First Jassy–Kishinev Offensive
|First Jassy–Kishinev Offensive|
|Part of Eastern Front, World War II|
Vehicles and Panther tanks of the Grossdeutschland division in Romania – April 1944
|Commanders and leaders|
|300,000 men||830,000 men|
|Casualties and losses|
|45,000 casualties||150,000 casualties|
The First Jassy–Kishinev Offensive, named after the two major cities (Iași and Chișinău) in the area, was fought between 8 April and 6 June 1944 by the Soviets and Axis powers of World War II. The offensive was actually a coordinated invasion of Romania conducted by Red Army's 2nd and 3rd Ukrainian Fronts, in accordance with Joseph Stalin's strategy of projecting Soviet military power and political influence into the Balkans.
According to the plans of the Main Command of the Soviet Military (Stavka), the two Soviet fronts would cut off vital Axis defensive lines in Northern Romania, facilitating a subsequent advance by the Red Army into the entire Balkan region. The Soviet attack commenced with the First Battle of Târgu Frumos and the Battle of Podu Iloaiei, and culminated with the Second Battle of Târgu Frumos. Soviet forces failed to overcome German defenses in the region and the offensive operation ultimately failed, mainly due to the poor combat performance of Soviet troops and the effectiveness of German defensive preparations.
According to an American source, this operation is one of the battles largely ignored by Soviet archival records and historiography. "During the almost 60 years since the end of World War II, 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."
On 5 March 1944, Colonel General Ivan Konev—commander of the 2nd Ukrainian Front—commenced the Uman–Botoşani Offensive operation in the Ukraine. This operation succeeded in separating 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 Fronts to mount a major offensive with strategic implications in western Romania. Stavka 's strategic intentions were to break German and Romanian strategic defenses in northern Romania, capture the key cities of Iași and Chișinău, and afterward project forces deep into Romanian territory, if possible as deep as Ploiești and Bucharest. By 5 April, Konev's front had crossed the upper reaches of Dniester and Prut rivers, captured Khotyn and Dorohoi, and approached Târgu Frumos and Botoşani regions—30–60 mi (48–97 km) northwest of Iași—facing only light Romanian resistance. On 8 April, Konev ordered the 27th and 40th Armies to conduct a coordinated offensive southward along the Târgu Frumos axis, in close cooperation with Semyon Bogdanov's 2nd Tank Army. While Konev's shock group was advancing toward Târgu Frumos, Konstantin Koroteev's 52nd Army and elements of Andrei Gravchenko's 6th Tank Army— which were operating north of Iași—were conducting operations alongside the Iași axis in order to support Konev's main effort.
As Konev's armies prepared to launch their offensive toward Târgu Frumos, Otto Wöhler's 8th Army was involved in the heavy fighting taking place in and around the village of Popricani, 9 mi (14 km) north of Iași, where two Soviet corps were fighting with armored Kampfgruppen, distracting the Germans' attentions and forces away from the critical Târgu Frumos sector. Exploiting the 52nd Army diversionary operations in the Iași 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 (the twice yearly period of water-logged ground), as well as crossing to the west bank of the Prut River northwest of Iași.
Konev's armies' initial mission was to reach Târgu Frumos, Pașcani, and Târgu Neamț regions —30–60 mi (48–97 km) west of Iași—and capture the three towns from their Romanian defenders by surprise. While three divisions of 51st Rifle Corps were ordered to press southward toward Pașcani, 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 Hârlău, 17 mi (27 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.
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