade on 20 October.

On the political level, the Soviet offensive triggered King Michael's coup d'état in Romania, and the switch of Romania from the Axis to the Allies. Almost immediately, border hostilities between Romania and Germany's forced ally Hungary erupted over territory that Romania had been forced to cede to Hungary in 1940 as a result of the Second Vienna Award. [35] Romania's defection meant the loss of a vital source of oil for Germany, leading to serious fuel shortages in the Wehrmacht by the end of 1944 and prompting Hitler's first admission that the war was lost. [36]

Following the success of the operation, Soviet control over Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina, which had been occupied by the USSR in 1940, was re-established. Soviet forces proceeded to collect and expel the remaining Romanian troops. According to Anatol Petrencu, President of the Historians' Association of Moldova, over 170,000 Romanian soldiers were deported, 40,000 of which were incarcerated in a prisoner-of-war camp at Bălți, where many died of hunger, cold, disease, or execution. [37]

Legacy

Sergey Shoigu with Vadim Krasnoselsky laying flowers on 23 August. Shoigu in Transnistria 05.jpg
Sergey Shoigu with Vadim Krasnoselsky laying flowers on 23 August.
Members of the Honor Guard Company of the Moldovan National Army being inspected by Sergey Shoigu, Pavel Voicu and Victor Gaiciuc during the 23 August celebrations in 2019. Jassy-Kishinev Offensive anniversary 11.jpg
Members of the Honor Guard Company of the Moldovan National Army being inspected by Sergey Shoigu, Pavel Voicu and Victor Gaiciuc during the 23 August celebrations in 2019.

In Moldova and the partially recognized Dniester Republic, August 23 is a public holiday, and is known officially as Liberation Day (Romanian : Ziua Eliberare, Russian : День освобождения). It is also celebrated in neighboring Romania as Liberation from Fascist Occupation Day, which was a public holiday there from 1949 to 1990, when it was replaced by the European Day of Remembrance for Victims of Stalinism and Nazism. Today, wreaths are annually laid at the Eternity Memorial Complex [38] in the capital, where the President of Moldova delivers a keynote address (usually delivered in both Moldovan and Russian) and presides over a march past by the Honor Guard Company of the Moldovan National Army. [39]

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The 53rd Army was a field army of the Soviet Union's Red Army which was formed in August 1941, disbanded in December 1941, and reformed in May 1942. It fought throughout World War II before again being disbanded after the war in October 1945. The army was first formed for the Anglo-Soviet invasion of Iran and was disbanded there in December 1941. The army reformed in May 1942. It fought in the Demyansk Pocket, the Battle of Kursk, the Battle of Belgorod, the Battle of the Dnieper, the Battle of the Korsun–Cherkassy Pocket, the Uman–Botoșani Offensive, the Jassy–Kishinev Offensive, the Battle of Debrecen, the Budapest Offensive, and the Prague Offensive. At the end of the war in Europe it was moved to the Far East and fought in the Soviet invasion of Manchuria. The army was disbanded in October 1945.

4th Guards Rifle Division

The 4th Guards Rifle Division was reformed as an elite infantry division on September 18, 1941, from the 1st formation of the 161st Rifle Division as one of the original Guards formations of the Red Army, in recognition of that division's participation in the successful counter-offensive that drove German forces out of their positions at Yelnya. The division then moved northwards to serve in the defense of Leningrad, as well as the early attempts to break that city's siege, but later was redeployed to the southern sector of the front as the crisis around Stalingrad developed. The 4th Guards took part in Operation Uranus which surrounded the German 6th Army in and around that city and then in the pursuit operations that drove the remaining German forces from the Caucasus steppes and the city of Rostov. The division remained in this sector for the duration of the war, fighting through the south of Ukraine through the summer of 1943 and winning the Order of the Red Banner in the process; it was further distinguished with the award of a battle honor in February, 1944. During April and May its advance was halted during the battles along the Dniestr River, but resumed in the August offensive that carried it and its 31st Guards Rifle Corps into the Balkans. It served extensively in the fighting through Hungary and in the outer encirclement during the siege of Budapest in the winter of 1944/45 and in mid-April was awarded a second battle honor for its part in the capture of Vienna. Despite this distinguished service the division was disbanded in 1946.

82nd Guards Rifle Division

The 82nd Guards Rifle Division was an infantry division of the Red Army and the Soviet Army. It was formed after the Battle of Stalingrad from the 321st Rifle Division in recognition of that division's actions during the battle, specifically the encirclement and the siege of the German forces in the city, and later for its pursuit of the defeated Axis forces in Operation Little Saturn. The 82nd Guards continued a record of distinguished service through the rest of the Great Patriotic War, concluding in the Battle of Berlin, and continued to serve postwar in the Group of Soviet Forces in Germany.

The 16th Guards Tank Division was a tank division of the Soviet Army and later the Russian Ground Forces.

333rd Rifle Division (Soviet Union)

The 333rd Rifle Division began forming in the North Caucasus Military District in August, 1941, as a standard Red Army rifle division, as part of the massive mobilization of reserve forces very shortly after the German invasion. In 1942 it served in the late winter and early spring fighting near Kharkov, taking a beating both then and during the opening stages of the German summer offensive. Withdrawn into the reserves, the division was rebuilt in time to take part in the Soviet counteroffensive at Stalingrad in November, and played an important role in driving the German forces out of the Caucasus region during the winter. In the autumn of 1943 the division shared credit with the 25th Guards Rifle Division for the liberation of Sinelnikovo in the Dnipropetrovsk Oblast, receiving that place name as an honorific. After battling through Ukraine and into the Balkan states, the 333rd completed its combat path on a relatively quiet note doing garrison duties in the Balkans.

353rd Rifle Division (Soviet Union)

The 353rd Rifle Division formed on August 27, 1941, as a standard Red Army rifle division, at Krasnodar. It was assigned to the southern sector of the Soviet-German front, at first in 56th Army, and it would remain on this sector for the duration of the war. After assisting in the first liberation of Rostov-on-the-Don in late 1941, but in 1942 it retreated into the Caucasus region, and fought to hold the Axis forces from reaching the coast of the Black Sea. Following the retreat of the Germans and Romanians in the wake of their defeat at Stalingrad, the 353rd took part in the offensives that freed Ukraine in 1943 and 1944, winning a battle honor for the liberation of Dneprodzerzhinsk in October, 1943. In the summer of 1944 it participated in the offensive that finally drove Romania out of the Axis, and then advanced into the Balkan states. Shortly thereafter it was assigned to 37th Army, which was detached from the active army to garrison the southern Balkans, and the division remained on this quiet front for the duration of the war.

The 4th Guards Motor Rifle Division was a motorized infantry division of the Soviet Army during the Cold War.

375th Rifle Division

The 375th Rifle Division was raised in 1941 as an infantry division of the Red Army, and served for the duration of the Great Patriotic War in that role. It began forming in August, 1941 in the Urals Military District. It reached the fighting front in December, coming under command of the 29th Army in the vicinity of the Rzhev salient and it took part in the bloody and tragic battles for this heavily-fortified position until March, 1943, mostly as part of 30th Army. Following the German evacuation of the salient the 375th got a brief spell in reserve before being reassigned to Voronezh Front in the buildup to the Battle of Kursk. When the offensive began it held a crucial sector on the extreme left flank of 6th Guards Army where the II SS Panzer Corps attempted to break through south of the salient. Following the German defeat the division joined in the counteroffensive towards Kharkov in August and won its first battle honor. It continued to advance through Ukraine and into Romania over the next eight months, being brought to a halt east of Iași in the spring of 1944. In late August the 2nd and 3rd Ukrainian Fronts crushed the defending German and Romanian forces, and on the last day of the month the 375th played a leading role in the capture of the Romanian capital, Bucharest; it won its second battle honor and two of its rifle regiments were awarded decorations. For the duration of the war the division fought its way through Romania and Hungary, finally advancing into Austria with 7th Guards Army. Its record of admirable service was capped with the award of the Order of the Red Banner soon following the German surrender, but it was nevertheless disbanded shortly thereafter.

409th Rifle Division

The 409th Rifle Division was formed as an infantry division of the Red Army, and served in that role for the duration of the Great Patriotic War. It was officially considered an Armenian National division, and initially almost all its personnel were of that nationality. After forming it remained in service along the border with Turkey until nearly the end of 1942, when it was redeployed to the 44th Army in Transcaucasus Front, assisting in driving the German 17th Army into the Kuban peninsula. Following this the division was moved to the 46th Army in Southwestern Front and took part in the summer offensive through the Donbass and eastern Ukraine. In October it was moved again, now to the 57th Army in 2nd Ukrainian Front; it would remain in that Front for the duration of the war, moving to the 7th Guards Army in December. After crossing the Dniepr the 409th won a battle honor in January, 1944, then spent the spring and summer in the battles around Jassy and Kishenev in Moldova. After the defeat of Romania the division advanced into Hungary as part of the 27th Guards Rifle Corps. In October it rejoined the 7th Guards Army, where it remained for the duration, mostly in the 25th Guards Rifle Corps. After the fall of Budapest the division joined the final advances on Vienna and Prague in the spring of 1945, and was disbanded shortly thereafter.

The 36th Guards Rifle Division was a Guards infantry division of the Red Army during World War II. It was formed from the 9th Airborne Corps in August 1942 as a result of the Soviet need for troops to fight in the Battle of Stalingrad. The division was awarded the honorific Verkhnedneprovsk for its crossing of the Dnieper in September 1943 near that town, later receiving the Order of the Red Banner and the Order of Suvorov, 2nd class, for its actions in the Uman–Botoșani Offensive in March 1944. It fought in the Siege of Budapest during late 1944 and early 1945, receiving the Order of Kutuzov, 2nd class, for its actions. In late 1945, it was converted into the 24th Guards Mechanized Division. Stationed in Romania, it was disbanded in early 1947.

417th Rifle Division

The 417th Rifle Division was formed as an infantry division of the Red Army in the spring of 1942 and served in that role until after the end of the Great Patriotic War. Although it was formed in the Transcaucasus, unlike the 414th and 416th Rifle Divisions formed in about the same place at the same time it was never designated as a National division. After its formation it remained in service in the Caucasus under direct command of the Transcaucasus Front until the summer of 1942, when it was redeployed first to the Northern Group of Forces in that Front and then to the 9th Army. As German Army Group A retreated from the Caucasus in January, 1943 the division was reassigned to the 58th Army and a few months later to 37th Army in North Caucasus Front. In July it redeployed northward to join Southern Front, where it was assigned to the 63rd Rifle Corps in 44th Army in mid-September as the Front fought through south Ukraine, eventually reaching the land routes to the Crimea. It took part in the offensive that liberated that region in April and May, 1944, fighting in the 51st Army and winning both a battle honor and the Order of the Red Banner in the process. After the Crimea was cleared the 51st Army was moved far to the north, joining 1st Baltic Front. During operations in the Baltic states the 417th was further distinguished with the award of the Order of Suvorov. In March, 1945 it joined the Courland Group of Forces on the Baltic coast containing the German forces encircled in northwest Latvia. It ended the war there and was soon moved to the Ural Military District before being downsized to a rifle brigade. This brigade was briefly brought back to divisional strength during the Cold War.

References

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Notes

  1. Russian: Ясско-кишинёвская стратегическая наступательная операция – Jassy–Kishinev Strategic Offensive Operation. A number of less common transliteration variants of the operation's name exists in various historical sources. Among them are Yassy–Kishinev Operation (Chris Bellamy, 1986), Iassi–Kishinev Operation (David Glantz, 1997), Second Iasi–Kishinev Operation (David Glantz, 2007) etc.

Sources