Monday, May 11, 2015
Battle of Falciu/Tiganca
The 5th Corps, made up of the Guard Division (CO: brig. gen. Nicolae Sova) and the 21st Infantry Division (CO: maj. gen. Nicolae Dascalescu), received the task of establishing a bridgehead over the river Prut in the area opposite of Falciu. It had rained a lot and this only added to the difficulty of offensive. The lunca was flooded and the water barrier was 200-600 m wide.
The initial attack started on 5 July and was carried out by the Guard Division. However it failed. The Romanians had been stopped by the powerful resistance encountered on the Epureni Hill and near the villages Stoenesti and Tiganca. At noon, the 21st Infantry Division received the order to force the river Prut and assist the offensive of the Guard Division. The attack was going to take place during the night. The infantry was supposed to cross on the railroad bridge near Bogdanesti. The artillery was going to remain behind on the right bank, until a bridge could be built at Falciu.
Following his reconnaissance, gen. Dascalescu decided that the attack should be carried out by the 24th Infantry Regiment , with two battalions in the first line. At 1:00 am the troops started to cross the bridge, which had previously been damaged by a bombardment, through the rain. The next day (6 July), the two battalions were ready to attack at 9:00 am. But the bombers which were supposed to assist them did not arrive. At 10:00 am it was decided to start the attack without air support. The airplanes appeared, but at 10:30 and attacked the Romanian troops by mistake. With all the confusion, the 2nd Battalion managed to approach the village of Stoenesti, advancing with difficulty through the marshes in the area. The assistance of the 30th Artillery Regiment was requested, but for unknown reasons it did not materialize. However, at 8:00 pm, the 24th Regiment had already reached the Epureni Hill and the 1st Battalion was assaulting it. The losses of the first day: 26 dead and 166 wounded. Meanwhile, the Guard Division managed to brake the Soviet resistance in front of it and establish a solid bridgehead, through an attack carried out by a detachment of 5 battalions, under the command of col. Alexandru Cozloschi.
During the night, the 24th Regiment had to face a powerful artillery bombardment and then was pushed back. The next day, the attack started at 11:00 am. The fighting lasted until 5:00 pm. The Epureni Hill had been captured. The 11th and 12th Regiments (from the 21st Infantry Division) started to cross the river Prut, and the 6th Guard Regiment ‘Mihai Viteazu’ (from the Guard Division) advanced in the south of the Leca Plateau. But the 24th Infantry had suffered heavy casualties: the 1st and 3rd Battalion were at 50% and the 2nd Battalion at 75%. The recon company had been reduced to 25% its original size. The operation was supported by the 1/2nd Guard Vanatori (infantry) Regiment. The 3rd Battalion attacked through the heavy rain, it crossed the Balacea creek under heavy artillery and machine-gun fire and managed to advance to the western side of the Tiganca Hill., between the villages Stoenesti and Tiganca.
On 8 July, the 11th Regiment entered in the first line south of Tiganca. It was however powerfully assaulted. At about 10:00 am, col. Bardan, the regiment’s Coreported that he was in a desperate situation together with the 1st Battalion. They were almost out of ammo. At noon, it was again attacked. Two companies pulled back, but col. Bardan remained on the position together with 68 men. He ordered the regiment’s flag to be raised and the trumpet sounded the attack. Meanwhile, gen. Dascalescu took over the rest of the 11th Regiment and counterattacked, saving the situation. The 12th Regiment, situated in the area of the Epureni Hill was also attacked, but it stood firm.
On 9 July, the 1/2nd Guard Vanatori Regiment attacked on the direction of Hill 120 - Hill 196 on in the Toceni Hills. After very heavy fighting and numerous Soviet counterattacks, the regiment managed to take Hill 196 at about 5:00 pm. It had advanced 7 km. Two young officers were awarded the ‘Mihai Viteazul’ Order 3rd class, following this action. The fighting continued intensively in the sector of the 21st Infantry Division, where col. Gheorghe Nicolescu, the CO 12th Regiment, died heroically in the line of duty.
The battle reached its climax on 12 July. The Guard Division was strongly attacked in the sector of the 1/2nd and 2/9th Guard Vanatori Regiments. The assault lasted 16 hours. The two regiments held their positions with much difficulty. All the reserves were thrown into the battle, the pioneers and even the command groups. The violence was extreme. Hand to hand combat was frequent. The example of the 3rd Battalion from the 1/2nd Guard Vanatori Regiment is eloquent. Although almost surrounded on the Cania Hill, it continued to resist on its position. The 21st Infantry Division, reduced to 4 battalions, was also attacked by two Soviet divisions, but it stood firm.
The Combat Air Grouping had an important role in the defeat of the Soviet offensive. Between 8:50 am and 5:30 pm, almost 37 tons of bombs were dropped on Soviet artillery positions and concentration areas. 120 sorties were flown, of which 59 were by bombers. The POWs taken stated that the air bombardment caused up to 40% of the casualties suffered by the Red Army that day near Tiganca. Thus the evacuation planed for the night of 12/13 July was cancelled. During the fighting in July, the Combat Air Grouping dropped 134.5 tons of bombs in support of the 5th Corps. The Soviet attacks continued until 14 July, but much weaker. On 15 July, the Guard and 21st Infantry Divisions managed to break out of the bridgehead and advance into Bessarabia. The Battle of Falciu/Tiganca was over. The casualties suffered by the two divisions were very high: 2,743 by the Guard Division and 6,222 by the 21st Infantry Division.
No less than 17 ‘Mihai Viteazul’ Orders, 3rd class, were awarded for this battle, of which 6 posthumously. The highest ranking officer decorated was maj. gen. Nicolae Dascalescu. Apparently, Antonescu took off his own MV order (received during WWI) and gave it to the general, during an inspection. Dascalescu was in fact the first Romanian officer this distinction during WWII (after Antonescu got the 2nd and 1st class). The 21st Infantry Division’s battle flag was also decorated with this award.