First Battle of the Jiu Valley

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First Battle of the Jiu Valley
Part of Romanian Campaign (World War I)
1916 - Prima batalia de la Jiu - Ioanitiu.png
Date23–28 October 1916
Location
Result Romanian victory
Belligerents
 Romania  German Empire
 Austria-Hungary
Commanders and leaders
Kingdom of Romania Ioan Culcer
Kingdom of Romania Ion Dragalina
Kingdom of Romania Nicolae Petala
German Empire Erich von Falkenhayn
German Empire Paul von Kneussl
Austria-Hungary Colonel Stavinsky
Casualties and losses
Unknown 3,210 (killed, wounded and missing)


The First Battle of the Jiu Valley consisted in a failed attempt of the Bavarian 11th Division of the Imperial German Army to cross the Northern mountains of Oltenia and seize the town (now city) of Târgu Jiu. The Romanian counterattack that ended the battle was the last major Romanian victory during the 1916 campaign, halting the German advance in the region for two weeks.

Background[edit]

Romania joined the First World War on 27 August 1916, after signing the 1916 Treaty of Bucharest. After a failed offensive into Transylvania, the Central Powers began looking for means of crossing the mountains into Wallachia and knock Romania out of the war. One of the routes chosen was along the Jiu Valley.

Battle[edit]

The offensive of the Bavarian 11th Division commenced in the early hours of 23 October 1916, under the command of General Paul von Kneussl, the overall command belonging to General Erich von Falkenhayn. Aiding the German troops was the 144th Austrian Infantry Brigade, under Colonel Stavinsky. The Romanian forces in the area were elements of the First Army, initially commanded by General Ioan Culcer. However, Culcer's suggestions of retreat led to his replacement by General Ion Dragalina on 24 October. Dragalina was mortally wounded the next day during a reconnaissance mission, being succeeded by General Nicolae Petala, leader of the 1st Army Corps. On 25 October, the Germans and Austrians reached Dobrița and Stănești. General Dragalina, in his one day of command, successfully shifted several battalions to the region. This gave the Romanian 1st Army a local superiority against the Central Powers, and General Petala planned to strike. The Germans reached the outskirts of Frâncești on the 26th, but during that night the weather took a turn for the worse. At 10 a.m. on the 27th, the Romanians counterattacked from South and East, along a front stretching from Sâmbotin to Birnici. Further Romanian attacks took place at noon, between Dobrița and Stănești. The extra incentive of 1,000 lei offered by Petala to anyone who captured an enemy artillery piece proved effective. Romanian troops made several breakthroughs into the German lines, capturing two guns and pushing the infantry back into the mountains. With German supply lines severed by accidents and bad weather, a general retreat commenced on 28 October. Falkenhayn's staff recognized that the Romanian counterattack marked the end of von Kneussl's operation.[1]

Battle of the Jiu Bridge[edit]

On 27 October (Old style: 14 October), German units reached the outskirts of Târgu Jiu and attempted to cross the bridge into the town. They were repulsed by troops aided by the local population, and during this engagement the would-be Second Lieutenant Ecaterina Teodoroiu would make her first contribution to the Romanian Campaign.[2][3]

Aftermath[edit]

During the initial stages of the German advance (23-26 October), the Central Powers occupied a front along the Northern outskirts of Frâncești, Turcinești, Sâmbotin and Bumbești. In the aftermath of the Romanian counterattack (27-28 October), the Romanians re-occupied the villages of Stănești, Rugi, Vălari, Schela and Birnici and retook the hills of Lesului and Seniuleului as well as the Gruba Mare massif. Almost the entire Western half of the salient created by the offensive of the Central Powers was pushed back towards the Romanian border, save for Arcanului Hill. On the Eastern half of the salient, the Central Powers managed to hold on to the mountain passes (Surduc and Vulcan), Mare Hill and the settlements of Lainici and Buliga, this sector of the front running just North of Muncelu and Moldavisu. Overall, about half of the gains made by the Central Powers were rolled back by the Romanians.[4] Total Central Powers casualties amounted to 3,210 killed, wounded and missing (including 53 officers).[5]

Second Battle of the Jiu Valley (11 - 17 November)[edit]

The Germans renewed their offensive into the region on 11 November, and on the 15th they seized Târgu Jiu. After the following two days, all of the Jiu Valley was in German possession.[6][7]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Michael B. Barrett, Indiana University Press, 2013, Prelude to Blitzkrieg: The 1916 Austro-German Campaign in Romania, pp. 166-175
  2. ^ Tony Jaques, Greenwood Publishing Group, 2007, Dictionary of Battles and Sieges: P-Z, p. 998
  3. ^ Chicago Review Press, 2014 , Women Heroes of World War I: 16 Remarkable Resisters, Soldiers, Spies, and Medics, pp. 170-171
  4. ^ Michael B. Barrett, Indiana University Press, 2013, Prelude to Blitzkrieg: The 1916 Austro-German Campaign in Romania, p. 170
  5. ^ Michael B. Barrett, Indiana University Press, 2013, Prelude to Blitzkrieg: The 1916 Austro-German Campaign in Romania, p. 175
  6. ^ David Hamlin, Cambridge University Press, 2017, Germany's Empire in the East, p. 174
  7. ^ Tony Jaques, Greenwood Publishing Group, 2007, Dictionary of Battles and Sieges: P-Z, p. 998