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Petre Dumitrescu

Petre Dumitrescu (February 18, 1882 - January 15, 1950) was a Romanian general during World War II, who led the Romanian Third Army on its campaign against the Soviet Union in the southwest.


Early life and military career

Dumitrescu was born in Dobridor, Dolj. He began his military training at the Artillery and Engineers Officers' School in 1901, graduating in 1903 with the rank of second lieutenant. Dumitrescu was promoted to lieutenant in 1906 and, five years later, to captain. That year, he was admitted into the Military Academy at Bucharest, graduating in 1913.

When World War I started, Dumitrescu was a major. Following the war, he climbed higher and higher in the military hierarchy, become a lieutenant colonel in 1920, a brigadier in 1930 and a major general in 1937. Between 1937 and the beginning of World War II, Dumitrescu served as a military attaché in both Paris and Brussels. After returning to Romania from these postings, he was given command of the First Army.

Initial successes

However, on March 25, 1941, he was made commander of the Third Army, a post which he would hold for the duration of the war. Dumitrescu July 5, 1941 attacked northern Bukovina and took Cernăuţi (Chernivtsi), reclaiming territory occupied by Soviet troops since June 28, 1940. He then crossed the Prut to recover northern Bessarabia. The German Eleventh Army covered Dumitrescu's right flank while he advanced towards the Dnister. At that point his army and the German 11th army switched places, with Germans continuing advancement over the Dniester towards the South Bug river, and Dumitrescu remaining on recovered Romanian territory. In September of that year, Dumitrescu repulsed a Soviet attempt to cross the Dniestr in the east, behind the Eleventh Army.

After Hitler has convinced Ion Antonescu to continue war beyond Romania's pre-1940 borders, Dumitrescu then led the Third Army to the Crimea, taking part in the Battle of the Sea of Azov. By October 10, the Third Army had marched 1,700 kilometres from Romania, fought four major battles and 42 minor engagements.

By this time, Dumitrescu's Third Army had captured 15,565 prisoners of war, 149 tanks, 128 artillery pieces, and more than 700 machine guns, while suffering 10,541 casualties (2,555 dead, 6,201 wounded and 1,785 missing in action.)

For his effort in this campaign, Dumitrescu was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross, the second Romanian to receive the award after Ion Antonescu. Later on he was even given the Oak Leaves. In October, he was awarded the Order of Michael the Brave, 3rd class.

On July 18, 1942 he was made a general, thus becoming Antonescu's second in command. Shortly after his promotion, Dumitrescu advanced towards the Taman Peninsula between the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea, creating a vital bridge between Axis forces in Europe and those deeper inside the Soviet Union.

The beginning of the end

The German forces within Stalingrad were in dire need of assistance, and German High Command transferred many of Dumitrescu's troops to the besieged city, meaning that the Third Army now had fewer troops to defend an increasingly large front with. This was ameliorated, to a certain degree, by High Command's decision to incorporate all Romanian forces in the southwest of the Soviet Union into the Third Army. High Command, however, chose to ignore Dumitrescu's reports about Soviet buildup in the southwest, as they did with his repeated suggestions to attack the Soviet bridgehead at Kletskaya.

In November 1942 the Red Army launched a devastating attack in the southwest, breaking through the Romanian line and forcing Dumitrescu into retreat.

For a brief period, the Third Army dug in near the Chir river, but Soviet troops pushed them back. In December, 1943, the decision was made to strategically retreat westwards.

After the Battle of Romania (1944), Dumitrescu's plan was to reach Bucharest and avoid any engagements with the Red Army along the way. However, Red Army troops ambushed Dumitrescu. When what remained of the Third Army arrived in Bucharest, the Soviets had captured more than 130,000 Romanian soldiers.

By this time, however, as with the rest of Romania, Dumitrescu had turned against Nazi Germany and had captured more than 6,000 German prisoners of war.

After the war

Dumitrescu was put on trial for war crimes by the new communist government, but was eventually acquitted because of a lack of evidence. He died of natural causes at his Bucharest home in 1950.

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