However, as part of the Army's re-armament plans established in 1935, new tanks in modestly increasing numbers were slated for acquisition to allow for the expansion of the Army's sole armoured regiment into a brigade-sized formation, with Czechoslovakia and France, the nation's principal allies, selected as the principal arms suppliers. Beginning in 1937, Czechoslovakia provided over a hundred and fifty new CKD AH-IV light and Skoda S-II-a medium tanks and as well as refurbishing the Army's aging stocks of Renault FTs, while France delivered limited numbers of Renault R-35 tanks together with establishing local production of a fully-tracked supply carrier (Renault UE "Chenillette"), so that by the time World War Two erupted in September 1939 the Royal Romanian Army boasted a strength of some two hundred and fifty tanks and armoured cars, growing to nearly five hundred by the opening of the Russian campaign in the summer of 1941. Admittedly, half of this impressive number was comprised of either hopelessly outdated Renault FT tanks, unarmed tracked supply carriers ("Chenillettes" or "Malaxas") or ramshackle tankettes and armoured cars, but some two hundred marginally useful tanks, mostly Skoda S-II-as together with seventy-odd Renault R-35s, half having been obtained when Polish Army formations were interned in Romania in the fall of 1939, provided the Royal Romanian Army's newly-constituted First Armoured Division with a modicum of an armoured force for the opening stages of the campaign.
Losses suffered in the first year were theoretically compensated for by small shipments of tanks from Germany together with enormous stocks of captured Soviet armour, artificially inflating Romanian AFV strength by mid-1942 to over eight hundred, but again this number included hundreds of vehicles which were woefully obsolete, mechanically unserviceable, or in the case of tractors and halftracks, simply of negligible combat value. Realistically valuable AFV strength for the Royal Romanian Army stood at perhaps two hundred and fifty when the disastrous Battle of Stalingrad in November 1942 inflicted horrendous losses upon Romanian forces, reducing operational tank strength in the field to a few dozen.
1943 saw a gradual restoration of Romanian armoured forces, beginning with recovery of hitherto damaged or "lost" vehicles, conversions of available obsolete tanks into marginally effective models, as with the TACAM self-propelled gun series and the re-arming of the Renault R-35 tank, as well as, by the end of the year, the first of appreciable numbers of more effective models from Germany such as Panzer IV's and Sturmgeschütz III assault guns. Nevertheless, even this new Romanian tank strength never exceeded more than four hundred (excluding such obsolete models as the Renault FT, unserviceable captured hulks, and assorted fully-tracked but unarmed towing vehicles, halftracks and tractors, which inflated vehicle strength to nearly a thousand ) before events of the summer of 1944 resulted in Romania's return to Allied service following the 23 August '44 Armistice.
Under Soviet guidance Romanian armoured strength was ground down during fighting against German and Axis forces, with only a handful left in service by the end of the war. The immediate post-war era saw modest numbers of tanks recovered in salvage efforts, with perhaps a hundred or so serving with the Royal Romanian Army until the dissolution of that gallant body following communist-imposed exile of King Michael on 30 December '47. This is hardly the place for an in-depth description of the Royal Romanian Army; for those so interested I refer to such excellent, if not indispensable works as Mark Axworthy's THIRD AXIS, FOURTH ALLY or George Nafziger's RUMANIAN ORDER OF BATTLE WORLD WAR II (see under "Sources Consulted" at the end of this report).
Still, a brief overview of the Army's structure, with particular attention to the Army's armoured formations, seems in order (if not, well, feel free to skip on down...). Prior to World War Two, if not for its entire history, the Royal Romanian Army has been more or less an infantry body, albeit with selected elite formations of cavalry and mountain troops. Other than a brief flirtation with a couple armoured cars, the Army's first armoured formation sprang into being following the end of World War One with the acquisition of a regiment of French Renault FT tanks, for many years the Army's sole armoured formation (with the exception of several armoured trains which were soon scrapped and a handful of armoured cars serving with the Cavalry).
After years of neglect, the Army was revamped with a ten-year national rearmament program established in the spring of 1935 which called for a list strength of twenty-two infantry divisions, three understrength cavalry divisions, and three mountain infantry brigades, with an organised reserve of nine infantry divisions, one cavalry division plus one cavalry brigade, and one mountain infantry brigade. Armoured forces were projected at one motorised brigade, comprising an expanded tank regiment of both the aging Renault FT's and an equal number of newer tanks (either French or Czech models) along with some light infantry battalions (ideally in trucks) and assorted support services. Cavalry formations would remain horsed, although small numbers of armoured reconnaissance vehicles tankettes and armoured cars would now be included in their composition.
The outbreak of World War Two prevented Romania from completing their re-armament program, although by June of 1940 the Army boasted a mobilised strength of over a million men (some sources say 1.2 million, others as high as 1.4 million, but surely many of these were ill-equipped reservists of, ahem, limited value). At that time Romania fielded four armies of thirteen corps (including one cavalry and one mountain), with twenty-one regular and eight reserve infantry divisions (plus several reserve formations still forming), two Guards divisions (more ceremonial then elite, but certainly dedicated), one Frontier Guard Division (more on them later), three cavalry divisions and one cavalry brigade (there was also a reserve cavalry division more or less formed up for service), four mountain infantry brigades, and a modest assortment of other formations including fortress and coast defense brigades, artillery regiments, engineers, and so forth. The lone motorised brigade now comprised two armoured regiments (appropriately numbered 1st & 2nd), although a third of its tank strength were still obsolescent Renault FTs.
The ensuing months saw a series of disastrous setbacks for Romania, with hostile neighbors seizing provinces that accounted for a third of the nation's populace. The Army did not escape similar ravages; the Soviet annexation of Bessarabia (or Basarabia, as it is often called) resulted in the loss of some one hundred thousand Romanian troops, including the virtual destruction of one of the elite cavalry divisions. With the loss of populated regions, available manpower resources shrank from 3.5 to 2.2 million, forcing the disbandment of a number of divisional commands and the loss of over three hundred thousand reservists from regions now under Bulgarian, Hungarian, and Soviet control. With Romania's adherence to the Axis Alliance in September 1940, the Royal Romanian Army, under the guidance of the nation's new leader, General Ion Antonescu (at one time the Army's Chief of Staff and later Minister of Defence, but dismissed by the Romania's King Carol II over disagreements regarding issues of national policy), was gradually rebuilt with German military assistance and participated in the invasion of the Soviet Union on 22nd June 1941. After dropping to about four hundred thousand by the end of 1940, mobilised strength doubled during the war years, although not all of these were available for field service, and even these figures fluctuated with the hundreds of thousands of casualties suffered at such costly battles as Odessa (1941), Stalingrad (1942) and Iasi (1944). Numbers of formations remained more or less the same, although some reserve divisions were disbanded while a couple security or garrison divisions were raised, and brigade-sized units (six cavalry and four mountain) eventually designated as divisions in name if not in strength.
The Army's armoured formations also remained consistent for much of the war. The 1st Armoured Division, an outgrowth of the pre-war motorised brigade, accounted for most of the Army's tank strength, including older models such as the aging Renault FT maintained with a regiment-sized Divisional Training Depot; the Division's normal field strength, with its one armoured, two motorised infantry and one motorised artillery regiments plus various supporting units, was about two hundred assorted AFVs. Virtually destroyed at the Battle of Stalingrad late in 1942, the 1st Armoured Division was re-formed during 1943 and returned to the field early in 1944, only to be eventually destroyed once more, this time while serving on the side of the Allies in Eastern and Central Europe at the end of the war (a 2nd Armoured Division, scheduled to be created from the elements of the 8th Cavalry Division in the summer of 1944 was never formed, while two divisions raised by the Soviets from "re-educated" Romanian prisoners of war were also rebuilt into armoured and motorised formations after the war but as such fall outside the scope of this report). Romanian cavalry brigades (and later divisions) remained horsed formations throughout the war, their only armour being packets of half a dozen or so tankettes and light armoured cars for reconnaissance purposes. The Army did consider equipping their cavalry brigades with a battalion of tanks in 1943, but circumstances and limited supplies prevented such an action. Reconnaissance units at the corps level operated armoured cars, but again in limited numbers of less than a dozen. As the war progressed several independent tank formations appeared, such as the self-propelled gun companies of the TACAM series, although these were normally attached to regular divisions, while by mid-1944 the thirty-two battalions of "Maresal" tank destroyers being projected for service may have seen one assigned to every division of the Army, though the war ended before any such units could be formed.
In the course of the war the Army employed a number of combat groups, usually of an ad-hoc nature assembled for local use. The first instance of such a formation comprising any tanks was in the late summer of 1941, when the Korne Armoured Group gathered the mechanised reconnaissance squadrons of several cavalry brigades for combined operations in southern Russia, although actual armoured strength was only some eighteen R-1 tankettes. Later the Nistor Armoured Group was raised from the survivors of the decimated 1st Armoured Division during the height of the fighting at Stalingrad in December 1942, while a year later a similar command, the Cantemir Armoured Group, served as the Army's tank force in the field while the 1st Armoured Division was rebuilt; unlike Nistor with its dozen or so tanks, Cantemir boasted over seventy assorted tanks and assault guns, which by Romanian standards was quite a force.
Following Romania's return to Allied service with the 23 August '44 Armistice several other formations were hurriedly cobbled together either from the remnants of destroyed units, such as the Matei Group, or from training schools and depots, as with the Niculescu and Popescu Detachments. In these cases tanks and other vehicles from any and all available sources, often of questionable value, were impressed into service, but as a rule these ad-hoc formations, which never had more than a dozen or so tanks each, were merged into regular units as soon as local conditions permitted. Mention should also be made of an elite formation known as the Conducator's Bodyguard Regiment [Conducator is Romanian for Leader, a title first bestowed upon Antonescu as head of state in the fall of 1940, though he preferred the military appellation of Maresal, or marshal], as this unit included a company of half a dozen Renault FT tanks detached from the 1st Armoured Division's depot; Antonescu may have planned for this regiment to serve as the nucleus of a new motorised division, but he was deposed before such plans coalesced, and the Bodyguard Regiment, now known as the 115th Motorised Infantry Regiment, was sent to the front against Axis forces where it was annihilated.
Nearly eight thousand armoured or tracked vehicles, representing over one hundred different models or marks, were either operated, ordered, or projected for Romanian service during the years preceding, during, and immediately following World War Two. The selection is wide and varied,with tanks, ranging from tankettes and light tanks up to heavy models, self-propelled guns both polished and improvised, armoured cars of various styles including riot trucks for police duty, halftracks, tractors both military, as in artillery towing types, and domestic, as in agricultural models impressed into military service, and even armoured trains. Models from dozen nationalities appear on this list in one form or another, fromAmerican to Russian (both Tsarist and Soviet), as well as several indigenous Romanian designs. Of this prodigious total, about half can be discounted as being either numbers projected or ordered but not received, and a few whose use remains unconfirmed and doubtful. Only about eleven hundred of the remaining figure represent legitimate armoured fighting vehicles, the rest being assorted tracked carriers, tractors, and the like, but even this includes vehicles that were counted "twice" due to conversions or similar upgrades. Duration of service also varied considerably, some counted in weeks or even days while others soldiered on for a quarter-century; indeed, a few have a problematical service record, having been captured in often unserviceable condition and relegated to training or spare parts duties. I have tried to limit coverage to vehicles used during World War Two, although examples of a particular model whose service was confined to either prewar or postwar years are included.
Specifications for models covered have, in the interests of brevity (truly a novel concept for me, with my inherent proclivity for verbosity, but I digress) been abbreviated to just the basics. Those readers interested in such detail as makes of machine guns or the degree of slope for a given glacis plate are urged to consult any of a plethora of published sources often readily available from local libraries or book stores. I have made exceptions when needed, as in the different cannon calibers of the PanzerIV tank, or for certain obscure models such as the TACAM and "Maresal"tank destroyers, though often available details are limited.
An eight-wheeled armoured car produced by Steyr-Daimler Puch AG of Austria during the latter half of the 1930's, a few ADGZ's were reported purchased by Romania early in 1938. Details on subsequent service are lacking, although their design and armament would suggest a role with the Army as opposed to any paramilitary or internal security formations.
M3A1 Stuart Light Tank
M3A3 Grant/Lee Medium Tank.
Following the outbreak of World War Two the Royal Romanian Army considered expanding its armoured car forces; plans outlined in September 1940 proposed providing all infantry divisions with a squadron of twelve armoured cars for their reconnaissance detachments, while cavalry brigades would each receive a pair of three-car armoured car platoons. Shortly after this time the Resita Steel Works assembled an armoured car prototype with hopes of additional local production. Unfortunately Romania's inability to obtain the necessary equipment prevented the implementation of this reorganisation. Cavalry brigades were forced to "make do" with numbers of machine gun-armed tankettes (Czech-built AH-IV or R-1's), while the infantry division's reconnaissance units remained mounted on horse and the occasional motorcycle. Similarly, plans to include two armoured car companies, each of fourteen vehicles of both five and eight ton sizes,with the newly-formed 1st Armoured Division were quickly reduced to asingle eight-car company and then eliminated entirely by mid-1941. Subsequent wartime acquisitions did allow the Army to partially implement their original plans. Over a hundred armoured cars were captured from theSoviet Army during the first year of fighting during the Russian Campaignthat began in June 1941, and these together with small numbers of scout cars supplied from Germany allowed by late 1942 for the establishment of an armoured car company with the 1st Armoured Division and, theoretically at least, a similarly equipped company for each of the Army's seven Corps-level reconnaissance groups; still, the modest number of cars actually received from Germany, combined with shortages of mechanical spares for the captured Soviet vehicles left many of the Army's armoured car formations below strength for much of the War, with only a dozen or so listed in service with the 1st Armoured Division by May 1945.
A few armoured cars may also have seen service with the motorised patrols and metropolitan crowd control formations of the Royal Romanian Gendarmerie, a ten thousand man force armed and organised along paramilitary lines which should not be confused with less militarily effective bodies as the rural, communal and municipal police, the State Finance Guards, the Forestry Guards , or the Railway Guards, but I digress....%-)
For details on specific models used, see entries under:
ADGZ Armoured Car
Austin-Putilov Armoured Car
Autoblinda AB41 Armoured Car
BA series of Armoured Cars
CKD TNSPE Riot Control Armoured Car
Ehrhardt E-V/4 Armoured Car
FAI Armoured Car
Peugeot Armoured Car
Sd.Kfz. 222 Armoured Car
Sd.Kfz. 223 Armoured Car
Skoda OA vz.27 Armoured Car
Tatra Armoured Car
Tatra OA vz.30 Armoured Car
[unnamed] Armoured Car -- French
[unnamed] Armoured Car -- Romanian, Tipul 1915
[unnamed] Armoured Car -- Romanian, Tipul 1941
Wz. 34 "Ursus" Armoured Car
Axworthy reports Romania possessing four armoured trains of First World War vintage which were scrapped in the mid-1930's, but cannot provide any further details. Pierangelo Caiti's ARTIGLIERIE FERROVIARIE ETRENI BINDATI (E. Albertelli, 1974) has no entry for Romania, while his section on Austro-Hungarian armoured trains shows none passing into Romanian hands at the end of World War One. Tsarist Russia operated a number of armoured trains in southern Russia both during World War One and the subsequent civil war era, but the differences in railways gauges make such trains unlikely candidates for Romanian service. A recent publication Paul Malmassari's LES TRAINS BLINDES 1826-1989 (Editions Heimdal, 1989) verifies the Romanian Army operating three armoured trains during World War One and up to around 1925, but again has no information as to their armament or operations. Malmassari does report them being under the control of the Artillery and were organised into a Group (or Division) of three trains. The League of Nations' ARMAMENTS YEAR BOOKS for this period list no armoured train formations for Romania (railway engineer regiments and railway construction battalions, even some bridging train companies, but these are hardly the same thing) although there is a Heavy Artillery Group of three batteries independent of the Army's regular Heavy Artillery Regiment which appears in several editions (see 1926 and others). While the possibility of this Group being comprised of armoured trains is only conjecture, presently it's the best prospect I've encountered, and barring further information is as much as I can offer.
No armoured trains were therefore extant in Romania during World War Two; the nearest to such would be a few flak batteries mounted on railway flatcars that were included in the antiaircraft defenses of the Ploiesti oil fields -- whether these rolling batteries were part of the German 5th Flak Division or the Romanian 4th AA Brigade, both formations using German-made 8.8cm, 3.7cm and 2cm ordnance (Romania's other three AA brigades tended towards locally produced Vickers 75mm cannons but Idigress yet again) is still unclear but perhaps irrelevant, as half of the 5th Flak Division's personnel were Romanian.
Romania's wartime head of state and commander of her Army, Maresal [Marshal] Ion Antonescu, employed as a mobile field headquarters a military train ("Patria" -- Romanian for"Homeland") that had twin-barreled antiaircraft guns mounted on both lead and end carriages, but again none of the cars were armoured.
A number of these vehicles passed into Romanian hands following thecollapse of local Tsarist Russian forces at the close of World War One, four still in serving with cavalry units in 1939. Details on subsequent service are lacking, but in light of their age any wartime service was probably limited and, um, undistinguished.
Eight Italian armoured cars were included among arms shipments promisedfrom Germany to Romania beginning in September 1943; according to Axworthy they were probably received, although he does not such details as specific models or their subsequent service. Zaloga's article on Romanian armour identifies these as Autoblinda AB41s, a model used by the Italian Expeditionary Force in Russia during the war, some of which may have been left behind in German hands when that formation was withdrawn from the front in March 1943. On the other hand, since the deliveries post-date the Italian Armistice, following which the Germans confiscated vast amounts of arms from the Italian Army, these vehicles might have been part of this loot. Zaloga says these armoured cars were assigned to the Romanian 1st Armoured Division's reconnaissance company, but additional details regarding their ultimate fate are not known.
By October 1941 no fewer than 103 Soviet armoured cars had been captured by the Romanian Army during its initial advance thru Bessarabia and southern Russia. Axworthy does not identify any specific models, so those listed above are provisional based on availability and semi-educated guesswork and hardly inclusive. Common models such as the BA-20 and BA-10, the Soviet Army's standard light and medium armoured cars in 1941, are likely candidates, as would be older cars such as the FAI and BA-6. Even the elderly BA-27 of the 1920's, while only produced in modest numbers of a few hundred (Soviet armoured cars trength in 1941 being 4,819) was still serving in the frontier districts-- one being captured by the Finns in early 1940 -- and may have been encountered. Examples of other Soviet armoured cars such as variants (BA-6M), short production runs (BA-1) or older vehicles (BA-3) are lesslikely to have been encountered, but one never knows.
Details on subsequent Romanian service are lacking; as with many othercaptured vehicles, shortages of spares may have forced their withdrawal from service within a year or even sooner, although their more simplistic design may have allowed the Romanians to keep them in operation longer. Still, their overall limited military value suggest an undistinguished career.
The Romanian Army captured a number of these Soviet tanks in the summer of 1941 and impressed them into service, although the BT's chronic maintenance demands may have exceeded local resources and thereby severely limiting both the quality and duration of such service. Indeed, while thirty-two BT-7's appear on an Army inventory list for November 1942, it's possible these represented "carcasses on hand" rather than operational vehicles, for shortly afterwards they had been broken up to provide much-needed quality armour plating for the TACAM series of self-propelled guns; certainly no BT-7's were reported in Romanian service by 1944.
In April 1936 Romania ordered over a hundred tanks from the Czech firm of CKD, thirty-six of these being a variant of the AH-IV tankettefitted with a commander's cupola (technically these were light tanks with fully rotating turrets, but as all they carried were machine guns, tankette seems more fitting). Within a month this order had been revised with models supplanted by CKD's rival firm Skoda, and by August only thirty-five of the CKD tankettes were indeed ordered. Deliveries began late in 1937, but problems arising during trials delayed their acceptance by the Royal Romanian Army until August 1938, entering service with the designation R-1. Shortly after entering service a contract was signed between CKD and the Romanian firm Malaxa allowing for licensed productionof additional R-1 tankettes; however, legal complications required are-signing of the contract in February 1939 while further complications delayed the actual delivery of the necessary drawings until October 1939, by which time the whole of Czechoslovakia was under German occupation adding further delays. Wartime shortages prevented the implementation of this program, and other than a single prototype assembled from spare components no further production ensued.
In Romanian service the R-1 equipped the mechanised reconnaissance squadrons of the Army's cavalry brigades. Several may have been lost withthe bulk of the 1st and 3rd Cavalry Brigades' equipment during the Soviet annexation of Bessarabia and northern Bukovina in June 1940, an action which cost the Romanians some 100,000 troops in the ensuing rout, er, strategic withdrawal from these territories. Thirty R-1's were serving in four- and six tankette "packets" with the Army's six cavalry brigades atthe start of the Russian Campaign in June 1941. Increasingly out-classed, all were lost to either enemy action or mechanical failure by October 1941, although twenty-nine were recovered and back in service by March 1942. The destruction of Romanian field armies during the Battle of Stalingrad in November 1942 resulted in the irrevocable loss of many R-1's, only a couple remaining operational in early 1943; however, once again the heroic efforts on the part of the Cavalry's Training Centre saw no fewer than fifteen returned to service by the spring of 1943, albeit only performing training duties.
In November 1943 plans were approved for the conversion of all surviving R-1's into TACAM R-1s but the proposed design proved obsolescent while still on the drawing board resulting in its cancellation. In March 1945 eleven R-1's were scrounged from training centres and cavalry depots and sent to bolster the 2nd Armoured Regiment during operations in Czechoslovakia and Austria, with at least two still extant as late as April when they participated in the attack on Bratislava.
One hundred P-II tanks, type aj, were ordered from the Czech firm of CKD in April 1936, but after further consideration Romania chose to replace their selection with the more successful Skoda S-IIa.
In 1941 the Royal Romanian Army ordered 221 of these Czech medium artillery tractors, which with a six-ton towing capacity were ideal all-terrain transports for medium and heavy artillery batteries; however, only 130 were received, the remainder being appropriated by Germany for its own wartime needs. Those tractors received (known also by its manufacturer's designation of Praga TH and occasionally as Praga T-VI or T-VI-R for Romania) served with Romanian artillery formations for the duration of the war.
Following extensive trials and preliminary negotiations, Romania attempted to order 395 of these Czech light tanks, along with several hundred Skoda S-II-c tanks, in January 1941, but despite the efforts of both the Czech and Romanian authorities, together with encouragement from the German Reich, this effort, as well as a later attempt in May 1942 to obtain licensing rights for local production, proved unsuccessful primarily due to insufficient manufacturing capacity in both Czechoslovakia and Romania.
With a main armament consisting of a high-pressure water cannon attached to a five-thousand litre water tank, seven of these Czechoslovakian-built armoured cars were supplied to Romania in 1936-1937, providing crowd control duties while in service with the Royal Romanian Gendarmerie [Jandarmi].
Accounts of their deployment appear in Rosie Waldeck's ATHENE PALACE (R.M. McBride, 1942). Waldeck, a Western press correspondent assigned toBucharest during the early war years, witnessed their use against crowds protesting King Carol's regime following Romania's loss of Transylvaniavia the German-imposed Second Vienna Award in the fall of 1940; she calls them "tanks" (an understandable misnomer) while describing them as being sky-blue in colour, an unusual camouflage pattern indeed.
Details on the TNSPE's subsequent wartime service are lacking, though in light of their modest armament their use may have been limited to the Bucharest jandarmi. Of course, vehicles equipped with water cannon mayhave been conscripted by the Corps of Military Firemen [Pompieri] for firefighting duties, but this is mere speculation.
According to Zaloga's article on Romanian AFVs in March 1939 one of these Czech tankettes was interned in Romania following fighting between Hungarian and Slovakian forces over the contested region of Transcarpathia. Kliment's authoritative work on Czech armour does indicate that some CKD vz. 33 tankettes saw action in Transcarpathia (in what are described as "isolated incidents") but does not suggest any crossed over into Romania. Although no reference of such a vehicle appears on subsequent Royal Romanian Army lists in Axworthy or elsewhere, it is still possible (however unlikely) that one may have impressed into Romanian service and included among the 1941 strength of 178 "Malaxa" tracked supply carriers in much the same way a handful of Polish TK/TKS tankettes were after being interned in the fall of 1939.
For details on specific models used, see entries under:
CKD AH-IV Tank
CKD LT vz. 38 Tank
CKD P-II aj Tank
CKD Praga T6 Tractor
CKD TNH Tank
CKD TNSPE Anti-Riot Armoured Car
CKD vz. 33 Tankette
Skoda OA vz. 27 Armoured Car
Skoda S-II-a Tank
Skoda S-II-c Tank
Skoda T-23 Tank
Tatra Armoured Car
Tatra OA vz. 30 Armoured Car
see also entries for Czech vehicles produced under German auspices:
Hetzer Tank Destroyer
Panzer 35 (t) Tank
Panzer 38(t) Tank
Developed in 1915 for the Imperial German Army, Ehrhardts saw service in the Ukraine in 1918, making it very likely that examples of this model were among the assorted armoured cars recovered by the Romanian Army at the end of World War One. However, any that may have been so recovered had passed out of service by the 1930's, making their inclusion with this report on Romanian armour of World War Two seem, if not moot, certainly superfluous (hence their mention here by ol' obtuse me...).
Some of these older light armoured cars were still serving with Soviet units in 1941, so it's possible a few may have been captured by the Romanian Army, though in light of their limited combat value and likely mechanical unreliability any subsequent service would have been brief.
For details on specific models used, see entries under:
Peugeot Armoured Car
Renault FT Tank
Renault R-35 Tank
Renault UE "Chenillette" Supply Carrier
[unnamed] Armoured Car -- French
Beginning in the mid 1930's, German attempts at securing strategically vital oil shipments from Romania saw an increase in offers of war materiel, primarily antiaircraft artillery and military aircraft, the availability of which varied due to foreign policy shifts and political necessities with the outset of World War Two. Indeed, substantial German military aid was not provided to Romania even after her allegiance to the Axis Alliance late in 1940,partly due to Germany's own pressing demands but also as part of Hitler's divide and conquer policies concerning his Axis allies. For example, German pressure on Romania to surrender territories to neighboring Hungary and Bulgaria resulted in both those countries becoming Axis adherents indebted to the German Reich, while also forcing a truncated Romania into the Axis camp with hopes of restoring its lost territories thru Axis service; however, German-controlled arms shipments to Romania, while fostering dependence upon Germany, were of a limited nature so as to prevent a power imbalance vis-a-vis her rival allies which might erupt into inter-Axis fighting. Even following Romanian participation in the invasion of the Soviet Union beginning in the summer of 1941, German military aid, especially armour shipments, remained virtually token in nature.
This policy extended to influencing Romanian arms purchases from Czechoslovakia, where German control began indirectly in the fall of 1938 which forcing Czech attention towards national defense and later after March 1939 of a more direct nature. Despite Germany's ostensible intentions of developing Romania into a viable military ally, concerns over disturbing the Balkan status quo in the form of a resurgent Romanian attack upon Hungarian-occupied Transylvania (which were real concerns, with increased border clashes between the two rivals often aggravated by such open incitations as the "Now on to Budapest" slogans displayed by Romanian troops during a November 1941 victory parade in Odessa) tended to restrict Romanian acquisition of substantial quantities of either German or Czech armour during the war. Only after the disastrous setbacks suffered at the Battle of Stalingrad at the end of 1942 did Romania beginto receive German armour and other equipment in appreciable quantities, first in the form of aid to Romanian forces in the Crimea and Kuban bridgehead in the spring of 1943, and later with the Olivenbaum and Quittenbaum armour shipments from October 1943 until discontinued with the events of the 23 August 1944 Armistice (although in many instances the vehicles supplied were of a well-worn, often barely serviceable nature). Indeed, Romanian receipt of German tanks continued into this era, albeit in a much reduced level and in the form of captured vehicles supplied via Romania's new Soviet ally.
For details on specific models, see entries under:
Hetzer Tank Destroyer
Panzer II Tank
Panzer III Tank
Panzer IV Tank
Panzer V Panther Tank
Panzer VI Tiger Tank
Panzer 35(t) Tank
Panzer 38(t) Tank
RSO Artillery Tractor
Sd.Kfz. 10 Halftrack
Sd.Kfz. 11 Halftrack
Sd.Kfz. 250 Halftrack
Sd.Kfz. 251 Hanomag Halftrack
Sd.Kfz. 251/9 "Stummel" Assault Halftrack
Sd.Kfz. 222 Armoured Car
SD.KFZ. 223 ARMOURED CAR
Sturmgeschütz III Assault Gun
One source claims that fifteen of these German self-propelled guns based on the Czech Skoda TNHP tank chassis were scheduled to be delivered to Romania on 25 August 1944, but events surrounding the Armistice prevented their delivery, but this has not been confirmed by the most recent sources
In the fall of 1944 two Hetzers were captured by the Romanian Army during fighting in Transylvania and impressed into service.
For details on specific vehicles, see entries under:
Toldi I (II) Tank
Zrinyi II Assault Gun
Axworthy reports that a brand-new IS-2 tank was one of half a dozen Soviet tanks captured in either damaged or disabled conditions by Romanian troops during fighting along the Romanian-Soviet frontier between 28th May and 5th June 1944 (the Soviet Army deployed one of their very first heavy tank regiments equipped with the IS-2 against Romania in May 1944, perhaps mute recognition of Romanian prowess or then perhaps not). Included in a display of captured Soviet tanks held in Bucharest shortly afterwards, the IS-2's appearance is said to have been "profoundly depressing" upon members of the Romanian High Command (considering they were still operating Renault FT's and the like at that time, that's hardly much of a surprise).
Details on any subsequent service are lacking but it was no doubt confiscated by the Soviet Army shortly after the August Armistice. Dr. Werner Regenberg's CAPTURED TANKS UNDER THE GERMAN FLAG: RUSSIAN BATTLE TANKS (Schiffer Publishing Co., c1990) points out that "... When in 1944 the heavy 'Josef Stalin' tanks appeared at the front, the Wehrmacht's days of capturing tanks were over because of their constant retreats, and there was great difficulty in taking even one example for the Army Weapons Office, which naturally was interested in examining this tank." The fact that humble Romania with its more modest armed forces could accomplish this on its own deserves special merit.
Captured during the early summer of 1944 along with the IS-2, this solitary example was also exhibited in Bucharest before disappearing during the Soviet occupation.
In the summer of 1941 an abandoned KV-2 Soviet heavy tank was reportedly found by elements of the Romanian 2nd Calarasi [cavalry] Regiment somewhere in northern Bukovina or Bessarabia, perhaps in the vicinity of Nebadadautzi. The tank was described as being intact with functioning armament complete with ammunition; however, the motor defied the soldiers' best efforts to start it, and in the event the tank was left behind when the formation advanced.
Unfortunately, the only instance I have found of what should have been a noteworthy accomplishment appears in the memoirs of Ion Emilian, a Romanian cavalry officer serving with the 2nd Calarasi Regiment. While there is no reason to question the validity of Emilian's status as a veteran of the Eastern Front, his memoirs, written thirty years after events, contain instances of what may be hazy recollections (for more on this see the entry under the M4A2 Sherman tank); for example, his description of this abandoned KV-2, while citing its 152mm cannon, also refers to turrets, suggesting a possible confusion with the T-28, a model confirmed elsewhere as being encountered and indeed captured by Romanian troops in the course of the war. Of course, the matter may be academic, as even Emilian acknowledges that the tank was left behind as an immobile derelict, leaving the contribution of a KV-2 in Romanian hands limited to the role of battlefield scrap.
Following the disastrous Battle of Stalingrad, a January 1943 meeting between Antonescu and Hitler addressed Romania's critical equipment shortages in both armaments and motorisation. Consequently, 108 Lanz Bulldog agricultural tractors were supplied to Romanian divisions operating in the Kuban and Crimean sectors who employed them as all-terrain artillery transports. Another 400 such tractors were promised with arms shipments throughout 1943 and 1944 (all or at least most of these being received) which were used for similar duties with Romanian artillery formations for the duration of the war. The occupation administration for Transnistria also purchased a number of agricultural tractors from Germany during the war, but whether these were Bulldogs is not known.
In early February 1943 the Soviet Army lost thirty-two tanks and some two thousand troops during an unsuccessful amphibious landing at Ozereika Bay near Novorossiysk in the Kuban. Twenty-one of those tanks lost were M3A1 Stuart light tanks, recently obtained from the United States in Lend-Lease aid shipments (Paul Carell's OPERATION BARBAROSSA IN PHOTOGRAPHS, published by Schiffer Books in 1991, has a nice photograph of these tanks on pages 298 & 299); as many had suffered no battle damage but were simply waterlogged due to faulty landing procedures, they were quickly recovered and impressed into Romanian service (after all, this sector was under the protection of elements of the Royal Romanian Army's 38th Infantry Regiment, together with selected German formations). A number of these Stuarts saw limited service with both the 6th and 9th Cavalry Divisions, performing coastal protection patrols while still operational as well as similar duties in a more static role after a lack of spares left them immobilised.
Several other Stuart tanks were captured, or more accurately recovered from the battlefield, following the elimination of the Soviets' Eltigen beachhead in the Kuban at the end of December 1943, four such tanks serving briefly with Romanian forces in the Crimea before being repatriated to Romania as part of an assortment of captured unserviceable tanks in March 1944, spending their final days as static antitank targets with Romanian training units.
Four Grant/Lee tanks, serving with the Soviet Army via US Lend-Lease, were captured, or more accurately recovered from the battlefield, by Romanian troops following the elimination of the Soviet Eltigen beachhead in the Kuban in December 1943. Any subsequent career with the Royal Romanian Army appears to have been brief, as all four tanks, perhaps following service with coastal protection units in the Crimea earlier in the year, were included in an assortment of unserviceable captured tanks that was shipped back to Romania in March 1944, ending their days as static antitank targets for training schools.
In August or September 1942 the Romanian 4th Infantry Division is reported to have annihilated a Soviet division at Kotelnikovo in the northern Caucasus, capturing an assortment of military equipment which was subsequently impressed into service, including no fewer than thirty (!!) M4 Sherman tanks. During World War Two the Soviet Union received thousands of American-built tanks, including over four thousand Shermans, via Lend-Lease aid shipments. Instances of American tanks in Soviet service captured by Romanian troops appear in both Axworthy and Nafziger among others; however, these accounts refer to M3A1 Stuarts and M3A3 Grant/Lees with no mention of Shermans. Indeed, the only such reference appears in the memoirs of Ion Emilian, a Romanian cavalry officer serving with the 2nd Calarasi Regiment during the war (see his "Squadrons of the Apocalypse," originally published in France under the title LES CAVALIERS DE L'APOCALYPSE [Editions de la Pensee moderne, 1974] and later in German as DER PHANTASTISCHE RITT [Schutz, 1977] and Spanish as LOS ESCUADRONES DEL APOCALIPSOS [Juventud, 1977] , especially Chapter 23, for details).
While Emilian's experiences seem genuine, discrepancies elsewhere in his memoirs suggest either hazy memories or, um, "editing for effect" as it were; for example, the 4th Infantry Division's encounter with M4 Shermans in the autumn of 1942 when few Shermans had even arrived in the Soviet Union (okay, perhaps he meant 1943, but by then Romanian dispositions in the Caucasus were largely limited to the Kuban region), while at the same time he names General Barbu Alinescu as the 4th Infantry Division's commander, a name I can't find on any roster of Romanian Army officers, even if I spell it Elinescu, Ilinescu, and the like (Nafziger places Gheorghe Cialac in that position in 1941, who I've seen reported elsewhere as a cavalry commander, while Axworthy and others place Platon Chirnoaga in command of the 4th Infantry Division by 1944, so, who knows). Perhaps Emilian mistook Stuarts or Grant/Lees, both of which saw service with Romanian forces as captured booty? As for Shermans in Romanian service, well, intriguing as such a prospect may appear, I must conclude it to be very unlikely.
Two Panzer II's, probably serving with the German 5th Flak Division, were captured by the Romanian 18th Security Detachment (which, BTW, was using Renault FT's at the time) during fighting around the Ploiesti oil fields in late August 1944. There is no record of any subsequent use, but then any German vehicles captured by the Romanians by this stage of the war were as a rule confiscated by their new Soviet allies.
In response to requests for modern armour, Germany supplied Romania with twelve Panzer III model N tanks late in 1942. Designated by the Romanians as the T-3, eleven equipped a medium tank company of the 1st Armoured Division, while the twelfth was assigned to training duties with the Division's depot. Unfortunately, the 1st Armoured Division had little time to enjoy these new acquisitions; received on 17th October 1942 in less than pristine condition -- as it turned out they were well-worn machines in need of repair, and not all were still serviceable shortly thereafter -- the T-3's had barely begun operations when the entire Division was caught up in the Soviet counteroffensive at Stalingrad on 19th November. Within a few days nearly half of the Division's T-3's had been lost during the savage fighting, and by the time the Division withdrew across the Donets River and out of the front line on 1st January 1943 only a single T-3 remained on strength (or two, counting the one with the training depot).
T-3's were not included with either the ad-hoc Cantemir Armoured Group formed later in 1943, nor the refitted 1st Armoured Division, both surviving examples spending their remaining days as training vehicles before finally disappearing from service following the 23rd August 1944 Armistice; whether this was due to possible battle damage which may have been incurred if they participated in local anti-Axis operations, simple mechanical failure aggravated by unavailable spares, or perhaps confiscated by the Soviets is not certain, although this last prospect seems most likely.
Nafziger reports ten German Panzer IV tanks armed with the 7.5cm L/24 cannon, i.e. Models D, E, or F, being received by the Romanian 1st Armoured Division in the fall of 1942; however, this is not verified in any other source. Although I myself recall passing references in older general histories to short-barreled Panzer IV's in Romanian service (which naturally I'm now at a loss to locate), it appears these may have been the result of misidentification, perhaps stemming from sightings of the similarly-shaped Panzer III Model N which at the time were in Romanian service. It is possible, however unlikely, that several of these earlier models of Panzer IV's may have been briefly operated for orientation purposes, but if so such use was indeed transitory, for none were on hand at the Battle of Stalingrad in November 1942.
Romania's first confirmed use of the Panzer IV tank is of a batch of twelve Model G tanks received by the 1st Armoured Division on 17th October 1942. Designated as T-4's by the Romanians, eleven equipped a medium tank company in one of the Division's R-2 battalions while the twelfth vehicle was assigned to the Division's depot for training and instructional purposes. These were already rather well-used machines when received, and not all may have been serviceable only a few weeks later when the Soviet counteroffensive at Stalingrad struck Romanian forces on 19 November 1942. By the time the Division finally withdrew from action on 2nd January 1943, ten of the T-4 tanks had been lost either in fighting or abandoned due to damage. The two remaining T-4's held the dubious distinction of being Romania's sole tanks of effective combat value (excluding assorted obsolete R-2s, Renault FT's and R-35s, T-38's and so forth) for much of 1943. Their final fate is unclear beyond serving with the ad hoc Cantemir Armoured Group formed near the end of the year.
Beginning in September 1943, Romania received additional Panzer IV tanks from Germany as part of the Olivenbaum (Parts I, II, & III) and Quittenbaum (Part I) arms shipments. Exact numbers are uncertain, although Axworthy believes 129 of the 140 tanks scheduled for delivery were received thirty-one by the end of 1943 and at least ninety-eight in 1944 -- before events surrounding the 23rd August 1944 Armistice brought any further shipments to an end. Numbers of specific models are also unclear, as the Romanians promptly designated all Panzer IV's as T-4's, although most sources agree the majority were Model H's with some F2's and J's. Three command tank versions were also promised but may not have been received. Often the tanks received were found to be well-worn machines in need of repair, thereby limiting their availability, but with considerable effort fifty were in service with the reconstituted 1st Armoured Division by March 1944 (many of which having served in the previous months with the ad hoc Cantemir Armoured Group), rising to eighty-one by 17th July with another thirty or so assigned to the new 2nd Armoured Division being formed out of the motorised elements of the 8th Cavalry Division. A number of Romanian T-4's were lost during the Battle of Targu Frumes in April and May of 1944, while others were lost fighting against advancing Soviet forces throughout the summer, some as late as 20-23 August at Chisinau. With Romania's return to Allied service following the August Armistice, additional T-4's were lost, starting with the German confiscation of the thirty-odd tanks with the still-forming 2nd Armoured Division, and more in the course of fighting to clear the country of German and pro-Axis forces. Ten T-4's were impressed into service with the Niculescu Armoured Detachment formed from training elements of the 1st Armoured Division's depot at Tirgoviste and elsewhere, and a number of Panzer IV's, probably no more than a dozen or so, were supplied from captured stocks from the Soviet Army. T-4's participated in Romanian operations for the duration of the war, from campaigns in northern Transylvania into Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and Austria. By May 1945 only a single T-4 remained in service with Romanian armoured forces, although some twenty or so were eventually recovered from salvage yards and local battlefields and returned to service during the postwar era, the last examples having believed to survive into the early 1950's.
At the end of World War Two the Romanian Army obtained a number of these German tanks -- whether derelicts recovered from local battlefields or hand-me-downs from the Soviet Army (who operated entire companies of captured Panthers during the war) is not clear with as many as twenty-one being included on the rosters of the Soviet-raised "Tudor Vladimirescu" Division when it converted from an infantry to an armoured division in 1946-47. Details on subsequent service are not known, but in light of the arms restrictions imposed upon Romania in the immediate postwar era, these Panthers probably remained in service into the early 1950's.
Romania never received any of these German heavy tanks during her "Axis" era, but a pair of Tigers abandoned by retreating German forces after running out of fuel were recovered by Romanian troops on 31st August 1944; however, both tanks were immediately confiscated by Romania's new Soviet "allies", making any Romanian service (perhaps limited to drive, er, tow time from the battlefield to the nearest Soviet unit) fleeting at best.
Romania received a shipment of twenty-six Panzer 35(t) tanks supplied by Germany in the summer of 1942 as replacements for a similar number of R-2 tanks lost during the first year of the Russian campaign. These tanks, virtually identical to the Skoda S-IIa tanks already in Romanian service as the R-2 (being German-produced versions of the Skoda tank), were delivered in June and July of 1942 and found to be well-worn vehicles in less than reliable running order. Further details as to their subsequent service in Romanian hands are lacking as the Romanians lumped them together with their R-2s; see entry under under Skoda S-II-a for additional information. In light of their poor condition it seems likely that most, if not all, of these Panzer 35(t) tanks were lost during the disastrous Battle of Stalingrad in late 1942, although any still extant in early 1943 would also be included with the TACAM R-2 conversions.
Based on the Czech THNPS tank (an outgrowth of the CKD LT vz. 38), these tanks were built by BMM under German auspices with the designation Panzer 38(t) [t referring to German word for Czechoslovakia]. In 1943 Germany supplied fifty Panzer 38(t) tanks, models A, B & C, to Romanian forces in the Crimea, deliveries commencing on 15 May and finishing by 24 June, entering service with the Romanian 2nd Armoured Regiment under the designation T-38. Upon their receipt the Romanians discovered to their dismay that only seventeen T-38's were in running condition, this number dropping to a mere eight by early July; further investigation revealed these tanks to be worn-out models already rejected by the Hungarians as unserviceable.
Needless to say, the poor condition of these vehicles severely retarded Romanian plans to reinforce her cavalry formations, the original intention of creating a tank battalion comprising three fifteen-tank companies -- the 51st, 52nd, and 53rd -- which would be assigned to the armour-poor cavalry divisions, being drastically reduced. In the event, the three companies, now at only five tanks each, were ferried across to the Kuban Bridgehead at the end of July 1943, with five more tanks in running condition held in reserve with the battalion headquarters. Half of the companies' T-38s were lost in fighting before the companies were withdrawn from the Kuban at the end of September. A fourth ad hoc tank company, the 54th, was formed late in 1943 from the five T-38s held in reserve at battalion headquarters; this company supported the Romanian Army's Mountain Corps in anti-partisan operations in the Crimea before all surviving T-38s were evacuated to Romania beginning at the end of November 1943.
T-38s were held more or less in reserve for most of 1944, by now reduced in strength to twenty by mid-March and only nineteen by late July, their numbers diminishing thru simple mechanical failure. The Armistice of 23 August 1944 saw these surviving tanks impressed into combat service, with a pair of three-tank platoons proving instrumental in the securing of Bucharest. T-38s continued in service with Romanian forces in the ensuing months, eight participating in operations as late as February 1945; a few appear to have survived, or perhaps recovered and subsequently restored, for service in the postwar years. In 1943 plans were made for the conversion of some forty T-38s into self-propelled guns with the designation TACAM T-38, but this project was canceled prior to its implementation.
Romania inherited a few of these armoured cars, described as having a fully armoured open-top box hull with armament carried in a shielded mounting, from the French Army at the close of World War One. These served in decreasing numbers until 1939, when only a couple remained in service, at which time they were assigned reconnaissance duties with cavalry formations. In light of their advanced age, participation in the invasion of the Soviet Union in the summer of 1941 seems unlikely and they may have been relegated to training duties with cavalry depot commands before being withdrawn from service later in the war; still, this being Romania, where Renault FT tanks were operating in the field as late as 1945, these last surviving Peugeots may have been retained even longer, but one never knows.
What may be the most comprehensive source on Polish internees in Romania is Tadeusz Dubicki's WOJSKO POLSKIE W RUMUNII 1939-1941 but access to this work is, um, limited (to me, anyway) by its Polish text. As best as I've been able to decipher from Dubicki, a number of Polish Army vehicles were interned in Romania after September 1939, many remaining unidentified other than some ambulances and trucks. Barbarski has accounts of Polish training formations equipped with tankettes and armoured cars reaching the Romanian frontier but abandoning or losing their vehicles before crossing. Zaloga's Military Modelling article on Romanian armour of World War Two briefly mentions a dozen or more Polish AFV's, exclusive of the R-35 battalion, as crossing the Romanian frontier. Both Axworthy and Crow suggest the Romanians received several Polish armoured cars and tankettes during this period but details are sketchy.
Another account appears in FLIGHT FROM POLAND (Faber & Faber Ltd, 1940), depicting the Polish forces' crossing into Romania as witnessed by Cedric Salter, a press correspondent for the Royal Mail. In addition to observing dozens of Polish Air Force planes arriving at the Cernauti airstrip (as well as any open fields in the vicinity), Salter describes columns of Polish troops and civilian refugees crossing the frontier at Hotin both on foot and in cars and commandeered buses (with growing piles of confiscated equipment rifles, submachine guns, and gas masks by the roadside) but makes no mention of any Polish AFVs (he does relate the actions of a pair of Soviet tanks sent to secure the Dniester River bridge separating Poland and Romania at the village of Zalesczcyki, one tank breaking through the bridge's woodwork and effectively blocking passage, but I digress).
Patrick Maitland in his EUROPEAN DATELINE (Camelot Press, 1946) describes columns of Polish troops and refugees crossing into Romania which included an array of vehicles -- ambulances, private motor cars, lorries, light artillery, fire-engines, even steam-rollers along with some "armed vans" which might, or might not, be armoured cars. Other accounts are similarly incomplete. Germany also provided Romania with an assortment of captured Polish arms as payment for oil shipments after 1940, and while these appear limited to artillery (75mm and 105mm field pieces as well as nearly eight hundred light antiaircraft guns), it is possible a few Polish tankettes or the like may have been included. For details, see entries under: Renault R-35
Wz. 34 "Ursus" Armoured Car
Romania's first tanks date from 1919, when a pair of French tank companies stationed in the country returned to France but left their vehicles behind. These seventy-six Renault FT tanks, forty-eight armed with the short-barreled 37mm Puteaux cannon and twenty-eight with the 8mm Hotchkiss machine gun, provided virtually all of Romania's armoured forces in the years following the end of World War One and into the mid-1930's, by which time barely twenty or so remained operational. In 1937 Romania's Renault FTs received a new lease on life when the Czech-based Skoda firm was contracted to refurbish the lot, so that by the eve of World War Two there were a total of seventy-five Renault FT's serving in one battalion of the 2nd Armoured Regiment, although in practice this battalion's three companies (each with twenty-five tanks) were deployed as separate formations. While one company served as the Regiment's Depot in Bucharest, a second company was attached to the division-sized 18th Security Detachment assigned to protect the Ploiesti oil fields and the third was dispersed in platoon-sized packets to defend urban centers about the country.
Operational performance during the war was limited, hardly surprising in light of their advanced age and low mechanical reliability, one report places the total of serviceable FT's in 1941 as only sixty, although official Romanian Army rosters stubbornly list all seventy-five thru the summer of 1944. At some time during the war half a dozen Renault FT's were assigned to the Conducator's Bodyguard Regiment, originally a motorised infantry battalion selected by Maresal [Marshal] Ion Antonescu for his personal protection and gradually expanded into a larger formation (indeed, Antonescu is said to have considered it the cadre of a new elite armoured division although the course of events prevented such plans from reaching fruition, but I digress), where they comprised the 6th Company of the Second Battalion; whether these tanks were drawn from one of the dispersed platoons or perhaps from the Regimental Depot is not clear.
Following the Armistice of 23 August and Romania's subsequent return to the Allied side, many hitherto rear echelon Romanian troops training units, regional fixed battalions, reservists, and so forth were impressed into local service against German forces, during which Romania's Renault FTs actually saw combat. A mixed battalion of the 2nd Armoured Regiment had ten or so serviceable FT tanks which supported the 2nd Calarasi [cavalry] Regiment in seizing both the German Army and Luftwaffe headquarters in Bucharest. Many of the 18th Security Detachment's company of twenty-five Renault FTs were still operational and participated in securing the strategic Ploiesti oil fields in fighting against the German 5th Flak Division; indeed, it is possible that Renault FTs may have gone "head to head" with a handful of Panzer II tanks attached to the 5th Flak, perhaps the last time a Renault FT was involved in an actual tank versus tank engagement [naturally, the Panzer II's lost...]. Independent platoons of Renault FT tanks were also instrumental in securing vital industrial centers at Sibiu and Resita. Despite their obsolescent nature, Renault FT tanks participated in Romanian military operations in northern Transylvania and Hungary into early 1945, partly due to a chronic shortage of armoured fighting vehicles as a result of a virtual arms embargo imposed upon Romania by her new Soviet "ally", and also as part of Soviet attempts at purging Romania of royalist formations that may prove disloyal to the new pro-communist regime scheduled for installation in the postwar era; an example of this practice is found in the commitment to the front as virtual cannon fodder of the Conducator's Bodyguard Regiment, now redesignated as the 115th Motorised Infantry Regiment but still with its handful of Renault FTs, none of which survived the end of the war (nor, for that matter, did many of the regiment's troops). In April 1945 all extant Renault FTs, whether operational or not, were confiscated by the Soviet authorities and disappeared Eastward (perhaps someone remembered how years before one had served as the prototype for the MS-1, that armoured vanguard of the New Economic Program of the 1920's and wanted to avoid a similar industrial renaissance in Romania, or maybe they just needed more scrap iron), although one was either overlooked or returned later to end up on display at the Militar Muzeul [National Military Museum] in Bucharest.
As part of her re-armament program of the late thirties, Romania sought to obtain a license for the local manufacture of 200 French Renault R-35 infantry tanks. Negotiations for establishing a factory for their production had reached an advanced state by early 1938, by which time France's own demands for re-armament prohibited further development. As a stop-gap measure forty-one R-35s were supplied to the Royal Romanian Army in 1939, serving as the principal (okay, sole) tank of the newly-formed 2nd Armoured Regiment.
An additional thirty-four brand-new R-35s out of a shipment of fifty such tanks recently obtained by Poland passed into Romanian hands when the Polish 21st BCL [Batalion Czolgow Lekkich, or light tank battalion] chose internment over capture following the German conquest of Poland at the end of September 1939. With seventy-five tanks on strength the 2nd Armoured Regiment expanded into two battalions. R-35s were used in suppressing the abortive Iron Guard uprising in January 1941, with at least one being set afire in the streets of Bucharest as shown in a photograph on page 21 of ARMATA ROMANA IN AL DOILEA RAZBOI MONDIAL. Whether this vehicle suffered irrevocable damage is not clear, as conflicting accounts credit the 2nd Armoured Regiment with either seventy-four or seventy-five R-35s on charge when as part of the 1st Armoured Division it participated in the Romanian invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941. Because of the R-35s slower speed when compared to the Czech-built R-2 tanks also serving in the 1st Armoured Division, the 2nd Armoured Regiment was detached to support the 4th Army's IIIrd Army Corps early in July 1941. In this role the 2nd Armoured Regiment's R-35s participated in the attack on Odessa, where these tanks' thicker armoured protection proved useful against Soviet antitank rifles and similar weapons; still, by the time Odessa fell in mid-October, fifteen R-35s had been irrevocably destroyed and many others needing repair due to battle damage and extreme wear.
With Romania's modest industrial and mechanical resources, the remaining R-35s were not fully operational until later in 1942, by which time the inadequacy of their short-barreled 37mm cannon made them more a liability than an asset in combat. While alternative ideas for upgrading their armament were pursued, the R-35s provided useful support to anti-partisan operations conducted in Romanian-occupied Transnistria. Sixty R-35s remained in service as of April 1943, all but eight (assigned to training centers throughout Romania) still with the 2nd Armoured Regiment. Beginning late in 1943 many R-35s were converted into Vanatorul de Care R-35 tank destroyers, but thirty continued to serve in their original unmodified condition, albeit in rear-area or training duties.
Following the Armistice of August 1944 and Romania's return to the Allies, R-35s participated in operations clearing the country of German and Axis forces. One company of nine R-35s was included in a mixed tank battalion of the 2nd Armoured Regiment stationed in Bucharest, proving instrumental in securing the capital from German forces. The Popescu Armoured Detachment, formed from residual elements of the 1st Armoured Division's training depot, included a platoon of R-35s, and similar packets of R-35s scattered about the country supported Romanian troops in rounding up German personnel; in eastern Romania a platoon of R-35s in conjunction with Romanian marines were responsible for the liberation of Fagaras. About fourteen R-35s were still serving with the 2nd Armoured Regiment as late as February 1945, but subsequent operations in Czechoslovakia and Austria reduced this to only a few by April and none were operational by the end of the war. However, some were recovered for service in the immediate postwar era (until perhaps as late as 1952), with one presently on display with the Muzeul Militar National [National Military Museum] in Bucharest.
Following the German conquest of France in the summer of 1940, enormous quantities of French military equipment passed into German hands and were subsequently impressed into German service or supplied to other Axis powers such as Romania. Axworthy suggests that a number of these French two-man fully-tracked vehicles, which were also being produced under license in Romania under the designation Senileta Malaxa Tipul UE Carrier, may have been supplied via Germany in the spring of 1941, thereby accounting for a fifty-two vehicle increase over local production levels. An exact number is unavailable, since as Axworthy points out, some of these extra vehicles may have been Polish TK/TKS tankettes obtained around this same time. Romanian sources report a total number of tracked carriers in Army service for June 1941, but tend to lump all such vehicles together as Malaxa carriers, making individual identification virtually impossible. For additional information see under Senileta Malaxa Tipul UE.
For details on specific models, see entries under:
Senileta Ford Rusesc de Captura Tractor
Senileta Malaxa Tipul UE tankette/supply carrier
TACAM R-1 Self-Propelled Gun
TACAM R-2 Self-Propelled Gun
TACAM T-38 Self-Propelled Gun
TACAM T-60 Self-Propelled Gun
[unnamed] Armoured Car Romanian, Tipul 1915
[unnamed] Armoured Car Romanian, Tipul 1941
Vanatorul de Care Maresal Tank Destroyer
Vanatorul de Care R-35 Tank Destroyer
One hundred RSO artillery tractors were included in German arms shipments provided to Romanian divisions (10th & 19th Infantry Divisions, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, & 4th Mountain Divisions, and 6th & 9th Cavalry Divisions) stationed in the Kuban and the Crimea in early 1943; details on their subsequent service are lacking.
Romania inherited a few armoured cars of Tsarist Russian origin at the end of World War One. For details on specific models used, see entries under: Austin-Putilov Armoured Car
The Royal Romanian Army's 1st Armoured Division received nine of these halftracks from Germany as tows for their 5cm Pak 38 antitank guns in the fall of 1942. Several may have been lost when that division was virtually destroyed during the Battle of Stalingrad in November 1942, while others continued in service for the rest of the war.
Of the twenty-six German halftracks supplied to the Romanian 1st Armoured Division in the fall of 1942, eighteen -- nine each of the Sd.Kfz. 10 and Sd.Kfz. 11 models -- served as towing vehicles with the Division's Antitank Battalion. Sd.Kfz. 11's towed the Division's 7.5cm Pak 40 antitank guns, with several being lost as a result of the Division's virtual destruction during the Battle of Stalingrad in November 1942, although enough survived to perform similar duties when the Division received a dozen 75mm "Resita" antitank guns later in the war.
In the second half of 1942 Germany supplied Romania with a number of these four-wheeled armoured scout cars which equipped the reconnaissance detachment of the Romanian 1st Armoured Division; Axworthy and Nafziger place their number at ten, while Zaloga suggests some may have been the radio-equipped Sd.Kfz 223 model (q.v.). Either way, most were lost during the disastrous battle of Stalingrad at the end of 1942. As part of the arms shipments included in the Olivenbaum deliveries beginning late in 1943, Germany promised another forty Sd.Kfz 222 armoured cars, most of which may have been received by July 1944, although a number were well-worn and barely serviceable. The Royal Romanian Army appears to have operated these vehicles with armoured reconnaissance detachments of the 1st Armoured Division, several cavalry divisions, and possibly corps-level reconnaissance groups for the duration of the war, including notable actions around Bucharest following the 23rd August 1944 Armistice (the Niculescu Armoured Detachment formed from training elements had five such vehicles) as well as subsequent fighting in northern Transylvania, Hungary, and Austria, with some possibly surviving into the postwar era.
Forty of these German halftracks were supplied to Romania as part of the "Olivenbaum" rearmament program from November 1943 on, most (if not all) being assigned to the Romanian 1st Armoured Division. Details on their subsequent service are sketchy; five were included with the Divisional reconnaissance company, while the others are presumed to have operated as troop carriers. Those not lost during heavy fighting in the summer of 1944 remained in service following the Armistice of 23rd August 1944, participating in operations against Axis forces in northern Transylvania, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and Austria up to April 1945, by which time few armoured vehicles of any sort were left in Romanian hands.
The Romanian 1st Armoured Division received eight of these halftracks from Germany shortly before the disastrous Battle of Stalingrad in November 1942, during which most, if not all, of these vehicles were lost. Another twenty such halftracks were supplied to Romanian forces operating in the Kuban during the first part of 1943, serving with mechanised formations in cavalry divisions; details on their subsequent service are sketchy, but it is assumed wartime attrition may have accounted for many of them, although a few were still with the 8th Cavalry Division in August 1944. A final batch of twenty-seven Hanomag halftracks were included in the Olivenbaum arms shipments commencing in September 1943; whether this figure was exclusive of the half-dozen or so assault models known as the Sd.Kfz.251/9 "Stummel" which were also supplied is not clear, but at least twenty were standard Hanomags. These served with the reconnaissance and motorised infantry detachments of the 1st Armoured Division for the duration of the war, including following the 23rd August 1944 Armistice, with at least a few participating in operations in Czechoslovakia and Austria in the spring of 1945.
Zaloga reports that a "small number" of these halftracks armed with the short-barreled 7.5cm L/24 cannon were supplied to Romania in 1943 & 1944; conjecture places them at no more than half a dozen or so which served with the Romanian 1st Armoured Division for the remainder of the war, with at least one seeing action as late as the spring of 1945.
In the first half of 1943 Romania proceeded to refurbish her stock of captured Soviet STZ-3 Komsomolyets artillery tractors, a process made possible by the availability of necessary parts from the re-opened tractor plant at Odessa. Beginning in 1944, these tractors were adapted in order to serve as towing vehicles for 5cm Pak 38 antitank guns, thereby replacing Renault UE "Chenillette" and "Malaxa" tracked carriers lost in previous actions. This conversion being fairly simple, involving the addition of a hook on the tractor's back, thirty-four, now designated Senileta Ford Rusesc de Captura Tractors, were soon serving with Romanian Army formations in the field twelve each with the 5th and 14th Infantry Divisions, six with the 1st Armoured Division, and the last four, issued in August 1944, with the 5th Cavalry Division. Most appear to have been lost in fighting during the summer of 1944, with any surviving models probably confiscated by the Soviets following the 23rd August 1944 Armistice.
In 1937 Romania obtained a license from the French firm of Renault for the local manufacture of the Type UE "Chenillette" tracked supply carrier, to serve as an all-terrain towing vehicle for the Army's new 47mm Schneider antitank cannon. Production was to be handled by the Bucharest factory of the Malaxa company, with an initial run of 300 vehicles, officially designated as the Senileta Malaxa Tipul UE but often simply known as Malaxa carriers, envisioned. Actual production was delayed by France's own pressing re-armament demands (although Malaxa manufactured the bulk of each carrier, certain components such as the engine were to be supplied directly by Renault), with the first examples coming off the assembly line in the second half of 1939.
France's conquest by Germany in the summer of 1940 disrupted deliveries of necessary parts, with assembly at the Malaxa plant halting in March 1941 after only 128 carriers had been completed; however, an Army roster dated 22nd June 1941 shows 178 carriers on strength, suggesting, as Axworthy notes that some fifty additional vehicles may have been supplied by Germany either in the form of captured Renault UE "Chenillettes"or perhaps examples of Polish TK/TKS tankettes, numbers of which had been interned in Romania in the fall of 1939 with others possibly supplied from captured German stocks. There is even the unlikely prospect of a single Czech CKD vz. 33 tankette which may have escaped from Transcarpathia during that region's occupation by Hungary in March 1939 also ending up as a "generic" carrier.
The Malaxa carrier first saw combat when two examples were literally driven off the factory floor by members of the fascist Iron Guard during the abortive uprising against the Antonescu regime in January 1941; the combat value of these vehicles may have been limited by their lack of armament, though no doubt they were no doubt welcomed by ill-armed Guardists for their shock value in street fighting. Whether these pair of carriers were destroyed in the course of fighting and their numbers replaced prior to June 1941 is not known, but as stated previously a total of 178 Malaxa carriers were serving with Army units at the start of the Russian campaign. Malaxa carriers served with Army antitank detachments (ostensibly twelve with each infantry division and as many as forty with the 1st Armoured Division, but in practice only "as available") for the duration of the war, albeit in diminishing numbers as attrition and battle losses took their toll. At least forty-two were lost during the disastrous Battle of Stalingrad in 1942 and others during fighting of the summer of 1944, by which time the Malaxa was scheduled for replacement by the T-1 artillery tractor. Some Malaxas are presumed to have survived to participate in operations following the August Armistice, but details are lacking. Whether any Malaxa carriers survived the war is not clear, as available Army lists after 1942 fail to include them.
Three Czech armoured cars described as Skoda M26's were interned by Romania following the Hungarian annexation and occupation of Ruthenia in early 1939; from the description they may have been OA vz. 27's as M26 does not appear in available Czech armour lists. Added to Romania's modest inventory of armoured cars, they served with cavalry mechanised squadrons until lack of spares forced their withdrawal.
In the fall of 1935 a Romanian purchasing commission visited Czechoslovakia with the intention of obtaining numbers of modern tanks for its Army. Following extensive negotiations and demonstrations of prospective models from both CKD and Skoda, a contact was finally signed on 14th August 1936 for the purchase of 126 Skoda S-II-a tanks, plus an option on another 63, which would enter Romanian service with the Army designation of R-2. As specified in the contract, Skoda delivered a prototype machine in January 1937 followed by batches of eleven and four tanks in April and May, although production demands forced Skoda to "borrow" these vehicles from an existing order promised to the Czech Army.
These tanks underwent extensive trials with the Royal Romanian Army, experiencing what may have been more than the usual bout of new machine defects before being finally returned (some in barely running condition) to Skoda at the end of July 1938. Still, the Royal Romanian Army was pleased with the performance of what now being called the R-2 tank, so much so that in August 1938 they requested an additional 280 tanks; however, the stipulation that three-quarters were to be locally assembled by the Romanian firm of Malaxa, whose dealings with Skoda had, as they say, left a bad taste in the mouths of the Czechs, led Skoda to decline. Still, production deliveries of the initial order commenced in September 1938, twenty-seven machines being received before the Munich Crisis placed a moratorium on arms deliveries from the defensive-minded Czechs. Deliveries resumed in October, with Romania receiving the balance of the original 126 R-2 tanks soon after, the last batch of thirty arriving in February 1939. Formed into two battalions, these tanks equipped the Army's 1st Armoured Regiment which by 1941 had coalesced into the 1st Armoured Division.
The R-2s of the 1st Armoured Division participated in the invasion of the Soviet Union in the summer of 1941, operating in northern Bukovina and, following the crossing of the Pruth River, received the distinction of fighting the first tank-to-tank engagement between Romanian and Soviet forces at the battle of Brinzeni on 4th July 1941, during which two Soviet T-28 tanks were destroyed for the loss of a single R-2. Further fighting accounted for some twenty R-2s lost by late August, with an equal number rendered unserviceable by mechanical breakdowns and field attrition before the Division withdrew from front line duty in October 1941. By the end of the year twenty-six R-2s had been irrevocably lost, another sixty seriously damaged but salvageable (the Romanian Army remaining in possession of the year's battlefields), and most of the rest in need of repair, if not complete overhauls. Herculean efforts on the part of Romanian maintenance teams resulted in returning to service eighty-three R-2s by the summer of 1942, although similar attempts at obtaining replacements met with more limited success, Germany being either unwilling or unable to provide more than twenty-six rather used Panzer 35(t) tanks from her own Army stocks.
By the end of August 1942 the 1st Armoured Division returned to frontline service with 109 R-2s (or their German equivalents, which the Romanians quickly lumped together with their own R-2 stock) on strength. Caught up in the disastrous Battle of Stalingrad beginning in November 1942, the 1st Armoured Division's R-2s were found to be hopelessly outclassed by Soviet T-34 tanks, hardly a surprise to those hapless Romanian tankers who months previously had witnessed, with no doubt profound disillusionment, the shells of their tanks' 37mm cannon bouncing off even at virtually point-blank range the fronts of some captured T-34 hulks during a practice demonstration. Within a week of the beginning of the Soviet counter-offensive, the Division was left with only nineteen R-2 tanks in serviceable condition, many of these becoming unserviceable after a few more days. By January 1943, the 1st Armoured Division had lost, either to enemy action or abandoned in the field after suffering breakdowns or simply running out of fuel (which during the extensive retreat, er, strategic withdrawals of the time often meant a complete loss), no fewer than eighty-one R-2 tanks.
Returning to its depot facilities in Romania, the 1st Armoured Division listed fifty-nine R-2 tanks on strength as of April 1943, but this inflated figure included a number of hulks destroyed in the previous year's fighting and retained for little more than spare parts or scrap value. By the late summer of 1943 only twenty-five R-2s were actually in service with the Division, which had another thirty with its repair workshops, while another four in somewhat running order were assigned to training duties with cavalry and school formations. R-2s saw little further action, other than a single company serving with the ad hoc Cantemir Armoured Group late in 1943, before being officially withdrawn from frontline service in March 1944. Shortly prior to this the R-2s, by now boasting sixty-three extant in all conditions, were selected for conversion into self-propelled guns under the TACAM program, one R-2 chassis serving as a prototype in February 1944. Forty R-2 tanks were taken on hand for conversion into TACAM R-2s beginning in the spring of 1944, but only twenty were actually converted by the end of June at which time further conversions were postponed pending the availability of a better main armament (the first TACAM conversions used captured Soviet 76.2mm cannon which by 1944 were outclassed by second-generation T-34-85 and IS-2 Stalin tanks; the introduction of the 75mm Resita antitank cannon was hoped to correct this imbalance, but its availability was limited), leaving forty-four R-2s still in service as of July 1944.
Following Romania's return to Allied service after the 23rd August 1944 Armistice, R-2 tanks participated to a limited degree in operations against Axis forces before the majority both serviceable and otherwise were confiscated by the Soviet Army. Five R-2s were still in service with Romanian forces in the field as late as February 1945, but these last few had disappeared by April. A couple may have been recovered during the postwar era; Zaloga's article on Romanian armour reports as many as thirty R-2s with the postwar Romanian Army, although this seems excessive. However many there were, they were all turned over as war reparations to the Soviets in 1948, not even the Militar Muzeul in Bucharest retaining one for posterity.
In the fall of 1938 a pair of Skoda S-II tanks -- the prototype of the S-II-a and a standard Czech Army model -- after being demonstrated to Soviet officials in Moscow in hopes of soliciting a sales order, were confiscated by the Romanian government while en route back to Czechoslovakia via Romania. Perhaps encouraged by Czechoslovakia's rapidly deteriorating condition, Romania retained both tanks for six months, finally releasing them in mid March of 1939. Arriving at the outset of fighting between Slovak and Hungarian forces over the contested region of Transcarpathian Ruthenia, both tanks were impressed into local service, during which the Army tank was destroyed while the prototype eventually escaped across the Romanian frontier where it was again interned, eventually being handed over to the Slovak government in September 1939. Although neither of these tanks appear to have been operated by the Royal Romanian Army during either of their stays in the country, therefore technically falling outside the scope of this survey, the story does make for an interesting historical footnote.
Late in 1939 Romania approached the Czech armaments firms of CKD and Skoda with the intent of obtaining numbers of modern tank in order to upgrade its Army's modest (if not outright obsolete) armoured forces. Following over a year of trials and deliberations and Romanian Army ordered 216 Skoda S-II-c tanks in January 1941 which were to enter Romanian service with the designation of R-3; however, despite efforts on the parts of Skoda as well as the German and Romanian governments, the order failed to materialise due to insufficient manufacturing capacities. Romania made another attempt to order 287 of these tanks, by now known by their manufacturer's designation of T-21, in June 1941, only a few days after the invasion of the Soviet Union commenced, but again the lack of necessary facilities both with Skoda and now, when the prospect of license-built production arose, Romania, and in the event no tanks were received.
In May 1942 the Romanian government approached the Czech arms firm of Skoda with an offer to purchase licensing rights for their T-23 tank, an undetermined number to be built by either the Resita or Malaxa industrial firms. While the Czechs were eager to grant a license, Romania's inability to provide the necessary manufacturing capacity quickly resulted in the cancellation of the project with no tanks produced or delivered.
With the Armistice of 23 August 1944 Romania returned to the Allied Powers, but the possibility of Soviet-supplied tanks during this time remains in doubt, although such shipments became reality in the postwar era. For details on specific models see entries under:
Soviet Agricultural Tractor
BA Series of Armoured Cars (BA-6, BA-10, BA-20, BA-27)
FAI Armoured Car
ISU-152 Assault Gun
Stalinetz S-60 Tractor
Stalinetz S-65 Tractor
STZ "Odessa" Tractor
STZ-3 Komsomolyets Tractor
An older model of agricultural tractor developed by the Soviet Union prior to World War Two, examples of these were likely included among the several thousand tractors captured by the Romanian Army during its advance through southern Russia. Employed in local farming operations in occupied Transnistria and later Romania, models may have been impressed into military service as artillery tractors, but details are lacking.
Examples of this diesel-powered version of the S-60 tractor, 37,626 of which were built in the Soviet Union between 1937 and 1941, may have been included in the assortment of agricultural tractors captured by the Romanians in the course of the invasion of the Soviet Union, but details are lacking.
At least 120 German StuG III assault guns were included in arms shipments scheduled for delivery to Romania between November 1943 and September 1944, of which 108 appear to have been received. In Romanian service these vehicles carried the designation TA, ten operating with the ad-hoc Cantemir Armoured Group as early as February 1944 and later with the reconstituted 1st Armoured Division. By the summer of 1944 this formation had some twenty-two TA's in service plus another sixteen in transit from training elements attached to the German 20th Panzer Division. Seven more TA's, with more in transit, had been received by the Romanian 8th Cavalry Division which was in the process of reforming into the 2nd Armoured Division. Fighting against Soviet forces in the summer of 1944 cost the Romanians a number of these TA's, while most or all of those in transit were confiscated by the Germans following the Armistice.
TA's served with Romanian forces during the liberation campaign against German and Hungarian forces following the Armistice, with ten providing the backbone of the Niculescu Armoured Detachment formed from the 1st Armoured Division's training depot. Subsequent fighting in northern Transylvania, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Austria resulted in the loss of nearly all TA's in Romanian service despite reinforcements of a handful of captured StuG III's received from the Soviet Army at this time. With recovery and salvage efforts conducted at the end of the war, thirty-one TA's returned to Romanian strength to serve into the postwar era.
As the most common model of Soviet agricultural tractors in service both prior to and during World War Two, STZ-NATI tractors probably comprised the majority of the thousands of agricultural tractors captured by the advancing Romanian Army in 1941 and subsequently impressed into service with the occupation authorities of Transnistria and perhaps individual Army formations for the duration of the war.
Fourteen of these Soviet-built vehicles were listed by Axworthy as being in Romanian Army service as of 1st November 1942, although he is unclear as to details regarding specific models; i.e. whether these were artillery tractors such as the STZ-3 Komsomolyets or locally produced agricultural tractors along the lines, there being a tractor plant located in Odessa.
On the other hand, these may refer to the NI [Na Ispug or Terroriser Tank] Odessa tractors converted by the Soviets into tanks with local armour plate, machine guns and 37mm cannon during the siege of Odessa by Romanian forces in the fall of 1941. Zaloga's article on the Factory Tanks of Odessa suggests that a number of the sixty-eight tractors so converted may have been left behind by the evacuating Soviet forces at the fall of Odessa, making their recovery by the Romanians, who were chronically short of armoured vehicles throughout the war, a real possibility. However, details on these vehicles are lacking, with the sole reference in Romanian service suggesting an unarmed tractor rather than even an improvised AFV; perhaps they were salvaged NI tanks restored to a more prosaic tractor role?
A number of these Soviet armoured artillery tractors were captured by Romanian forces during the initial stages of the invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, followed by a few more in the first half of 1942, with thirty-six appearing on Army service rosters by November 1942. Unlike the majority of captured Soviet armoured vehicles whose mechanical reliability and lack of spare parts resulted in limited service, these tractors, similar in design to agricultural tractors captured in large quantities and serviced by plants both in Odessa and Romania, remained operational in Romanian service for the duration of the war.
Beginning in the summer of 1943, surviving Komosomolyets tractors were converted by Romania into Senileta Ford Rusesc de Captura Tractor.
In 1944 Romania designed a fully-tracked artillery tractor based on captured Soviet STZ agricultural tractors (q.v.) to serve as an all-terrain towing vehicle for the new 75mm Resita antitank cannon entering production. Designated the T-1, over a thousand were planned, but Romania's limited industrial resources, already committed to the TACAM and Maresal projects, were unable to implement such an undertaking, and in the event only five prototypes were assembled prior to the Armistice. Their subsequent fate is unknown.
A number of these Soviet tanks were captured by the Romanian Army in the summer of 1941 and impressed into service, with thirty-three appearing on a list of AFV's in Romanian hands as of 1st November 1942. However, their mechanical unreliability, exacerbated by a chronic shortage of much-needed spares for captured vehicles, soon forced their withdrawal from service. Curiously, T-26's were more useful as unserviceable tanks than would be expected, for the resourceful Romanians scavenged these hulks for armour plates, cannons, and other components vital to such wartime armour projects as the TACAM self-propelled gun series and the Vanatorul de Care R-35 tank destroyer.
Examples of this early Soviet tankette were among the tanks captured by advancing Romanian troops during the summer of 1941. In light of their negligible combat value any subsequent service with Romanian forces would seem both undistinguished and brief, although two T-27's remained on Army rosters as late as November 1942. As such, it is possible these T-27's were employed as gun tractors similar to the Renault UE "Chenillette" tracked carrier (q.v.).
Several of these Soviet multi-turretted tanks were captured by the Romanian Army in the summer of 1941, two still in service as of November 1942. Their final disposition is unknown, but it is likely they were withdrawn as unserviceable and scrapped by 1944.
While the Royal Romanian Army's first encounter with this Soviet medium tank, arguably one of the best tanks of World War Two, may have been in late 1941, the first intact model to be captured by Romanian troops dates from May 1942, when the Romanian VI Army Corps recovered an abandoned T-34 at the end of the abortive Soviet Kharkov offensive. Two such tanks were in Romanian hands as of 1st November 1942, by which time the T-34's clear superiority over anything in the Romanian arsenal was well known; a firing demonstration against a captured tank in October showed the 37mm cannon of the R-2 tank (q.v.) to be ineffectual even at point blank ranges, by which time Antonescu himself was clamoring for a Romanian-produced copy of the T-34 (this isn't as far-fetched as it may sound; remember, the initial design of the German Panther tank was virtually a Teutonic carbon copy of the T-34). Such a project quickly proved far beyond the capacity of Romania's modest industrial resources, leaving the prospect of a "Care de Tipul T-34" as no more than an unwritten footnote in history. Several other T-34's were captured by Romanian forces during the war, but their subsequent service appears limited to training duties, and none may have been actually operational with any combat unit. Four such tanks were included in an assortment of unserviceable captured tanks shipped from the Crimea to Romania in March 1944, ending their days as stationery antitank targets for training schools. If any were near-salvageable, they were probably confiscated by the Soviet Army following the 23rd August 1944 Armistice.
Wartime use of this Soviet tank by the Royal Romanian Army is possible, but verification remains tentative at best, with further details clearly needed. Presently the prospective sources for Romanian T-34-85 tanks are either instances of vehicles captured during fighting or else supplied while Romania served as a Soviet ally following the 23rd August 1944 Armistice. Axworthy refers to half a dozen Soviet tanks captured in either damaged or broken-down conditions during Romanian counterattacks along the old Romanian-Soviet frontier between 28th May and 7th June 1944. While only two of these are identified by model (as examples of the IS-2 Stalin heavy tank and the ISU-152 tank destroyer), it is possible that one or more of the other tanks were indeed T-34-85's, particularly in light of the Soviet Army's deployment of considerable numbers of this new tank against Romanian forces in the summer of 1944 (whether this was due to a recognition of the Romanians as a serious opponent deserving the best equipment available, or rather a more readily controlled nonthreatening sector to conduct trials of new vehicles is left for the reader to judge).
In his recent book on the T-34-85, Zaloga states that "several" Axis Armies captured and employed small numbers of these tanks during the war but only names Germany and Finland as examples. Obviously, any similar use by the Romanians would have been brief indeed; while Axworthy mentions that all six captured Soviet tanks were demonstrated in a military parade held in Bucharest shortly thereafter, they may not have been truly serviceable and, at any rate, doubtless confiscated by the Soviet Army immediately following the Armistice. Although Romania participated as an Allied power following the Armistice, contributing well over half a million troops to anti-Axis operations in the Balkans and central Europe up to the end of the war in May 1945, military aid from her new Soviet ally was very limited, with the Soviets operating a virtual arms embargo upon Romania while conducting Romanian troops in costly decimating campaigns that left the Romanian regime militarily destitute and dependent upon Soviet power in the postwar era. Still, in his book on armour of the Eastern Front, Zaloga reports that a "small number" of T-34-85 tanks were supplied to the Romanians sometime after the Armistice, perhaps shortly before the end of the war.
A photograph on page 120 of ARMATA ROMANA IN AL DOILEA RAZBOI MONDIAL bearing the caption "The people of Bucharest receiving the Romanian soldiers after the defeat of the German troops from the Northern surroundings of the town" shows T-34-85 tanks bedecked with soldiers driving down a city street, while other sources provide peripheral accounts depicting Romanian soldiers riding T-34-85 tanks; Charles Foley's COMMANDO EXTRAORDINARY (New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1965) tells of a team of Otto Skorzeny's German commandoes under the direction of Walter Girg disguising themselves as "Red Rumanians" [sic] complete with several captured Soviet tanks (this being January 1945, they were surely T-34-85's) for a dash behind Soviet lines from Danzig to Kolberg, suggesting the appearance of Romanian-manned T-34 tanks to be, if not common, certainly acceptable in Soviet eyes. However, even these sources become muddled when examined further. Granted, Zaloga clearly cites T-34-85 tanks supplied to Romania in his book, but makes no mention of them in a later article on Romanian armour of World War Two.
Axworthy refers to the Soviets providing a handful of captured German tanks -- Panzer IV's and Sturmgeschutz III assault guns (qqv.) -- while detailing Romania's chronic arms shortages during the post-Armistice period, and does not suggest the Romanians received any T-34 tanks from the Soviets during this time. The photograph in ARMATA ROMANA certainly shows T-34-85 tanks, but while the soldiers in the foreground are clearly Romanian soldiers those on the tank are bareheaded and distant from view, making positive identification difficult. This uncertainty is confounded further by an accompanying photo on the same page, also depicting several troop-laden T-34-85 tanks rolling down a Romanian city street, but with a caption reading "Soviet troops entering into Ploiesti" (although in this case the soldiers' headgear is plainly Soviet in origin). Even Foley's account of German commandoes passing for "Red Rumanians" appears to have been garbled, for Girg's infiltration team, while operating several captured Soviet tanks, is described as being disguised as a Red Army inspection battalion according to Otto Skorzeny in his book MY COMMANDO OPERATIONS: THE MEMOIRS OF HITLER'S MOST DARING COMMANDO (Atglen: Schiffer Publishing Ltd, 1995, c1975).
The Soviets did raise two divisions from heavily-indoctrinated Romanian prisoners of war with the intention of supporting a postwar communist regime the "Tudor Vladimirescu", formed in the winter of 1943-1944, and the "Horia, Closca si Crisan" in the spring of 1945 but available narratives and TOE's for these formations describe them as bereft of any armour (curiously, similar formations raised by the Soviets from Polish and Czech personnel had integral tank units attached). The "Tudor Vladimirescu" was reformed as an armoured division at the end of the war, with the "Horia, Closca si Crisan" becoming motorised shortly thereafter, but the 170-odd tanks and armoured vehicles in Romania's postwar inventory are described as German and Romanian (or more accurately Czech and French) in origin. Even if these formations included any Soviet T-34-85 tanks their inclusion as members of the Royal Romanian Armed Forces is a matter of some contention; technically both divisions were under the command of King Mihai's royalist regime, and indeed the "Horia, Closca si Crisan" Division was commanded by a highly decorated royalist general (Mihail Lascar, captured at Stalingrad in 1942, and who, for those so interested, did not join the Soviet-sponsored forces until AFTER the Armisitice, by which time his actions were in direct support of the King and his new pro-Allied regime, but I digress) which as everyone knows ended, er, was temporarily suspended following his communist-forced abdication and subsequent exile on 30th December 1947, although whether the King had any actual control over these forces is doubtful.
That Romania as a nation received and operated T-34-85 tanks is not in doubt many of the 1,060 such tanks on hand in 1990 are still in service today but these would seem to date from after the royalist era and indeed following the immediate postwar years. Romania's armed forces were severely reduced by the terms of the 1947 peace treaty, with substantial forces of the Soviet Army stationed as permanent garrisons (see Sergiu Verona's MILITARY OCCUPATION AND DIPLOMACY: SOVIET TROOPS IN ROMANIA, 1944-1958, published by Duke University Press in 1992 for details); subsequently, Romania's own military expansion was delayed until the 1950's. Leland Stowe's often alarmist account of the Soviet buildup in Eastern Europe, CONQUEST BY TERROR (New York: Random House, 1952, c1951) describes the Romanian Army of the summer of 1950 as equipped with a mixture of German, Italian, Czech and French arms left over from World War Two.
Soviet arms shipments commenced in the summer of 1950, Romania and Hungary receiving a combined total of 800 T-34 tanks in December of that year (Czechoslovakia got 400 as well, but I digress). By the end of 1951 Romania had expanded her army from its treaty-limited strength of 100,000 men five divisions plus the two Soviet-raised formations to some 250,000 men in sixteen divisions (eight first-line, "at least one" armoured, and one or more motorised) and two brigades, plus another 100,000 security troops, and was credited by THE STATESMAN'S YEAR BOOK as possessing no fewer than 400 tanks. In Alexandre Cretzianu's CAPTIVE RUMANIA: A DECADE OF SOVIET RULE (Frederick A. Praeger, c1956) Romanian tank strength by 1953 was quite impressive, comprising two armoured divisions of two hundred tanks each plus a tank battalion attached to each of the Army's six infantry divisions, while the date for re-equipping with Soviet and Czech (and later East German) war materiel is given as beginning in the spring of 1948.
In the final analysis, therefore, use of the T-34-85 tank by elements of the Royal Romanian Armed Forces remains tentative, both in the form of several examples possibly captured in the early summer of 1944, as well as a small number which may (but may not) have been supplied near in the end of the war, either instance, if indeed true, being from an operational viewpoint fleeting at best.
A number of these small amphibious tanks developed by the Soviet Army during the 1930's were captured by advancing Romanian troops in the summer of 1941, while others may have been captured in the Crimea in early 1942. Similar in performance to the R-1 serving with Romanian cavalry formations, captured T-37's may have performed like duties with mechanised reconnaissance squadrons, with nineteen still appearing on Army lists as late as 1st November 1942. However, their negligible combat value combined with shortages of necessary spares probably saw their withdrawal from service shortly thereafter; certainly none remained on Army rosters by 1944.
A few examples of this improved model of the T-37 amphibious tank also passed into Romanian hands during the war, with three listed in service as of 1st November 1942. What appear to have been an additional four T-38s were included in a March 1944 shipment of unserviceable captured tanks being transported from the Crimea to Romania for use as stationary training targets.
At least one T-40 was captured by the Romanian Army during the Russian campaign, appearing an an Army roster list dated November 1st 1942; subsequent service unknown.
A fair number of these Soviet light tanks were captured by the Romanian Army in the summer of 1941 and spring of 1942. Unlike the majority of Soviet tanks captured by Romania during the war, the T-60 could be readily serviced by the nation's modest industrial facilities as the T-60's GAZ 202 engine was essentially a license-built copy of the Dodge Deretto-Fargo F.H.2 motor being produced as power plants for commercial tractors in both Germany and Romania. This serviceability combined with an outclassed 20mm cannon made the thirty-odd T-60's on hand prime candidates for converting into self-propelled guns, and beginning in November 1942 all available vehicles were so converted, the last being completed by the end of 1943; Zaloga's article on Romanian armour suggests that some of the T-60's converted may have been obtained from German stocks rather than directly captured from the Soviets, but this is not clear. For further details on this conversion, see entry under TACAM T-60. One T-60 tank chassis was also used in the assembly of the prototype for the "Maresal (q.v.) tank destroyer during the first half of 1943, while T-60 components were also used in as many as five additional subsequent model variations and trials vehicles in the "Maresal" series later in the war.
Romania ordered a 221 of these fully-tracked artillery tractors from the Czechoslovak manufacturers of CKD & BMM in 1937, but only 130 were received before the occupation of Bohemia-Moravia. One source claims that an additional 220 received with German military aid shipments in 1943 & 1944, but this is unconfirmed.
In November 1943 plans were approved to re-arm Romania's fourteen surviving R-1 tanks as self-propelled guns carrying captured Soviet 45mm cannons. However, upon further study the design was seen to be already outdated, the 45mm cannon being rapidly outpaced by recent Soviet armour such as the T-34-85 and IS heavy tank series, both of which were making their presence known on the rapidly deteriorating Russian Front. As a result, the project was canceled before any tanks were converted, allowing the country's limited industrial facilities to concentrate upon the production of more effective conversions such as the TACAM R-2, TACAM T-60, and Vanatorul de Care R-35 tank destroyers.
Following his success with the development of the TACAM T-60 (q.v.), Locotenent Colonel [Lieutenant Colonel] Constantin Ghiulai was assigned the task of upgrading the Army's woefully-outclassed R-2 tanks; i.e. the Czech-built Skoda S-II-a (q.v.) with a similar conversion. Beginning in December 1942, several months of design work eventually produced plans for removing the R-2s turret and fitting a captured Soviet 76.2mm M1941 field gun in a new shielded superstructure consisting of armour plates salvaged from captured Soviet BT-7 tanks, as well as utilising various components recovered from T-26s. The first prototype was assembled that summer, undergoing extensive trials beginning in September and lasting until the end of the year. Although the vehicle's height now stood at nearly eight feet (or 2.32 meters), with the barrel of the 76.2mm cannon extending far out over the chassis, the overall performance proved quite acceptable; still, despite the prototype's successful tests, production was delayed until sufficient numbers of replacement tanks in the form of Panzer IVs were received from Germany under the Olivenbaum arms shipments to allow the withdrawal from service units of the necessary R-2 tanks. The first of twenty R-2s were delivered to the Leonida factory for conversion in February of 1944, where scheduled work proceeded much faster than the earlier TACAM T-60, there being less need for subcontracting of other components beyond the gun's new optical sights and ammunition.
By June of 1944 twenty TACAM R-2s were in service with the new 63rd TACAM Company attached to the training command of the 1st Armoured Division, with another twenty R-2 tanks scheduled for conversion. However, by the summer of 1944 the deployment of new Soviet tanks such as the IS-2 Stalin forced the Romanians to re-evaluate the 76.2mm cannon's value, and conversion of additional TACAM R-2s was postponed pending the availability of a new main armament. The locally-produced 75mm M1943 Resita antitank cannon was the leading contender for such use, although the German 8.8cm gun was also under consideration, when events following the 23rd August 1944 Armistice made such plans moot, and in the event no further TACAM R-2s were produced. The twenty TACAM R-2s serving with the 63rd TACAM Company were used in operations clearing the country of German and pro-Axis forces, nearly half being lost in action by October 1944. The remaining TACAM R-2s participated in campaigns of the Romanian Army in Czechoslovakia and Austria, with attrition eventually accounting for all vehicles by the spring of 1945; however, a single TACAM R-2 was recovered from the battlefield at the end of the war and is displayed today at the Militar Muzeul in Bucharest.
In 1943 forty captured Soviet 76.2mm field guns were earmarked as armament for a series of self-propelled guns utilising available Panzer 38(t) tank chassis serving with the Romanians as the T-38 tank which would then be designated TACAM T-38s; however, as these conversions were scheduled to follow the completion of the TACAM R-2 series, coupled with a growing realisation of these cannon's inadequacies in the face of new Soviet tanks, none were actually begun before the Armistice of 23rd August 1944 made such projects moot.
By 1942 the Royal Romanian Army's arsenal of armoured vehicles was outclassed by the growing numbers of Soviet T-34 tanks in service, while the prospect of obtaining appreciable numbers of any adequate replacement from either Germany or German-controlled Czechoslovakia appeared increasingly unlikely. In light of what was quickly becoming a crisis situation, the Army assigned Locotenent Colonel [lieutenant colonel] Constantin Ghiluai the task of somehow improving the combat value of its existing tanks with conversion processes capable of being performed by the nation's modest facilities. Ghiluai soon projected the mounting of the Soviet M1936 76.2mm field gun, numbers of which were available from captured stocks, onto the chassis of the Soviet T-60 light tank, chosen due to its ready availability, having been captured in modest numbers both locally and by Germany, who was willing to trade away what they held to be valueless stock in exchange for oil shipments, as well as being fortuitously equipped with a robust and easily serviceable power plant (the GAZ 202 engine of the T-60 was a licensed model of the Dodge Deretto-Fargo F.H.2 motor in use with assorted agricultural tractors in both Germany and Romania), while also being a tank of limited combat value whose withdrawal from service would not adversely affect Army operations.
Assembly of a prototype vehicle at the Leonida Factory in Bucharest began in November 1942, with initial trials completed by mid-January of the following year. Essentially, the turret of the T-60 was removed with a three-sided open-topped compartment made from 15mm armour plates salvaged from unserviceable captured BT-7 tanks enclosing the 76.2mm cannon placed upon the T-60's body, although assorted other modifications, such as adjusting the chassis suspension to accommodate for both the heavier load and new center of gravity, all-metal bogie wheels as with the Vanatorul de Care R-35 tank destroyer, and the fitting of new covers and ventilation grating over the engine compartment, were also required. Performance of the new vehicle, designated the TACAM T-60, warranted production of additional vehicles, and indeed the first twenty-three T-60s had already been delivered to the Leonida factory for conversion by this time, with another eleven arriving shortly thereafter; it is unclear whether any of this second batch may have been received from Germany as suggested in Zaloga's article on Romanian AFVs. Due to Leonida's limited facilities, work involving the new bogie wheels, mountings for the gun carriage, and other components were contracted out to various Romanian firms, making the finished TACAM T-60 the product of combined efforts which included Ploiesti-based Concordia, Industria Sirmei of Turda, Astra and IAR, both of Brasov (curiously, IAR was an aeronautical manufacturer), and the Army's principal arsenal at Bucharest.
By June of 1943 the first seventeen TACAM T-60s were serving with elements of the Royal Romanian Army, with the remaining seventeen being received by the end of the year. These vehicles equipped two new formations, the 61st and 62nd TACAM Companies, with sixteen and eighteen vehicles respectively, attached to the 1st Armoured Division and later the 8th Cavalry Division, which was in the process of converting into a new, i.e. 2nd Armoured Division, although in the event the formation was never fully organised. Both TACAM companies saw considerable fighting against Soviet forces in the summer of 1944, suffering notable losses which were further compounded by those lost during fighting against German forces following the 23rd August 1944 Armistice. Due to their Soviet origin, all surviving TACAM T-60s were confiscated by the Soviet Army sometime after October 1944, none remaining in Romanian hands at the end of the war, although a single example is with the Soviet Armour Museum at Kubinka.
Following the end of fighting between Hungarian and Slovak forces in the contested region of Transcarpathian Ruthenia in March 1939, elements of the Slovak Army escaped into neighboring Romania and were interned. As a result of this, the Royal Romanian Army "inherited" a modest number of Czech armoured cars which were subsequently impressed into service. Sources vary as to the model and nature of these vehicles, with Kliment listing twelve (three Skoda OA vz. 27 and nine Tatra OA vz. 30), Zaloga around a dozen (two Skoda OA vz. 27 and "about ten" Tatra OA vz. 30), and Axworthy an assortment of thirteen including two "unidentified Tatra's". Pending further verification, the prospect of one or perhaps two additional Tatra armoured cars in Romanian hands in 1939 must remain speculative.
Following the Hungarian annexation of Ruthenia from the Slovak Republic in March 1939, several Slovak military formations chose internment in neighboring Romania over capture, their equipment subsequently being impressed into Romanian service. Among this loot were nine Tatra OA vz.30 armoured cars, a lightly armed six-wheeled vehicle of some modest combat value. Details on their service in Romanian hands are limited and somewhat conflicting; Axworthy suggests they served with Army reconnaissance detachments though for how long is not known, and may have received the designation M27 while in Romanian service (perhaps a transposition of Tatra's original manufacturer's designation of T-72). On the other hand, Zaloga's article on Romanian armour has these vehicles assigned to the Beterie Garda al Conducator [perhaps a variant designation for the Conducator's Bodyguard Regiment], performing security patrols in Bucharest until 1944 (Zaloga also places their number at "about ten"). As available sources for the composition of the Conducator's Bodyguard Regiment make no mention of any armoured cars, only a few Renault FT tanks, further verification, or at least more clarification, is certainly needed.
Zaloga's article on Romanian armour reports about a dozen Polish TK and TKS tankettes, described as being in worn-out, poor condition, were either driven or dragged across the Romanian frontier and interned following the German invasion of Poland in September 1939. Other Polish tankettes may have been supplied to Romania by Germany prior to the invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941, but this is not confirmed. Details on subsequent service with the Royal Romanian Army are lacking, but any such Polish tankettes extant were probably impressed into service perhaps in a disarmed state as tracked towing vehicles for antitank guns, performing duties similar to the Renault UE "Chenillette" or "Malaxa" tracked supply carriers. General attrition and battle losses is presumed to have accounted for all of them by mid-1943, although Romanian practice to count them with their "Chenillettes" makes this only conjecture.
A license-built version of the Swedish Landsverk L60.B produed in Hungary from 1939 onwards, several Toldi's -- whether Mk I or II models is not clear -- were captured in an unserviceable condition by Romanian forces in September 1944. While these tanks were reportedly impressed into service, they were probably not used for long due to both maintenance demands as well as a standing practice on the part of Romania's new Soviet ally to confiscate all captured Axis military equipment.
For details on specific models used, see entries under:
CKD Praga T-6 Artillery Tractor
Lanz Bulldog Tractor
RSO Artillery Tractor
Senileta Ford Rusesc de Captura Tractor
Soviet Agricultural Tractor
Stalinetz S-60 Tractor
Stalinetz S-65 Tractor
STZ-3 Komsomolyets Artillery Tractor
STZ "Odessa" Tractor
In the course of fighting in northern Transylvania during the fall of 1944, the Romanian Army captured, or more likely recovered from abandoned battlefields, a few of these Hungarian tanks -- whether earlier, 4cm - armed models or examples of the later version with its 7.5cm cannon is not clear, although the former is more likely -- and while their derelict condition suggests any subsequent Romanian service to have been fleeting if at all, by this stage of the war the Romanian Army was so hard-pressed for armour of any sort (even resorting to using thirty year-old Renault FT's) that even remotely operable Turan's were probably impressed into service. If any survived to the end of the war, they were no doubt confiscated with all other Axis equipment by Romania's Soviet allies-cum-masters.
In 1915 Romania produced, in at least prototype form, an armoured car converted from a flatbed commercial truck. Described as having large-spoked wheels with solid tires, this vehicle was fitted with a pedestal mounting that carried a cannon and two heavy machine guns capable of both antiaircraft and ground-level fire. Alas, the ultimate fate for what was Romania's very first armoured fighting vehicle is unknown.
Zaloga in his article on Romanian armour during the war reports that an armoured car prototype was assembled at the Resita Steel Works in Romania around 1941 but is unable to provide further details beyond suggesting it was armed with a Czech-built 37mm cannon. In light of Romania's very limited industrial capacity, this may project may have envisioned considerable German or Czech logistical support which was stillborn due to both the prevailing political atmosphere and commitments elsewhere.
Four Valentines, supplied to the Soviets by Britain via Lend-Lease and subsequently captured by the Romanian Army, were among the forty-odd tanks evacuated from the Crimea by Romania in March 1944. Details as to their condition and possible service are lacking, but by this stage they had been consigned to static antitank training duties.
In conjunction with the TACAM series of self-propelled guns authorised late in 1942, the Royal Romanian Army's General Staff also commissioned a research team headed by Major Nicolae Anghel and Capitan [captain] Engineer Gheorghe Sambotin to develop a new heavily-armoured tank destroyer, ideally from original or indigenous designs rather than an adaptation of any existing vehicle. With the assistance of both Locotenent Colonel [lieutenant colonel] Constantin Ghiulai and the directing engineer of the Malaxa [later renamed Rogifer] Factory, Radu Veres, the first prototype, utilising the chassis of a captured Soviet T-60 light tank fitted with a heavily-armoured tortoise-like superstructure encasing a M1904/1930 122mm howitzer of 12 caliber length (another captured Soviet weapon) with a co-axially mounted 7.92mm machine gun, was soon assembled and tested at the end of July 1943.
Initial concerns for this unorthodox design, primarily whether the weighty superstructure, with its eight to nearly twelve inch thick armour plate, might, when coupled with the recoil from such a large-bore armament, flip the vehicle on its side, proved groundless, although tests soon showed the T-60's original power plant to be rather underpowered (test firings also sheered off some of the gun's mounting bolts, while the heavily-loaded suspension often resulted in track slippage, but these could be corrected), and additional prototypes of what was now officially designated as the Vanatorul de Care Maresal or Maresal Tank Destroyer (named for Maresal, or Marshal Ion Antonescu, who had personally encouraged the project) were ordered.
Under the direction of what was known as "M Staff", three prototypes designated M-01 to M-03 (the original vehicle was now known as M-00), were assembled and presented for testing by mid-October 1943. These three trials vehicles resembled the original prototype but incorporated such improvements as welded armour plates, a more powerful (120 as opposed to 85 horsepower) engine, and a chassis modified to be both longer and wider then the original T-60 tank so as to better accommodate both the increased weight load and excessive howitzer recoil. As with the first prototype, the crew was limited to two members, and while performance during testing proved more than adequate, use of the Soviet 122mm howitzer for main armament was cumbersome at best (and stowage for the oversized hollow-charge shells very limited), prompting a revision in armament, and at a demonstration conducted for Maresal Antonescu at Suditi on 23rd October 1943 one of the members of "M Staff", Locotenent Colonel Paul Draghiescu, encouraged using the new M1943 75mm Resita antitank cannon just entering production. Already impressed by the Resita's performance, Antonescu readily agreed, with subsequent Maresals fitted with the 75mm gun.
In preparation for large-scale production, a delegation from "M Staff" contacted the Hotchkiss firm in France to arrange for the supply of a thousand or more engines, while also approaching German suppliers for additional components, actions which by the end of 1943 naturally drew attention from Germany to this new design; indeed, evidence suggests that the Maresal tank destroyer, already in an advanced stage of development, served as the inspiration for Germany's own Hetzer tank destroyer based on the Panzer 38(t) (or perhaps more accurately the Czech CKD LT vz. 38), which, due to greater German industrial facilities, ironically entered service long before any Maresals became operational (Germany even offered to provide Romania with a batch of Hetzers for orientation purposes, which in the event of the 23rd August 1944 Armistice were never delivered). A fifth Maresal prototype, designated M-04 and incorporating the 75mm Resita antitank cannon as well as a new Hotchkiss engine, was completed between November 1943 and late January 1944, commencing trials early in February 1944.
Armour on the M-04 was reduced to thicknesses of 10 to 20mm, the thicker plates of the earlier models proving excessive for the heavily-loaded chassis as well as beyond the capacity of local resources (M-03 appears to have been constructed of 10mm mild steel plate rather than face-hardened armour, perhaps to evaluate this lighter design). Tests into the spring of 1944 were eventually followed by a fifth prototype, M-05, assembled locally with little foreign assistance outside of the French-built engine, tracks from the Czech-based CKD firm, and a German-supplied radio; still, quite an accomplishment for a country with virtually no indigenous armour industry. Although tests of the M-05 continued well into the summer of 1944, and indeed yet another prototype, the M-06, was later assembled, the Royal Romanian Army (or rather the Mechanised Troops Command) ordered on 10th May 1944 an initial batch of one thousand Maresal tank destroyers which would equip no fewer than thirty-two new tank destroyer battalions (each of thirty vehicles), the first seven such formations scheduled for service sometime in the autumn.
Plans for the procurement of these vehicles were ingenious, entailing an international consortium of suppliers from France, Czechoslovakia, Austria, and even Switzerland and Sweden, with final assembly at the Malaxa, or by now the Rogifer, factory. Components for a limited test run of ten pre-production vehicles, known as Series 0, were produced in March, with two further batches of forty and fifty begun early in May; however, delays in deliveries of necessary foreign-supplied parts, together with disruptions caused by Allied bombings of Romanian facilities, prevented the assembly of any of these vehicles, all of which were based upon the M-05 prototype. A revised timetable set back production of the first two hundred Maresals until 1 November 1944, with the remaining eight hundred, expected to incorporate further improvements and modifications as determined by tests of the as-yet unfinished M-06 prototype, scheduled to commence sometime in January 1945. The Allied invasion of France in the summer of 1944 also brought an end to the prospect of any Hotchkiss engines being delivered, although by now German interest was such that they offered supplies of Czech-built engines of even greater power (160 and upgraded 220 horsepower sizes) as a substitute. Testing of the various Maresal prototypes together with preparations for series production proceeded into the summer of 1944, the M-05 successfully completing trials until the events surrounding the 23rd August 1944 Armistice brought an abrupt end to German-Romanian collaboration.
Limited progress on the Maresal project continued for several months, including further tests of the M-05 (final status of the M-06 model is unclear, but it does not appear to have been finished) and the ten Series 0 vehicles proceeding to an advanced stage of assembly when, on 26th October 1944 Romania's new Soviet ally promptly confiscated all existing models as well as most of the design work and any unfinished components. At least one Maresal prototype is rumored to survive in Soviet captivity, er, storage, but has yet to appear with any museum display.
In the summer of 1944 Germany expressed interest in the Maresal tank destroyer, even proposing the production of several dozen equipped with 3.7cm flak cannon; however, the only source which mentions this projected variant (i.e. Axworthy) provides no further details as to specifications. It seems likely they may have resembled similarly adapted Hetzers, but this remains only speculation. It is also possible that if such a version entered production, later models may have been armed with the new 3cm antiaircraft cannon as with the "Kugelblitz" prototypes developed early in 1945, but again this is pure semi-informed (or perhaps more self-deluded) conjecture.
In the latter half of 1942 the Romanian Army considered several modifications to improve the combat value of its Renault R-35 tanks. Minor improvements such as the fitting of all-steel bogie wheels increased the vehicle's serviceability, but the tank's underpowered 37mm armament was increasingly outclassed by Soviet tanks. Attempts at addressing this deficiency resulted in developing a prototype mating the R-35 chassis with the turret and 45mm cannon of the Soviet T-26 tank, numbers of which had been captured earlier in the war, while a later design called for mounting this turret with the locally-produced Schneider 47mm antitank cannon. However, by December 1942 a design team led by Locotenant-Colonel [Lieutenant-Colonel] Constantin Ghiulai and Capitan [Captain] Dumitru Hogea modified the existing R-35 turret to mount the 45mm cannon originally carried in the Soviet T-26 tank.
Trials with a prototype from February thru the summer of 1943 determined the cannon's improved firepower justified both the loss of a coaxial machine gun and diminished ammunition stowage, and a number of R-35s were taken on hand for modification. Romanian facilities being what they were, barely a dozen had been modified by March 1944, with a total of thirty completed and returned to field service by June 1944. Plans to modify additional R-35s beginning in July 1944 were ultimately canceled following the Armistice of 23rd August 1944.
Combat service for the Vanatorul de Care R-35 began in the late summer of 1944, two squadrons attached to the 3rd Army probably crossing swords, er, turrets?, with advancing Soviet forces in July and August, with subsequent action while participating in anti-Axis operations following the 23 August 1944 Armistice. Details on their service are sketchy, complicated by a tendency on the part of the Romanians to lump converted Vanatoruls with unmodified R-35s; however, two companies of Vanatorul R-35s were included with the 2nd Armoured Regiment during operations in Czechoslovakia and Austria in February 1945. Battle losses combined with general attrition appear to have claimed all Vanatorul R-35s by the end of the War.
Crow's book on armoured cars suggests that a few of these light four-wheeled armoured cars manufactured by Poland in the mid-1930's may have been included with Polish Army elements interned in Romania at the end of September 1939 and subsequently impressed into service with the Royal Romanian Army; however, details and further confirmation are lacking Axworthy, for example makes no mention of any Ursus armoured cars in Romanian service.
On the other hand, Barbarski (cited under POLISH ARMOUR) tells of an armoured car of the Polish Army's Training Center which reached the Polish-Romanian frontier only to be pushed into a gorge by its crew when the terrain proved impassable, while Zaloga's article on Romanian armour leaves the door open for speculation by saying that of some ten or fifteen Polish AFV's that crossed the Romanian border they were only "...mostly worn-out TK and TKS tankettes"so perhaps other armoured cars *might* have found their way across the frontier. Another possibility is their being passed on via Germany as captured war booty following Romania's adherence to the Axis Alliance; still, their use by Romania remains speculative.
Relations between the two nations during the interwar years were more than cordial for the Balkans, and both countries were allies under the French-sponsored Little Entente; indeed, Romania had no political designs upon any Yugoslav territories, despite the inevitable presence of Romanian ethnic minorities in eastern Yugoslavia, as shown in both Eugene Boia's ROMANIA'S DIPLOMATIC RELATIONS WITH YUGOSLAVIA IN THE INTERWAR PERIOD 1919-1941 (Columbia University Press, 1993) and Dov Lungu's ROMANIA AND THE GREAT POWERS, 1933-1940 ( Duke University Press, 1989). Romania refrained from any military actions in support of the German invasion of Yugoslavia in April 1941, while as related in K. St. Pavlowitch's "Yugoslavia and Rumania, 1941" (JOURNAL OF CENTRAL EUROPEAN AFFAIRS, Volume 23, Number 4, January 1964) certain Yugoslav forces, such as military aircraft, either crashed en route to the Soviet Union or sought internment on Romanian soil; indeed, fistfights often broke out between Romanian and German soldiers when Romanians attempted to provide food and care to the many columns of Yugoslav prisoners being marched into Romania under German guard. With this in mind, the possibility of quantities of Yugoslav military equipment, either from these instances or any subsequent German shipments of captured Yugoslav arms, passing into Romanian hands cannot be ruled out. Regarding examples of armoured vehicles, in 1941 the Yugoslav Army possessed small numbers of French tanks such as the Renault FT and R-35, both of which were operated by the Royal Romanian Army who would doubtless have welcomed a supply of replacements or spares; however, pending further details, such use (or even its receipt) must remain purely speculative.
One Zrinyi was reported captured during the fighting inTransylvania in the fall of 1944 and pressed into service locally by theRomanians; final disposition uncertain but may have been confiscated by theSoviets at the end of the war.
As always, the perpetually overworked and oft-unappreciated staff of the near-legendary, if not outright mythical, Nordost Research Archives deserve special mention for their obtuse, er, dedicated efforts in rummaging thru numberless files to provide sources whose contributions range from a passing reference or illustration to general historical background on Romania (thanks, guys!). Lastly, a special thanks to the various members of the WW2 Discussion List and other assorted internet contacts who either pestered, er, ah, encouraged me to actually compile and post this rambling monstrosity or otherwise contributed to its fomentation. Doubtless I'm going to forget someone here, and if so I humbly apologise, but the ones I at least remembered to write down where I wouldn't lose their names are Bob Cowan, Tom ["Renault FT"] Downs, Radu Murgescu Jr., Chris [thanks for the photocopies!] Steadman and Mike ["Calarasi"] Yaklich (and in all fairness I'd probably better include Mark Axworthy, George Nafziger, Larry Watts and Steve Zaloga, for although I've never had the pleasure of meeting any of these esteemed gentlemen, without their work mine would've been nigh-unto impossible!)
[n.a.] ARMATA ROMANA IN AL DOILEA RAZBOI MONDIAL / ROMANIAN ARMY IN WORLD WAR II. Bucuresti: Editura Meridiane, 1995. [thanks again, Radu, for making this one available! GAK]
Axworthy, Mark & Scafes, Cornel & Craciunoiu, Cristan. THIRD AXIS, FOURTH ALLY: ROMANIAN ARMED FORCES IN THE EUROPEAN WAR, 1941-1945. London: Arms & Armour Press, 1995.
Axworthy, Mark. THE ROMANIAN ARMY OF WORLD WAR 2. London: Osprey Publications, 1991 (Osprey Men-At-Arms, No. 246).
Ibid. "Marshal Antonescu's Influence on Weapons Procurements from Germany, 1940-1944." ROMANIAN CIVILIZATION, Spring 1998.
Chamberlain, Peter, & Ellis, Chris. AXIS COMBAT TANKS. New York: Arco Publishing, 1978, c1977. (World War 2 Fact Files series)
Ibid., PICTORIAL HISTORY OF TANKS OF THE WORLD, 1915-1945. New York: Galahad Books, [1973?].
Ibid., ENCYCLOPEDIA OF GERMAN TANKS OF WORLD WAR TWO. London: Arms & Armour Press, 1993, c1978 (revised edition)
Crow, Duncan & Icks, Robert J. ENCYCLOPEDIA OF TANKS. Secaucus NJ:Chartwell Books, 1975.
Ibid., ENCYCLOPEDIA OF ARMOURED CARS. Secaucus NJ: Chartwell Books, 1976.
Dallin, Alexander J. ODESSA, 1941-1944: A CASE STUDY OF SOVIET TERRITORY UNDER FOREIGN RULE. Santa Monica, CA: Rand Corporation, 1957.
Dragan, Joseph C. ANTONESCU: MARSHAL AND RULER OF ROMANIA, 1940-1944. Bucharest: Editure Europa Nova, 1995.
Doyle, H. C. & Kliment, C.K. CZECHOSLOVAK ARMOURED FIGHTING VEHICLES, 1918-1945. Watford [UK]: Bellona Publications, 1979.
Dublicki, Tadeusz. WOJSKO POLSKIE W RUMUNII 1939-1941. Warsaw: Warszawska Oficynia Wydawnicza, 1994.
Kliment, Charles K. & Francev, Vladimír. CZECHOSLOVAK ARMORED FIGHTING VEHICLES 1918-1948. Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 1997
Leitz, Christian. "Arms as Levers: Materiel and Raw Materials in Germany's Trade with Romania in the 1930's." THE INTERNATIONAL HISTORY REVIEW, May 1997.
Madej, W. Victor (ed.) SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE AXIS ARMED FORCES ORDER OF BATTLE & SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE AXIS ARMIES HANDBOOK Allentown PA: Game Marketing Company, 1982. [reprints of US Army wartime intelligence reports]
Muller-Hillebrand, Burkhart. GERMANY AND ITS ALLIES IN WORLD WAR II: A RECORD OF AXIS COLLABORATION PROBLEMS.
Nafziger, George F. RUMANIAN ORDER OF BATTLE WORLD WAR II: AN ORGANIZATIONAL HISTORY OF THE RUMANIAN ARMY, 1939-1945. Pisgah OH: [privately published], 1995.
Zaloga, Stephen. T-34/76 MEDIUM TANK 1941-1945. London, Osprey, 1994
Ibid., "Romanian Armour in World War Two." MILITARY MODELLING, November 1987.
Ibid., "Soviet Artillery Tractors 1940-1945." AFV NEWS, January 1978.
Ibid., "Factory Tanks of Odessa." AFV NEWS, July 1979.
Zaloga, Stephen J. & Grandsen, James. THE EASTERN FRONT: ARMOR CAMOUFLAGE AND MARKINGS, 1941 TO 1945. Carrollton, TX: Squadron/Signal Publications, c1983.
Zaloga, Stephen J. & Kinnear, Jim. T-35-85 MEDIUM TANK 1944-1994. London, Osprey, 1996