Germany’s second Stalingrad

It happened between 20 to 29 August 1944 in Eastern Romania . The historians call it the second Iassy Kishinev soviet offensive. It was symmetrical to the Operation Uranus from 19-23 November 1942. But the consequences were much dear. The Axis lost the entire Balkans subcontinent (Greece, Bulgaria, Yougoslavia, Romania, Albania), the main source of oil from Ploesti and the advantages offered by the Carpathian mountains.

The actors were the same. Even their positioning was the same. In 1942 at Stalingrad the German 6th Army was flanked by the Romanian 3rd and 4th Armies. See the maps below:

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In 1944, the German 6th Army, Romanian 3rd and 4th Armies were rebuilt. The same name but fresh soldiers and commanders. This time they were facing the Dniester river, with the Romanian armies swapping flanks.

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The intelligence failure was the same. The massive Soviet built up passed unnoticed to the Axis forces. However, the strategic blunders were different this time. After a failed offensive, the Soviet forces deliberately retreated on field areas. The Axis forces moved into the trap and left the strategically important steep hills of Moldavia unmanned. More importantly, the same happened to the Focsani gate.

  • The first Soviet offensive on Romania took place between 8 April and 6 June 1944 and it is called the first Iassy-Kishinev offensive. The offensive was stopped in the densely wooden hills of Moldavia by the specially designed Romanian light tank destroyers. After that it was hammered by the Grossdeutschland tank division.
  • von Manstein was replaced in command by general Walter Model. This was the beginning of the Fuhrer’s fireman myth.
  • Considering the soviet threat definitively solved, Model was replaced by Johannes Friessner. It is then when the soviet military planners decided to use the von Manstein’s genial idea of mobile defence onto the Axis.
  • Previously Hitler rejected Antonescu and von Manstein plan to retreat on the Carpathians (fortified Focșani-Nămoloasa-Galați line, where 9 elite divisions) and deliberately give Bessarabia and Moldavia to the soviets. See the map below: Romania_physical_map.jpg This was a disastrous decision, but I can understand it.  The Red Army soldiers were starving. The unoccupied territories of Moldova ans Bessarabia were extremely fertile, and the agriculture there was flourishing. The hundreds of thousands of Wermacht soldiers, poised to station there for a very long time, had to be fed. The Soviet offensive start the same time with harvesting season.

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