Iasi-Kishinev Operation of 1944
Iaşi-Kishinev Operation of 1944
a strategic offensive operation carried out by Soviet forces during the Great Patriotic War of 1941–45 to destroy the large grouping of Rumanian and fascist German troops covering the Balkan axis.
In April 1944, a successful offensive in the Right-bank Ukraine had brought the troops of the Second Ukrainian Front to a line north of the cities of Iaşi and Orgeev; there they turned to the defensive. The Third Ukrainian Front had reached the Dnester River and had established several footholds on its western bank.
Opposite the Soviet forces was Army Group South Ukraine, commanded by Colonel General H. Friessner. It included two army groupments—Wöhler (the Eighth German and Fourth Rumanian armies and the XVII German Army Corps) and Dumi-trescu (the Sixth German and Third Rumanian armies). In all, Army Group South Ukraine had 900,000 men and was equipped with 7,600 guns and mortars, more than 400 tanks and assault guns, and 810 combat aircraft from the Fourth German Air Fleet and the Rumanian Air Force. The enemy had set up a strong, multilayered defense consisting of 3–4 defensive zones covered with water obstacles and set in hilly terrain. Strong defensive perimeters surrounded a number of cities as well as other populated points.
Conduct of the operation was assigned to the Second Ukrainian Front (commanded by General of the Army R. Ia. Malinovskii), the Third Ukrainian Front (commanded by General of the Army F. I. Tolbukhin), the Black Sea Fleet (commanded by Admiral F. S. Oktiabr’skii), and the Danube Naval Flotilla (commanded by Rear Admiral S. G. Gorshkov). The actions of the fronts were coordinated by Marshal of the Soviet Union S. K. Timoshenko, who represented the General Headquarters of the Supreme Command. According to the intentions of the Supreme Command, the Second and Third Ukrainian fronts, supported by the Black Sea Fleet and Danube Naval Flotilla, were supposed to break through the enemy defense in two sectors (northwest of Iaşi and south of Bendery), surround and destroy the main forces of Army Group South Ukraine near Iaşi and Kishinev, and develop an offensive deep into Rumania.
The Soviet forces numbered 1,250,000 men and had 16,000 guns and mortars, 1,870 tanks and self-propelled guns, and 2,200 combat aircraft. High concentrations of attacking forces, with up to 240 guns and mortars and up to 56 tanks and self-propelled guns per kilometer of front, were created in the sectors designated for breakthrough of the enemy defense. The sector assigned to the Second Ukrainian Front extended 16 km, and that assigned to the Third Ukrainian Front, 18 km. Rifle divisions advanced on a front less than 1 km long.
Supported by the Fifth and Seventeenth air armies and by the artillery, the Soviet forces went over to the offensive on the morning of August 20. Assault groupings broke through the enemy’s main line of defense. By midday, the Twenty-seventh Army of the Second Ukrainian Front had penetrated the second defensive zone. The Sixth Tank Army followed the Twenty-seventh’s zone of advance into the breach. By the end of the first day, Soviet forces had penetrated 6–16 km.
Two tank corps, two mechanized corps, and one cavalry corps were fed into the breach on the second day. In the early morning hours of August 22, ships of the Danube Naval Flotilla carried a landing party across the Dnester Liman for the purpose of capturing the right flank of the Third Rumanian Army. On August 24, mobile Soviet forces reached the vicinity of Huşi and Leovo and encircled 18 of the 25 German divisions in Army Group South Ukraine. The Forty-sixth Army of the Third Ukrainian Front drove the Third Rumanian Army back toward the Black Sea; on August 24, the Rumanians ceased resistance. After landing its parties at the mouth of the Danube, the Danube Naval Flotilla captured the ports of Vilkovo and Kiliia. By the close of August 24, Soviet forces had advanced 130–140 km.
Taking advantage of the successes of the Soviet troops, progressive Rumanian forces led by Communists began an antifascist armed uprising of the Rumanian people on August 23. After overthrowing the fascist regime, they formed a new government, which proclaimed Rumania’s withdrawal from the Hitlerite bloc on August 23 and declared war on Germany on August 24.
The main Soviet forces continued their offensive. On August 29, they closed in on surrounded troops west of the Prut River. Soviet advance forces reached the approaches to Ploiesti and Bucharest and occupied Constanza. With this, the Iaşi-Kishinev Operation came to an end; Moldavia and a substantial part of Rumania had been liberated. On August 31, the Second Ukrainian Front, which included the Tudor Vladimirescu 1st Rumanian Volunteer Division, entered Bucharest, which had been liberated by Rumanian patriots. The national liberation struggle in Bulgaria and the other Balkan countries had been bolstered by the victory of Soviet troops in the Iaşi-Kishinev Operation. Continuing their advance, Soviet forces, together with Rumanian troops, freed the cities of Satu-Mare and Carei on October 25 and completed the liberation of Rumania. They then entered Hungary. The Black Sea Fleet was now free to pursue further action on the Black Sea.
The Iaşi-Kishinev Operation has gone into the history of the art of war as the Iaşi-Kishinev Cannae. It exemplified skillful selection of the axes of the main strikes by the fronts, decisive massing of men and equipment along the axes of the main strikes, rapid advance, rapid encirclement and destruction of a large grouping, and close cooperation among ground forces, aviation, and naval forces.
REFERENCESIassko-Kishinevskie Kanny. Moscow, 1964.
Osvobodite Vnaia missiia Sovetskikh Vooruzhennykh Sil vo vtoroi mirovoi voine, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1974.
F. N. UTENKOV