|Born||December 16, 1860
|Died||November 9, 1916
Bucharest, Kingdom of Romania
|Years of service||1887-1916|
|Commands held||1st Army|
|Battles/wars||World War I-Romanian Campaign|
Ion Dragalina (December 16, 1860 – November 9, 1916) was a Romanian general, who died during the First World War in the battle of the Jiu valley. Dragalina was born in the city of Caransebeş, which at the time was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
Ioan Dragalina was a descendant of a military family. His father, Alexandru Dragalina, served as an officer in the Austro-Hungarian army until his resignation in 1859. His parents moved to Romania, where his father was appointed administrator of the border region. However, Marta Lazaroni, his mother, wanted to give birth in her ancestral home and thus the family returned to Caransebeș, where in 1860 Ioan, the first of their four sons, was born.
Education and early life
Ioan Dragalina went to primary school in Caransebeș and then to military school in Timişoara. He continued his studies at the Military Academy in Vienna (1884) and joined the Austro-Hungarian army. While at the Military Academy, he enrolled and graduated from the School of Geodetic Engineering. In 1886 he married Elena Giurginca. They had six children: two sons (Corneliu – born in 1887, and Virgiliu – born in 1890) and four daughters (Aurora, Elena, Cornelia and Viorica).
Career in the Romanian Army
In 1887, Ioan Dragalina resigned from the Austro-Hungarian Army and moved to Romania where he joined the Romanian Army as a second lieutenant. He advanced through the ranks becoming captain in 1892, major in 1899 and lieutenant-colonel in 1908. Between 1908 and 1911, lieutenant-colonel Dragalina was the commander of the Military Infantry School in Bucharest. For his work in developing the scientific curriculum and for the order and discipline instilled in the military education system, Ioan Dragalina was made a member of the Order of the Star of Romania, First class.
In April 1911, colonel Ioan Dragalina took over the command of the 34th Regiment in Constanţa. During this time, he was made a member of the Order of the Crown, Fourth Class. In 1915 he was promoted to Brigadier General and had under his command the Third Territorial Commandment.
During the years of Romania's neutrality, Dragalina worked on fortifications in the Prahova Valley.
World War I
In 1916, prior to Romania entering the First world war on the side of the Allied Forces, Dragalina was named commander of the First Infantry Division, stationed at Drobeta-Turnu Severin. His troops patrolled a very large area on the western border, extending from the sources of the Argeş River to the city of Calafat. In August 1916, his division fought at Orșova and on the Cerna Valley. After attacking on the morning of August 15, 1916 at Porțile de Fier (Iron Gates) the troops under Dragalina occupied the mountain peaks of Alion, Ozoina and Drănic, and liberated the city of Orşova. The First Division maintained its positions until October, successfully stopping the German-Austro-Hungarian advance.
In October, a massive German and Austro-Hungarian offensive was launched in the Jiu Valley under the command of General Paul von Kneussl. On the 11th of October 1916, General Dragalina was summoned to Craiova and ordered to take over the command of the First Army. He decided to fight Kneussl in the mountains and called upon his Romanian soldiers:
"Officers and soldiers of the First Romanian Army, from this moment on I am at the helm of the army and demand from all of you, from General to the last soldier: first that you defend with your life the sacred ground of our fatherland, our ancestral home, our land and the honor of the Romanian name. I demand from all of you total discipline and the strictest execution of orders. The troop which cannot advance should die fighting."
Early on the morning of October 12, 1916, General Dragalina left by car for the Jiu Vally, accompanied by two officers – Colonel Toma Dumitrescu and Major Constantin Militiade. He wanted personally to assess the situation on the front and reconnect with his military leaders, since phone lines were out of order. He reached the outposts of the first line of defense close to the Lainici Monastery. He stopped there to confess and take communion. While crossing a narrow bridge on his way back, the car was caught in machine gun cross fire. Speeding under a hail of bullets, his driver managed to cross the bridge. But the General was hit in his left upper arm and scapula.
Dragalina was urgently transported to the medical outpost at Gura Sadului, where the wound was disinfected and his arm was bandaged. From Gura Sadului he was transported to Târgu Jiu and that very same day to Craiova, where doctors recommended amputation. However, a telegram from Military Headquarters in Bucharest ordered his urgent transfer by train to the Military Hospital at the Royal Palace in Bucharest. The tedious and long trip delayed his arrival (the train arrived in Bucharest on the evening of October 13) and his wound became infected. In Bucharest, doctors disinfected the wound, extracted the bullet from his scapula, and set his arm in a cast. On his hospital bed, King Ferdinand I of Romania conferred upon him the Order of Michael the Brave. On October 16, 1916 his left arm was amputated. His condition began to ameliorate, but then sepsis set in. He died on the evening of November 9, 1916.
Memorial services were held at Biserica Albă in Bucharest. In attendance were King Ferdinand and Prince Carol (the future King Carol II) as well as many political personalities: Ion I.C. Brătianu (Prime-Minister of Romania), Vintilă Brătianu (War Minister), the writer Barbu Ştefănescu-Delavrancea, Mihai Cantacuzino (Justice Minister), Take Ionescu (Minister of Foreign Affairs), Henry Catargi (Marshal of the Royal Palace), generals and foreign military attachés in Romania. He was laid to rest in the Heroes' Cemetery (Bellu Military Cemetery) in Bucharest.
General Ioan Dragalina is the father of the future Romanian general Corneliu Dragalina (1887–1949) also born in Caransebeș, and of the Navy Commodore Virgil-Alexandru Dragalina.
As a tribute to his heroism, several monuments were erected. Among these:
- A cross in the Jiu Valley on the spot where General Dragalina was wounded, erected on October 12, 1927
- A bronze statue was placed in front of the military barracks, in the Park General Ioan Dragalina in Caransebeș. The statue is the work of Mihai Onofrei and was unveiled on June 3, 1943. (It is included on the List of Historical Monuments of the Caraș-Severin County, code CS-III-m-B-11239)
- A bronze bust in the city of Lugoj by Spiridon Georgescu (also included in the List of Historical Monuments, Timiș County, cod TM-III-m-B-06322)
- A bronze bust on a marble pedestal in front of the Mausoleum of Mărăşeşti by Iulian Coruț in 1993
A commemorative plaque was placed on the wall of the house of General Dragalina in Caransebeș (Ardealului Street, No. 6). Many streets, schools, and geographical places were also named after him.
- Sperlea, Florin (2004), "Cum a murit generalul Dragalina? ("How did General Dragalina die?")", Spirit Militar Modern (in Romanian) (Bucharest: Trustul de Presă al Ministerului Apărării Naţionale) (9): 13, retrieved 2011-06-19
- Constantin Kirițescu, "Istoria războiului pentru întregirea României: 1916-1919", 1922
- Virgil Alexandru Dragalina "Viața tatălui meu, generalul Ioan Dragalina", Editura Militară, București, 2009
- (Romanian) Col. (r) Andrei Ghidarcea - General de brigadă Ioan Dragalina (I), (II), (III), (IV), (V), (VI), on-line journal Caraș-Severinul în 7 zile, accessed on June 19, 2011
- (Romanian) Biography of the General Ioan Dragalina on caransebes.ro