Operation Battle of Turda

The 'Battle of Turda' was fought between Allied and Axis forces in the area round Turda in Romania within the context of the large 'Battle of Romania' as formations of the Hungarian 2nd Army and German 8th Army fought a defensive action against the Romanian 4th Army and Soviet 27th Army (5 September/8 October 1944).

Before the battle, and at about the time of Romania’s 23 August change of allegiance from the Axis to the Allied side, Soviet units of General Rodion Ya. Malinovsky’s 2nd Ukrainian Front occupied the Vulcan pass, as well as the cities of Brașov and Sibiu, and planned to capture Cluj, the historical capital of Transylvania, without much effort. While continuing to advance toward the Mureș river, which Vezérőrnagy Zoltán Zsedényi’s Hungarian 2nd Armoured Division had been able to cross, the Soviet forces met and stopped the Hungarian units, and Altábornagy Géza Lakatos’s (from 23 August Altábornagy Lajos Veres von Dalnoki’s) Hungarian 2nd Army was forced to take a defensive stance on 10 September 1944.

The Stavka was surprised by the unexpected Hungarian offensive, and decided to strengthen its forces in the area to prevent another such offensive. It also launched an attack on Turda, in tandem with General de corp de armatâ Ilie Șteflea’s (from 4 September General de corp de armatâ Gheorghe Avramescu’s) Romanian 4th Army. The town was originally defended by Vezérőrnagy Antal Benda’s (from late September Vezérőrnagy László Hollósy-Kuthy’s) weak Hungarian 25th Division, which had only about three battalions immediately available. The other three were delayed by various rearguard actions, and were not expected before 13 September. The advancing Soviet armoured units were stopped by the 3/25th Division (headquartered at Oradea) at the road intersection at Vințu de Sus on 13 September. The first three Soviet tanks were knocked out by the Hungarian anti-tank gun section of the 3/225th Division, but the rest of the armoured column then fanned out and attacked the defenders. With the help of a German anti-tank unit, the Hungarians knocked out another 17 Soviet tanks. The attack was thus stopped, and the Soviets regrouped and retreated to defensive positions.

The Soviets and their Romanian ally attacked again on 14 September to the west of Turda. Luckily for the Hungarians, the 2nd Mountain Replacement Brigade had just arrived in this area, and was able to stem the onslaught. The Soviets switched their efforts to the eastern sector in the afternoon, and there broke through and reached the outskirts of Turda. The town was held by the Axis forces as a result of a well-timed counterattack by the 25th Division.

On 15 September, the Soviets and Romanians launched a major attack to the south of Turda, preceded by a heavy artillery bombardment. They broke through once more in the eastern sector all the way to the outskirts of the town, but were again stopped by the counterattack of the 2nd Armoured Division. A temporary lull in the fighting ensued, which the Hungarians used to prepare for a counterattack. On 19 September, the 25th Division, supported by the 10th Assault Gun Battalion with Zrínyi II assault guns, attacked the Soviet 4th Guards Rifle Division after a brief artillery barrage. The Hungarians gained some ground, but the Soviets fought tenaciously and held their ground despite heavy losses. The Soviets then counterattacked with three Soviet and one Romanian division, supported by one tank brigade and a Romanian armoured detachment, on 22 September. The 2nd Armoured Division counterattacked with only 57 tanks and could not stop their attackers. The Hungarians lost more than 1,000 men on this day alone.

On 23 September, Generalleutnant Josef von Radowitz’s 23rd Panzerdivision arrived to relieve the exhausted 2nd Armoured Division, but was unable to stabilise the situation and in the process lost more than one-third of its infantry. Luckily for the Axis forces, the Soviets and Romanians at this point had also had enough, suffering heavy losses, and concentrated their attacks on another sector. The 25th Division remained in Turda until 8 October, when the remaining Axis forces retreated in order to shorten their lines.