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Battle of Mărășești

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Battle of Mărășești
Part of the Romanian Campaign of World War I
Romanian troops at Marasesti in 1917.jpg

Romanian troops at Mărășești in 1917
Date6 August – 8 September 1917
Location
Result Strategic Allied victory
Belligerents
Allied Powers:
 Romania
 Russian Empire
Central Powers:
 German Empire
 Austria-Hungary
Commanders and leaders
Kingdom of Romania Constantin Cristescu
(until August 11th)
Kingdom of Romania Eremia Grigorescu
(from August 12th)
Russian Empire Alexander Ragoza

German Empire Johannes von Eben

Units involved
Kingdom of Romania Romanian 1st Army
Russian Empire Russian 4th Army

German Empire German 9th Army

Strength
218,000 troops
280 field guns
36 heavy guns
245,000 troops
2 armoured cars
1,135 machine guns
356 mortars
223 field guns
122 heavy guns and howitzers
Casualties and losses
Kingdom of Romania 27,410 (5,125 killed, 9,818 missing, 12,467 wounded)[1]
Russian Empire 25,650 (7,083 killed, 8,167 missing, 10,400 wounded)[1]
Total: 53,060 (12,208 killed, 17,985 missing, 22,867 wounded)
German EmpireAustria-Hungary 60,000–65,000 casualties (killed, missing, wounded)[1]
Total: 60,000+

The Battle of Mărășești (August 6, 1917 – September 8, 1917) was the last major battle between the German Empire and the Kingdom of Romania on the Romanian front during World War I. Romania was mostly occupied by the Central Powers, but the Battle of Mărășești kept the northeastern region of the country free from occupation.

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Transcription

When Romania joined the Allies in the war eight weeks ago, Germany halted all offensive actions on all fronts until they had dealt with Romania. The might of the four Central Powers had descended on Romania under German leadership, and things looked grim, but you know what? This week, Romania stops the Germans. I’m Indy Neidell; welcome to the Great War. Last week saw the beginning and end of the 8th Battle of the Isonzo River, with high Italian casualties for little gain. The Romanians were being pushed back in both Transylvania and Dobrogea, and repeated British and French attacks at the Somme failed to gain ground, though British Commander in Chief Sir Douglas Haig vowed to continue the offensive all winter if necessary. Here’s what came next. More attacks at the Somme came next, for starters. The French actually did well there this week. On the 14th, a brilliant French attack west of Belloy-en-santerre captured the first German line, and on the 18th they carried the whole front between la maisonette chateau and Blaches. As for the British, they attacked on the 18th, and it was- like their attacks on the 7th and 12th, a complete failure. The artillery bombardment had missed the German defenses and their artillery and machine guns were still intact and active, and, according to the official British War History, these were the conditions at the Somme: “By the middle of October, conditions behind the battlefront were so bad as to make mere existence a severe trial of body and spirit. Little could be seen from the air through the rain and mist... it was often impossible to locate with accuracy the new German trenches and shell-hole positions... it is no matter of surprise that the British artillery sometimes fired short or placed its barrages too far ahead. Bursts of high explosive were smothered in the ooze; many guns... were too worn for accurate fire... the ground was so deep in mud that to move an 18-pounder, ten or twelve horses were often needed... the infantry, sometimes wet to the skin and almost exhausted by zero hour, were often condemned to struggle painfully forward through the mud under heavy fire against objectives vaguely defined and difficult of recognition.” It seemed that operations on at least this part of the front would have to be suspended, but Haig did not come to that conclusion. He did scale back his fantasy expectations that we talked about a couple weeks ago, but that still misses the point. Under these weather conditions taking anything was unrealistic. You’d think General Sir Henry Rawlinson might point this out to Haig, but he did the opposite, saying that an attack scheduled for next week needed to be a success because it was undesirable for the army to remain for the winter in the low ground they now occupied. Two things- maybe, just maybe, the failures of the 4th Army on the 7th, 12th, and 18th of October suggest that they lacked the power to improve their position, and also maybe the time to think about their position was a month ago when the army had plowed ahead from the ridge to the low ground. But another army was plowing ahead THIS week, in the Balkans. On the 18th, the Serbs took Brod, and they were generally having a good week. Under General Mischitch they broke through the Bulgarian lines a few kilometers, taking Velyselo and Baldentsi. Now, at the beginning of this two day battle, the Bulgarians had the advantage. They held the high ground behind the Cerna River and could roll boulders down on the Serbs. But when the Serbs rushed the heights they had big squares of white calico cloth on their backs and their leaders had red and white flags to show the farthest position reached, so the Serbian artillery avoided shelling them and when they’d rush up one crest, the artillery would simply pound the next one ahead until eventually all of the crests were covered with little fluttering red and white flags. There was also fighting in the mountains further to the north. German General Erich von Falkenhayn had been making headway against the Romanians in the mountain passes, but he was having some real trouble this week. On the 15th and 16th there was desperate fighting in the Oituz and Vulkan Passes, particularly near the railroad terminus at Campulung. On the 17th, Falkenhayn managed to squeeze through the Gyimes Pass and reach Agash, ten km within Romanian territory. On the 18th however, the Romanians won the day at both the Gyimes Pass and Agash, and Falkenhayn and the Germany army had been stopped. The Story of the Great War says, “there seems to be no doubt that had the Romanians been able to devote all their forces and resources to the defense of the Hungarian frontier, they would probably have been able to hold back Falkenhayn’s forces. But Mackensen had forced them to split their strength.” And so the out-equipped and out-gunned Romanians held the Germans back in the mountains for the moment, but further south on the 19th, General August von Mackensen began a new offensive in Dobrogea. Yet another offensive was about to get going over in France. The French were preparing for the counterstroke at Verdun that was to try to re-take Fort Douaumont. They wouldn’t attack until they had local superiority- three divisions in the front, three to follow, and two in reserve. General Philippe Petain brought in guns from the whole front- 650 in all, including two 400mm Schneider-Creusot railway guns. Ammunition arrived all through September and early October. 15,000 tons of shells. General Robert Nivelle’s task was to organize the creeping barrage. The infantry would move forward 100 meters in four minutes, which was 70 behind the field guns and 150 behind the heavy guns. Now, success depended upon precise communication between infantry and artillery, so Nivelle laid telephone wire in trenches six feet deep that was virtually immune to shellfire. It was an enormous task. The infantry preparations were no less gargantuan. At Stainville, a replica of the battlefield- including a full scale Fort Douaumont- was laid out and units rehearsed until they knew it blindfolded. They also brought in the engineer who had organized fresh water supplies when the Panama Canal was being dug, and he set up a system of transportable canvas pipes to bring water to the fort once taken. They were not going to repeat the failure at Fort Vaux, which was lost for lack of water. There was a mood of great optimism. The German camp was the opposite. They knew they were about to be attacked. They knew that High Command was waiting for a good psychological moment to leave the forward positions at Verdun. The men were exhausted, some having been there since February without relief. A steady bombardment for weeks had prevented the front line troops from improving their trenches or barbed wire. The rains, freezes, thaws, and more rains had caused some German trenches to collapse and frost bitten feet. Desertions had reached a new high. And one thing that the Germans had not realized about Fort Douaumont, the months long pounding it had taken had eroded- inch by inch- the protective layer of dirt covering it. It had been in some places nearly 6 meters deep, now it was dangerously exposed. On October 19th, the preliminary bombardment blasted off as French observation planes swarmed through the skies. And in Greece, the French and their allies were maneuvering as well. They demanded and got the Piraeus-Larissa railroad. It seems an Athens division had been moving along the line, with a regiment entrenching themselves before the King’s palace at Tatoi, and there was a fear that King Constantine would retire with his army and dig in in Thessaly until he could join the Bulgarians and Germans. The surrender of the railroad made this event impossible. It also provoked riots and demonstrations against the Allies, and the police remained passive and in some cased joined the protests. French Admiral du Fournier, who had already seized the Greek fleet, demanded that command of the Greek police force now be passed to him. This happened. Then the Royalist press went crazy about that, but the French established censorship and that was that. Did I mention that Greece was still neutral? That doesn’t sound like how you treat neutral. Either way, that was the week. French success and British failure at the Somme as the weather deteriorates, The Serbs advancing in one set of mountains and the Germans stopped in another, and the French making plans for glory at Verdun. It’s pretty impressive that the Romanians managed to stop Falkenhayn, even if it turns out to only be temporary. They were short on wheeled vehicles and machine guns, and many of their soldiers had only single shot black powder rifles, but stop them they did. But Romania was fighting on two fronts against four nations, and though they could count on a bit of Russian help, none of the other allies could send troops and Romania could not possibly hold out forever alone. And tens of thousands of young Romanian men would die, but that’s nothing new, just the same old ho-hum day to day of modern war.

Contents

Background

On July 22, 1917, the Romanians launched a joint offensive with Russia against the Austro-Hungarian 1st Army, around Mărăști and the lower part of the Siret river, which resulted in the Battle of Mărăști. Although there was some initial success, a counter-offensive by the Central Powers in Galicia stopped the Romanian-Russian offensive.

German counter-attack

The offensive of the German Ninth Army, from the Army Group Mackensen, started on August 6, 1917, when the units of the Russian Fourth Army on the Siret River were expected to leave their positions to reinforce the front in the north of Moldavia and be replaced by the divisions of the Romanian First Army (commanded by General Constantin Cristescu until August 12, then by General Eremia Grigorescu).

For 29 days, until September 3, this sector was the scene of the most important battle delivered by the Romanian army during the 1917 campaign. The Battle of Mărășești had three distinct stages. During the first stage (August 6–12), successively committed to battle, the troops of the Romanian First Army, together with Russian forces, managed to arrest the enemy advance and forced the Germans, through their resistance, to gradually change the direction of their attack north-westward. In the second stage (August 13–19), the Romanian Command completely took over the command of the battle from the Russians and the confrontation reached its climax on August 19, ending in a complete thwarting of the enemy's attempts to advance. The third stage (August 20 – September 3) saw the last German attempt at least to improve their positions in view of a new offensive, this one too baffled by the Romanian response.

Starting with August 8, 1917, the fighting on the Mărășești front combined with an Austro-Hungarian-German offensive at Oituz. Holding out against superior enemy forces, by August 30 the Romanian troops stemmed the advance of the Gerok Group, successively reinforced with numerous forces and means, which only managed to achieve 2–6 km-deep and 18–20 km-wide breakthrough in the defensive disposition of the Romanian Second Army. The definitive discontinuing of the Central Powers' general offensive on the Romanian front on September 3, 1917 therefore marked their strategic defeat and a considerable weakening of their forces on the South-Eastern front.

Romania lost over 27,000 men, including 610 officers, while Germany and Austria-Hungary lost over 47,000. The Romanian heroine Ecaterina Teodoroiu was killed by machine gun fire on September 3.[2] Five days later, Karl von Wenninger [de], a Major General in the German Army, was killed by artillery fire near the village of Muncelu.

Aftermath

In March 1918, Russia signed the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, and Austrian-German forces advanced in Ukraine that May. This left Romania surrounded by the Central Powers, forcing them to sign the Treaty of Bucharest.

Gallery

See also

References

  1. ^ a b c Bătălia de la Mărăşeşti, pe unde nu se trece (in Romanian)
  2. ^ "Legenda Ecaterinei Teodoroiu: Ce spun Arhivele Militare" (in Romanian). Historia.ro. Retrieved 2015-12-08.

External links

This page was last edited on 7 March 2019, at 23:06
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