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Prelude to Blitzkrieg

The 1916 Austro-German Campaign in Romania

Michael B. Barrett

Publication Year: 2013

In contrast to the trench-war deadlock on the Western Front, combat in Romania and Transylvania in 1916 foreshadowed the lightning warfare of WWII. When Romania joined the Allies and invaded Transylvania without warning, the Germans responded by unleashing a campaign of bold, rapid infantry movements, with cavalry providing cover or pursuing the crushed foe. Hitting where least expected and advancing before the Romanians could react—even bombing their capital from a Zeppelin soon after war was declared—the Germans and Austrians poured over the formidable Transylvanian Alps onto the plains of Walachia, rolling up the Romanian army from west to east, and driving the shattered remnants into Russia. Prelude to Blitzkrieg tells the story of this largely ignored campaign to determine why it did not devolve into the mud and misery of trench warfare, so ubiquitous elsewhere.

Published by: Indiana University Press

Series: Twentieth-Century Battles


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Frontispiece, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-viii

List of Maps

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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xviii

Although every war has its iconic imagery, none matches the grim horror of the Western Front during World War I. Materialschlacht was the German term for the carnage, a word as brutal sounding as its portrayal of industrial-scale slaughter. Trenches, barbed wire, poison gas, artillery barrages, and machine guns mowing down mud-soaked millions formed the landscape of the Western Front. ...

Selected Abbreviations

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pp. xix-xx

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1. Romania Enters the War

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pp. 1-31

At 3 PM, 27 August 1916, traffic ceased along the five hundred miles of the Austrian-Romanian border. The change took a while to register with the Austrian guards, because Romanian soldiers initially stopped the flow a dozen miles from their side of the border. The Austrians first noticed things were amiss when scheduled trains failed to appear. ...

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2. The Central Powers Respond

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pp. 32-59

The Romanian invasion proved too much for the kaiser, who sacked von Falkenhayn, replacing him with Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg (1847–1934) and Lieutenant General Erich Ludendorff (1865–1937). After taking over the headquarters of the German High Command at Pless in Silesia on 29 August 1916, ...

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3. The First Dobrogea Campaign

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pp. 60-92

Late in the afternoon of 1 September, the commander of the 3rd Bulgarian Army, General Stefan Toshev (1859–1924), advised his superior, German Field Marshal von Mackensen, that his men could not commence crossing the Romanian frontier at midnight as ordered. Just the day before, von Mackensen had gone over everything with Toshev in the latter’s headquarters at Gorne Orechevita, ...

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4. Clearing Transylvania

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pp. 93-126

The officers of the 9th German Army assembled in the swaying dining car of their troop train, racing east across Hungary. Von Falkenhayn, their newly assigned commander, wanted to talk to them about what they were likely to face when they reached their as yet unknown destination in the province of Transylvania. ...

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5. The Second Dobrogea Campaign

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pp. 127-152

Field Marshal von Mackensen had just walked out of the command post of the Bulgarian 1st Division at Adamclisi when he received the electrifying news that a substantial Romanian force had crossed the Danube near Rjahovo. Earlier that morning he had been at the front in Polucci, where he had seen for the first time the so-called wonder of German engineering, ...

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6. Stalemate in the Mountains

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pp. 153-210

In one of the rooms in Marienburg Castle, in Feldiora, Generals von Falkenhayn and Goldbach stood at a table, talking and occasionally pointing to a map on the table. Accompanying Goldbach, the commander of the Austrian 71st Division, was Major Rudolf Kiszling, his division’s general staff officer (chief of staff). In the distance, the sounds of battle echoed: ...

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7. Moldavia: The Forgotten Front

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pp. 211-237

In early September the Russians attacked the Austrian 7th Army and the German South Army north of Transylvania, in the Austrian province called the Bucovina. The South Army had been set up by the Germans a year before to stiffen the Austrians. It was a joint army, with more Austrian than German divisions. ...

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8. The Drive across Walachia

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pp. 238-273

The soldiers of the 26th Prussian Infantry Regiment with their artillery started marching south toward Romania at 5 AM. The regiment belonged to the 109th Division. The division’s gunners had spent the freezing night bivouacked in the open, just to the east of the Lainici Monastery, the only spot in the Szurduk Pass wide enough to accommodate the horse park for the artillery. ...

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9. The Fall of Bucharest and the End of the 1916 Campaign

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pp. 274-297

Bucharest had no real military value, but its capture would have immense political repercussions. After the blows dealt in the spring of 1916 at Verdun and in the summer by the Russian Brusilov offensive, taking the city would show the Entente and the world that the Central Powers were still in the picture. ...

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10. Conclusion

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pp. 298-314

The Germans viewed the Romanian Campaign as an extraordinary triumph and vindication of the annihilation strategy espoused by the new occupants in Pless. Armies from the Central Powers had neutralized Romania in just over four months. The Romanian capital had fallen. ...


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pp. 315-372


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pp. 373-382


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pp. 383-400

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Other Works in the Series, About the Author

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pp. 424-425

Michael B. Barrett did his undergraduate work in languages at The Citadel, where he was a Distinguished Military Graduate. After active-duty military service, he completed his PhD at the University of Massachusetts, studying modern German history, and was a Fulbright Scholar in West Germany at the Universities of Freiburg and Munich. ...

E-ISBN-13: 9780253008701
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253008657

Page Count: 424
Illustrations: 32 b&w illus., 15 maps
Publication Year: 2013

Series Title: Twentieth-Century Battles