First Jassy-Kishinev Offensive

First Jassy-Kishinev Offensive

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The First Jassy–Kishinev Offensive, named after the two major cities (Iaşi
Iasi
Iași is the second most populous city and a municipality in Romania. Located in the historical Moldavia region, Iași has traditionally been one of the leading centres of Romanian social, cultural, academic and artistic life...

 and Chişinău
Chisinau
Chișinău is the capital and largest municipality of Moldova. It is also its main industrial and commercial centre and is located in the middle of the country, on the river Bîc...

) in the area, was fought between 8 April and 6 June 1944 by the Soviets
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 and Axis powers of World War II. The offensive was actually a coordinated invasion of Romania
Kingdom of Romania
The Kingdom of Romania was the Romanian state based on a form of parliamentary monarchy between 13 March 1881 and 30 December 1947, specified by the first three Constitutions of Romania...

 conducted by Red Army
Red Army
The Workers' and Peasants' Red Army started out as the Soviet Union's revolutionary communist combat groups during the Russian Civil War of 1918-1922. It grew into the national army of the Soviet Union. By the 1930s the Red Army was among the largest armies in history.The "Red Army" name refers to...

's 2nd and 3rd Ukrainian Front
3rd Ukrainian Front
3rd Ukrainian Front was a Front of the Red Army during World War II.It was founded on 20 October 1943, on the basis of a Stavka order of October 16, 1943, by renaming the Southwestern Front. It included 1st Guards Army, 8th Guards Army, 6th, 12th, and 46th Armies and 17th Air Army...

s, in accordance with Joseph Stalin
Joseph Stalin
Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin was the Premier of the Soviet Union from 6 May 1941 to 5 March 1953. He was among the Bolshevik revolutionaries who brought about the October Revolution and had held the position of first General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union's Central Committee...

's strategy to project Soviet military power and political influence into the Balkans
Balkans
The Balkans is a geopolitical and cultural region of southeastern Europe...

.

According to the plans of the Main Command of the Soviet Military (Stavka
Stavka
Stavka was the term used to refer to a command element of the armed forces from the time of the Kievan Rus′, more formally during the history of Imperial Russia as administrative staff and General Headquarters during late 19th Century Imperial Russian armed forces and those of the Soviet Union...

), the two Soviet fronts would cut-off Axis vital defensive lines in Northern Romania. This then would facilitate a subsequent advance by the Red Army into the entire Balkan region. The Soviet attack commenced with the First Battle of Târgu Frumos
First Battle of Târgu Frumos
The First Battle of Târgu Frumos was part of the First Jassy-Kishinev Offensive of World War II fought between Axis powers of World War II commanded by Otto Wöhler and Soviet forces led by Ivan Konev....

 and Battle of Podu Iloaiei
Battle of Podu Iloaiei
The Battle of Podu Iloaiei was part of the First Jassy-Kishinev Offensive of World War II fought between the Germans and the Soviets. The battle was a reaction to the Soviet defeat at the First Battle of Târgu Frumos. It consisted mainly of a tank battle near Scobalteni where the First Romanian...

, and culminated with the Second Battle of Târgu Frumos. However, Soviet forces failed to overcome German defenses in the region and the offensive operation ultimately failed. This happened mainly due to the low combat performance of the Soviet troops, as well as the well-prepared German defensive positions.

This operation is part of a series of "forgotten battles", almost completely ignored by Soviet archival records and historiography. According to military historian David M. Glantz, "During the almost 60 years since the end of WWII, Soviet and Russian military historians and theorists have carefully erased from the historical record any mention of the 2nd and 3rd Ukrainian Fronts' first Iasi-Kishinev offensive, during which the Red Army's two fronts attempted to invade Romania in April and May 1944. As is the case with so many other military operations the Red Army conducted during the war, they have done this deliberately, in the process relegating this offensive to a lengthy list of "forgotten battles" of the Soviet-German War."

Planning


On 5 March 1944, Colonel General
Colonel General
Colonel General is a senior rank of General. North Korea and Russia are two countries which have used the rank extensively throughout their histories...

 Ivan Konev
Ivan Konev
Ivan Stepanovich Konev , was a Soviet military commander, who led Red Army forces on the Eastern Front during World War II, retook much of Eastern Europe from occupation by the Axis Powers, and helped in the capture of Germany's capital, Berlin....

—commander of the 2nd Ukrainian Front—commenced the Uman–Botoşani Offensive
Uman–Botosani Offensive
The Uman–Botoşani Offensive or Uman-Botoshany Offensive was a part of the Dnieper–Carpathian Offensive, carried out by the Red Army in western Ukrainian SSR against the German Army Group South...

 operation in the Ukraine
Ukraine
Ukraine is a country in Eastern Europe. It has an area of 603,628 km², making it the second largest contiguous country on the European continent, after Russia...

. This operation succeeded in separating Army Group South
Army Group South
Army Group South was the name of a number of German Army Groups during World War II.- Poland campaign :Germany used two army groups to invade Poland in 1939: Army Group North and Army Group South...

's 1st Panzer-Armee from 8th Army by 17 March. by early April Soviet units approached the Romanian border.

Starting with early April 1944, Stavka ordered the 2nd and 3rd Ukrainian Front
3rd Ukrainian Front
3rd Ukrainian Front was a Front of the Red Army during World War II.It was founded on 20 October 1943, on the basis of a Stavka order of October 16, 1943, by renaming the Southwestern Front. It included 1st Guards Army, 8th Guards Army, 6th, 12th, and 46th Armies and 17th Air Army...

s to mount a major offensive with strategic implications in western Romania. Stavkas strategic intentions were to break German and Romanian strategic defenses in northern Romania, capture the key cities of Iaşi
Iasi
Iași is the second most populous city and a municipality in Romania. Located in the historical Moldavia region, Iași has traditionally been one of the leading centres of Romanian social, cultural, academic and artistic life...

 and Chişinău
Chisinau
Chișinău is the capital and largest municipality of Moldova. It is also its main industrial and commercial centre and is located in the middle of the country, on the river Bîc...

, and afterward project forces deep into Romanian territory, if possible as deep as Ploieşti
Ploiesti
Ploiești is the county seat of Prahova County and lies in the historical region of Wallachia in Romania. The city is located north of Bucharest....

 and Bucharest
Bucharest
Bucharest is the capital municipality, cultural, industrial, and financial centre of Romania. It is the largest city in Romania, located in the southeast of the country, at , and lies on the banks of the Dâmbovița River....

. By 5 April, Konev's front had crossed the upper reaches of Dniester and Prut Rivers, captured Khotyn
Khotyn
Khotyn is a city in Chernivtsi Oblast of western Ukraine, and is the administrative center of Khotyn Raion within the oblast, and is located south-west of Kamianets-Podilskyi. According to the 2001 Ukrainian census, it has a population of 11,124...

 and Dorohoi
Dorohoi
Dorohoi is a city in the Botoşani County, Romania, on the right bank of the Jijia River, which broadens into a lake on the north.Dorohoi used to be a market for the timber and farm produce of the north Moldavian highlands; merchants from the neighboring states flocked to its great fair, held on...

, and approached Târgu Frumos and Botoşani regions—30–60 mi (48.3–96.6 km) northwest of Iaşi—facing only light Romanian resistance. On 8 April, Konev ordered the 27th and 40th
40th Army (Soviet Union)
The 40th Army of the Soviet Union's Red Army was an army-level command active from 1941 to 1945 and then again from 1979 to circa 1990.It was first formed, after Operation Barbarossa, the German invasion of the Soviet Union, had commenced, from elements of the 26th and 37th Armies under the command...

 Armies to conduct a coordinated offensive southward along the Târgu Frumos
Târgu Frumos
Târgu Frumos is a town in Iaşi County, Moldavia, Romania. it has a population of 13,619...

 axis, in close cooperation with Semyon Bogdanov's 2nd Tank Army
2nd Guards Tank Army (Soviet Union)
The Second Tank Army of the Red Army was formed in January - February, 1943 on the basis of the 3rd Reserve Army of the Bryansk Front.Originally the Army comprised 11th and 16th Tank Corps, 60th, 112th and 194th Rifle Divisions, the 11th Guards Separate tank brigade, 115th Rifle Brigade, the 28th...

. While Konev's shock group was advancing toward Târgu Frumos, Konstantin Koroteev
Konstantin Koroteev
Konstantin Apollonovich Koroteev , a Soviet military officer, colonel-general , recipient of the Hero of the Soviet Union...

's 52nd Army and elements of Andrei Gravchenko's 6th Tank Army
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 during World War II and disbanded in Ukraine in the 1990s after the dissolution of the Soviet Union....

— which were operating north of Iaşi—were conducting operations alongside the Iaşi axis in order to support Konev's main effort.
As Konev's armies prepared to launch their offensive toward Târgu Frumos, Otto Wöhler
Otto Wöhler
Otto Wöhler was a German general of infantry, serving during World War I and World War II and recipient of the Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves...

's 8th Army was involved in the heavy fighting taking place in and around the village of Popricani
Popricani
Popricani is a commune in Iaşi County, Romania, part of the Iaşi metropolitan area. It is composed of nine villages: Cârlig, Cotu Morii, Cuza Vodă, Moimeşti, Popricani, Rediu Mitropoliei, Ţipileşti, Vânători and Vulturi.-Mass grave:...

, 9 mi (14.5 km) north of Iaşi, where two Soviet corps were fighting with armored Kampfgruppe
Kampfgruppe
In military history and military slang, the German term Kampfgruppe can refer to a combat formation of any kind, but most usually to that employed by the German Wehrmacht and its allies during World War II and, to a lesser extent, in World War I...

n
, distracting the Germans' attentions and forces away from the critical Târgu Frumos sector. Exploiting the 52nd Army diversionary operations in the Iaşi region, the three armies of Konev's shock group began advancing southward early in the morning of 8 April. The advance was quite slow due to mud-clogged roads during the rasputitsa
Rasputitsa
The rasputitsa refers to the biannual seasons when unpaved roads become difficult to traverse in parts of Belarus, Russia and Ukraine. The word may be translated as the "quagmire season" because during this period the large flatlands become extremely muddy and marshy, as do most unpaved roads...

(the twice yearly period of water-logged ground), as well as crossing to the west bank of the Prut River northwest of Iaşi.

Konev's armies' initial mission was to reach Târgu Frumos, Paşcani
Pascani
Paşcani is a city in Iaşi County in the Moldavia region of Romania on the Siret river. , it has a population of 42,172. Five villages are administered by the city: Blăgeşti, Boşteni, Gâsteşti, Lunca and Sodomeni....

, and Târgu Neamţ
Târgu Neamt
Târgu Neamţ is a town in Neamţ County, Romania, on the Neamţ River. It had, , a population of 20,496. Three villages are administered by the town: Blebea, Humuleşti and Humuleştii Noi.- History :...

 regions —30–60 mi (48.3–96.6 km) west of Iaşi—and capture the three towns from their Romanian defenders by surprise. While three divisions of 51st Rifle Corps were ordered to press southward toward Paşcani, another two rifle divisions were protecting their advance in the region north and northwest of Târgu Neamţ. Further to the east, seven rifle divisions assigned to 35th Guards and 33rd Rifle Corps of 27th Army would advance southeastward along the Prut starting on 7 April, forcing the Romanian 8th Infantry Division to retreat toward Hârlau
Hârlau
Hârlău is a town in Iaşi County, Moldavia, Romania. the estimated population is 11,271. It was the capital city of Moldova in the 15th century. One village, Pârcovaci, is administered by the town.-Population:...

, 17 mi (27.4 km) north of Târgu Frumos. Meanwhile, another two divisions of 33rd Rifle Corps joined by two corps of the 2nd Tank Army would press the Romanian 7th Infantry Division back toward Târgu Frumos.