Could the Romanian Debacle been avoided?

First World War 1914-1918 from the German perspective.

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Kim Sung
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Could the Romanian Debacle been avoided?

Post by Kim Sung » Sun May 18, 2008 8:54 am

If Romania had attacked Bulgaria first instead of Transylvania in August 1916, what would've been a possible result? Could the Romanian debacle have been avoided? And what about the possibility that the Romanian forces could have been connected with the British and French forces in the Macedonian Front?

My assumptions are as follows.

1. Even though the Romanian forces had attacked Bulgaria first, the eventual defeat of Romania was inevitable, considering unpreparedness and quality of Romanian troops.

2. Because of insufficient defensive facilities in Transylvania, the Transylvanian front would've collapsed by counterattacks of the Austrian 1st Army and the German 9th Army in October (2~3 weeks later than what actually happened), thus eventually opening the road to Bucureşti.

3. The multinational army led by Mackensen on the southern side of the Danube river would have retreated by the initial offensive of the numerically superior Romanian forces. But they successfully counterattacked the advancing Romanian forces and started a rush to Constanţa. The linkage between the Romanian forces and the allied forces in the Salonika Front would have been impossible.

4. As a whole, the collapse of the Romanian forces and the fall of Bucureşti could been delayed for 1~2 months because of possible delay of Mackensen's army in its advance in Dobrogea and Falkenhayn's army by defensive actions of the Romanian 1st and 2nd Armies in the Carpathian mountains. The Romanian casualties would've been less heavier thanks to a relatively slow retreat of the Romanian forces, thus making the remainder of the Romanian forces relocated to Iaşi a little stronger. The degree of the unilateral defeat could have been lessened.

Any other opinions?


Romanian Campaign from August 27 to mid-September

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Re: Could the Romanian Debacle been avoided?

Post by Feldjäger » Mon May 19, 2008 12:50 pm

Hi Kim,
in my opinion, Romania's intervention might have been decisive in spring 1915. A joint entry of both Italy and Romania would have caused the collapse of Austria-Hungary and a decisive outcome of the war in the East and Balkan theatres.
In the strategic situation of 1916, Romania was simply doomed from the outset. The quality of Romanian troops was not that bad, as shown by the last phases of the campaign; the problem is that the strategic situation of the Romanian army was untenable in the summer of 1916, and Russian support was not very well-directed.

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Re: Could the Romanian Debacle been avoided?

Post by sid guttridge » Tue May 20, 2008 2:30 am

Hi Kim Sung,

I would agree with feldjager.

I would suggest that it is mainly a matter of timing. Had Romania attacked while Serbia was still fighting on its own soil and Bulgaria and Turkey were still isolated from German and Austro-Hungarian support then things might have been different. If it had co-ordinated its attack with the early phases of the Russian Brussilov offensive, rather than at its end, it might have had more success.

Romanian forces were massively over expanded and over extended and did not perform particularly well in 1916, but as Feldjager says, they redeemed themselves in 1917 at Marasti, Marasesti and Oituz. That said, Rommel says in his WWI memoirs that the hardest fighting he had in WWI was in the Carpathian Mountains against the Romanians in 1916.

Bulgaria over 1912-1918 deserves an English language book. Despite fighting everyone in the Balkans in 1912-13, and going down to a very expensive defeat, it still managed to have an influential military role in 1915-16 and to compete with better equipped Anglo-French troops at Salonika in 1917-18. It wasn't called the "Prussia of the Balkans" for nothing. Perhaps the hundredth anniversary of 1912 or 1914 might provoke such a book?

Cheers,

Sid.

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Re: Could the Romanian Debacle been avoided?

Post by Feldjäger » Tue May 20, 2008 2:54 am

Hi Sid,
sid guttridge wrote: Bulgaria over 1912-1918 deserves an English language book. Despite fighting everyone in the Balkans in 1912-13, and going down to a very expensive defeat, it still managed to have an influential military role in 1915-16 and to compete with better equipped Anglo-French troops at Salonika in 1917-18. It wasn't called the "Prussia of the Balkans" for nothing. Perhaps the hundredth anniversary of 1912 or 1914 might provoke such a book?
.
I totally agree with you! The Bulgarian army is an edlessly fascinating subject. It's a pity it's so scarcely covered in English.
But, to say the true, there are a lot of WW1 subjects still needing an adequate coverage in English. We have only an old, outdated book on the Eastern Front by Norman Stone; the Italian theater is almost completely ignored (Caporetto aside) and it's hard to find deatiled informations in English about the Austrian 1916 Tyrol offensive, the epic battle of Gorizia, the Austrian 1918 offensives and so on. Almost the same for the last stages of the Romanian campaign.
Maybe the 100th anniversary of the Great War will supply us with new releases.

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Re: Could the Romanian Debacle been avoided?

Post by Kim Sung » Thu May 22, 2008 7:11 am

Feldjäger wrote:Hi Kim,
in my opinion, Romania's intervention might have been decisive in spring 1915. A joint entry of both Italy and Romania would have caused the collapse of Austria-Hungary and a decisive outcome of the war in the East and Balkan theatres.
In the strategic situation of 1916, Romania was simply doomed from the outset. The quality of Romanian troops was not that bad, as shown by the last phases of the campaign; the problem is that the strategic situation of the Romanian army was untenable in the summer of 1916, and Russian support was not very well-directed.
I agree with you. Romania chose a bad timing.
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Re: Could the Romanian Debacle been avoided?

Post by Kim Sung » Thu May 22, 2008 7:12 am

Feldjäger wrote:and Russian support was not very well-directed.
I think that the lack of Russian cooperation is one of the reasons of the Romanian Debacle. For example, Russia dispatched just three divisions to the Carpathian Front. And wouldn't things have been different if enough Russian forces had rapidly advanced along the Danube river into Dobrogea to protect Constanţa from Mackensen's multinational army? Massive Russian reinforcements at the initial stage might have made things different. Was it beyond Russian logistic capability at that time or was there any serious strategic mistakes on the Russian military leadership during the Romanian Debacle?

Romanian Campaign from mid-September to late October

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Re: Could the Romanian Debacle been avoided?

Post by Feldjäger » Thu May 22, 2008 9:03 am

Hi Kim Sung,
Kim Sung wrote: For example, Russia dispatched just three divisions to the Carpathian Front. And wouldn't things have been different if enough Russian forces had rapidly advanced along the Danube river into Dobrogea to protect Constanţa from Mackensen's multinational army? Massive Russian reinforcements at the initial stage might have made things different. Was it beyond Russian logistic capability at that time or was there any serious strategic mistakes on the Russian military leadership during the Romanian Debacle?
Very interesting question. As Norman Stone says, the Russian troops were quite busy with their offensives in Galicia and along the Kowel Line. After Romania entered the war, the Imperial Russian army tried to provide indirect support to Romania by renewing the Kowel offensives. Massive Russian attacks against the Kowel line were intended to "fix" German reserves on that front, preventing them from undertaking any large-scale offensive action against Romania. Unfortunately, the scheme failed.
In my opinion, Stavka had little choice: the Russians understood that, in the strategic situation of summer 1916, to reinforce Wallachia and Dobrogea would have been a folly. These regions were undefensible and would have been "black holes", useful only to waste Russian troops. They rightly decided to dispatch some troops to the Carpathian Front only to prevent the Central Powers from advancing further toward Russia's southern border.
A mistake of the Allies in 1916 was to underrate the Central Powers' manpower. Despite the catastrophic defeat by the hands of Brusilov, the Austro-Hungarian army had been still able to field a respectable force, by drawing reinforcements from the Italian front. The Brusilov offensive itself had been possible also thanks to the massive Austrian concentration in Italy for their South-Tyrol offensive. But then the Central Powers were able to regroup themselves and started the new large-scale action against Romania. The use of their reserves during that period had been a masterpiece, and they were able to repulse the Kowel offensives and in the same time to virtually knock Romania out of the war.

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Re: Could the Romanian Debacle been avoided?

Post by glenn239 » Thu May 22, 2008 1:38 pm

I totally agree with you! The Bulgarian army is an edlessly fascinating subject. It's a pity it's so scarcely covered in English.
A little off topic, but can anyone provide background to the status of the Bulgarian army in the first half of 1914? Specifically, how long did it take for Sofia to recover from the defeat of 1913 (ie, be in a position to contemplate a war of revenge) and what was its situation relative to Serbia?

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