Operation Hubertus (iv)

Hubert

This was the German plan for the defence of the Moldavia and Bukovina regions of north-eastern Romania by substantial portions of Generaloberst Johannes Friessner’s Heeresgruppe ‘Südukraine’, which in August 1944 became Heeresgruppe ‘Süd’ and on 28 December was entrusted to General Otto Wöhler (1944).

Commanded by Wöhler, the Armeegruppe ‘Wöhler’ was allocated the task of defending Moldavia and Bukovina, between the Yablonitse Pass and Korneshti, against any Soviet offensive. The Armeegruppe ‘Wöhler’ comprised Wöhler’s own 8th Army and General de corp de armatâ Mihail Racovita’s (from 23 August General de corp de armatâ Ilie Steflea’s) Romanian 4th Army. The strategic task demanded of the Armeegruppe ‘Wöhler’ was thus to prevent Marshal Sovetskogo Soyuza Rodion Ya. Malinovsky’s 2nd Ukrainian Front from breaking through the south-eastern end of the Carpathian mountains into central Romania before wheeling to the north-west in order to push over the Transylvanian Alps into Hungary and Austria.

However, the forces available to Heeresgruppe ‘Südukraine’ were wholly inadequate for the task of halting the 2nd and 3rd Ukrainian Fronts. In the event Malinovsky did not essay a major offensive into Bukovina, contenting himself rather by pinning the Axis forces in this area with frontal attacks by General Leytenant Filipp F. Zhmachenko’s 40th Army (in conjunction with General Leytenant Yevgeni P. Zhuravlyov’s 18th Army of General [from 12 September Marshal Sovetskogo Soyuza] Fyedor I. Tolbukhin’s 4th Ukrainian Front) when the 'Iassy-Kishinev Strategic Offensive Operation' began on 20 August 1944. The main weight of Malinovsky’s forces was thus able to fall on Moldavia on the junction of Armeegruppe ‘Wöhler’ with General de armatâ Petre Dumitrescu’s Armeegruppe ‘Dumitrescu’ (General Maximilian Fretter-Pico’s German 6th Army and Dumitrescu’s own Romanian 3rd Army) holding Bessarabia, the region between Moldavia and the coast of the Black Sea.

Here General Leytenant Andrei G. Kravchenko’s 6th Tank Army, General Leytenant Sergei G. Trofimenko’s 27th Army, General Leytenant Konstantin K. Koroteyev’s 52nd Army, General Leytenant Ivan M. Managarov’s 53rd Army and General Leytenant Mikhail S. Shumilov’s 7th Guards Army, supported by General Leytenant Sergei I. Gorshkov’s Cavalry Mechanised Group ‘Gorshkov’, smashed through the junction of the Romanian 4th Army and German 6th Army, and made for Galatu on the lower reaches of the Danube river, trapping the German 6th Army and Romanian 3rd Army, and securing a bridgehead on 29 August.

The total failure of Heeresgruppe ‘Südukraine’ to check the 'Jassy-Kishinev Strategic Offensive Operation' can be attributed in part to the vastly superior size and capabilities of the Soviet forces opposing it, but also in part the defection of its Romanian elements on 22 August, when Romania concluded an armistice with the Allies and then declared war on Germany during 25 August after Hitler had ordered Luftwaffe aircraft to bomb those parts of Bucharest containing the palace and the residence of the prime minister.

This debacle allowed Malinovsky’s armies to reach Bucharest and Ploieşti by the end of August before turning west and then north-west toward Hungary. The failure of ‘Hubertus’ (iv) can be seen in the fact that the whole of Romania was in Soviet hands by the early part of October 1944.