We've been discussing the inclusion of Germany's allies in the upcoming Eastern Front CM titles; perhaps a primer on who fought on the non-Finnish fronts will be of interest:
Bulgaria had a deep rooted mistrust and fear of the Soviet Union who sought greater influence there; and declaration of war on 13 December 1941 was aimed at Britain and America so as not to antagonize Stalin. While Bulgaria did not send troops to fight against Russia, their army did conduct garrison and anti-partisan duties - a role their army conducted with great efficiency. Bulgaria let German troops pass through during the fighting in Yugoslavia and Greece in the spring of 1941, even offering flank protection to German forces fighting the Greeks along the Metaxas Line.
Bulgaria's reward was 50,000 square kilometres of new territory, and Bulgarian troops served in anti-partisan duties in former Greek and Yugoslavian areas such as Macedonia, Thrace and Salonika, as well as spending three years in western Macedonia and Serbia defending German supply lines. The latter areas, annexed officially by Bulgaria in May 1941, were ruthlessly policed, so much so that no partisan movements developed until 1944.
The best troops of the Bulgarian army deployed along the Turkish frontier, fearing intervention on the part of the Allies, while reservists served on security duties and gained a reputation for ill discipline and harsh treatment of civilians. Bulgaria's hatred of the Turks and Greeks made them a politically reliable ally, and though even the best of the Bulgarian army would have been of questionable value on the Russian Front, they performed their security duties well. When Tsar Boris III died in 1944, with Soviet forces on Hungary's border, a pro-Allied coup in September saw Bulgaria switch sides. Morale under the new Soviet command was poor, and Bulgarian forces did not have much success in their new role of harassing the German retreat from Greece and the Aegean. Some Bulgarian forces advanced as far as Austria, linking with British forces shortly after VE Day.
In 41 months of anti-partisan duties, 1,000 soldiers and policemen of a force of 100,000 had been killed. Under the brief period of Soviet command in the last months of the war, the 450,000 man Bulgarian army lost over 30,000 killed, wounded and missing.
Hungary had a long tradition of power as an ally of the Holy Roman Empire, and later member of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and proudly fought alongside Germany in the First World War, and like Germany, was greatly reduced in power after their defeat. Limited to an army of 35,000 men, the Kingdom of Hungary had also been reduced by nearly two-thirds of its territory and population by the 1920 Treaty of Trianon. Hungary therefore had scores to settle, developing close links with Fascist Italy and more reluctantly with Nazi Germany. Rearmament began in earnest in 1939, especially after obtaining southern Slovakia in 1938. Hitler allowed Hungary to take Ruthenia back from the Czechs in March 1939, and in August 1940 Hitler arranged for northern Transylvania to transfer from Romania to Hungary. It is noted that the Germans later found it necessary, once fighting in the Soviet Union, to keep Hungarian and Romanian units as widely separated from each other as possible, lest they take to fighting each other rather than the Red Army.
Hungarian Divisions were notably smaller than those of other nationalities. Hungary was divided into nine corps areas for administrative purposes, each raised three Dandár or Light Divisions of a first-line and a reserve infantry regiment, each of three battalions, and an artillery regiment with just two battalions and 24 guns. At the corps level, a motorized infantry battalion existed on paper (in practice they were usually mounted on bicycles). In all, there were 26 divisions in these corps at the time of the occupation of Yugoslavia in April 1941. A mobile Corps contained a variety of motorized and cavalry brigades. Only the mobile corps and two brigades known as the Carpathian Group participated in the invasion of Russia. They were withdrawn in November 1941.
Security formations replaced the active Hungarian units in Russia, mostly for rear area duties though some front line assignments such as at Kharkov in February 1942 did occur. In the spring of 1942 these security forces were augmented with the 2nd Army of 9 infantry divisions and 1 armoured division.
In mid 1943 the Hungarians reorganized along German lines, with 3 infantry regiments per division, increasing to 3 or 4 artillery battalions and adding reconnaissance and engineer battalions to the regiments. The Infantry Divisions now became “Mixed Divisions”.
The new organization applied to the reduced strength 2nd, 5th, 8th, 21st, and 24th Infantry Brigades sent to the Eastern Front as of September 1941 as rear area and zone of communication security. The infantry and cavalry companies only had three platoons.
Hungary did not redesignate these brigades as "Security Brigades", but changed their numbers by adding “100” to become 102, 105, 108, 121, and 124. The Germans did designate them as Sicherungs-Brigade, but this was apparently for their own purposes and does not reflect proper Hungarian nomenclature. On 17 February 1942, Hungarian infantry brigades were redesignated as light divisions, but with no actual change in organization or strength.
The bulk of the Hungarian army deployed to the Carpathians in anticipation of Barbarossa, and Hungary sought to gain for itself while offering the Germans a minimum of assistance. During the invasion of Yugoslavia in April 1941, Hungary managed to regain almost all of the territory lost after the First World War, though naturally Yugoslavia was alienated just as Romania had been, and Hungary became very much dependent on German support for its own national security.
As repayment, Hungary offered assistance to the German forces involved in Barbarossa, and declared war on Russia on 27 June 1941. German and Hungarian officers worked well together at the tactical level; many senior Hungarian officers had experience in the Austrian Army during the First World War, and many Hungarian officers were in fact fluent in German. Hungarian troops were appalled by German policies towards civilians in the Soviet Union, and apparently tried to intervene in some cases (especially where Jews serving in Hungarian labour battalions were singled out for persecution). However, some Hungarian troops did also take part in questionable actions in Yugoslavia in 1941-42.
Hungarian troops did advance into the Ukraine, and across the Dniepr, and despite the very odd mix of horses, bicycles and civilian pattern vehicles, the so-called "Mobile Corps" fought well over a 600 mile advance to reach the Donets basin area - at the cost of 80 percent of its motorized transport and 26,000 casualties.
By the spring of 1942, a 200,000 man Hungarian army was mobilized, moving to defensive positions on the Don during June 1942, and staying there until smashed in a Russian winter offensive in January 1943, leaving behind 50,000 men as prisoners, and losing 30,000 more as casualties. The 2nd Hungarian Army was sent home in March 1943 (Hungary by this point had become what was described as a neutral country, free of rationing or compulsory military service). The 8th Hungarian Corps was the only formation to remain in action on the Eastern Front, and was called the "Dead Army" and consisted mostly of reserve regiments. The Corps was mostly engaged in anti-partisan work, along with many security formations in the Ukraine.
As time passed, Hungarian forces in the Ukraine formed truces with local partisans, again keeping with the theme of gaining for themselves with a minimum of assistance to the Germans. Hungarian troops did not fight at Kursk, nor did they take part in the reduction of the Warsaw uprising, where in fact one artillery unit tried to sell their guns to the insurgents; the Germans stopped this from occurring and understandably demanded the Hungarians be sent elsewhere.
Major reorganizations of the entire Hungarian military took place at this time, mid-1943, and Hitler became so worried about Hungary seeking to opt out of the war that German troops were ordered in during March and April of 1944. The Hungarian army was ordered not to resist, but ironically was mobilized fully for the first time during the war at this point.
In August 1944, Romania defected to the Allies, leaving Hungary's flank exposed. Hastily assembled units were moved to Transylvania, but Red Army and Romanian forces crossed the Carpathians and Hungarian units began individually defecting to the Soviets. Hungary proclaimed an armistice on 15 October 1944, but Vice Admiral Horthy, the Regent, was arrested and the Hungarian army was placed under German control directly. By December 1944, now stiffened with German troops, the Hungarian army retreated into Slovenia. Much fighting in Hungary itself raged through the early months of 1945, while a rival Hungarian government was set up by the Soviets and company and battalion sized Hungarian units were integrated into Soviet divisions. The new government promised Stalin 8 divisions - in the end only one was deployed - but the war was over before real combat could be entered into.
Hungary's contribution to the anti-partisan war had also been minimal; five divisions were provided to the Germans, though they were of poor quality The worst four were put in a minor sentry role, and the remaining division was used for railway security.
Between 136,000 and 148,000 Hungarian soldiers had died in the Second World War, with 50,000 more dying in Soviet captivity.
Romania had fought with the Allies in the Great War, gaining control of Bessarabia and Transylvania, both heavily populated by ethnic Romanians. Other ethnics did live in these regions, however, and the Soviet Union and Hungary both felt resentment towards the loss of territory in these regions. Romania opted for a defensive attitude between the wars, choosing to seek alliance with France, Czechoslovakia and Poland. By 1940, Romania's allies had been defeated militarily by Germany, and Romania in turn was forced to surrender much territory to the USSR, Hungary and Bulgaria. Dependent on Germany's favour for its continued existence, Romania officially joined the Axis on 23 November 1940.
While a member of the Axis, Romania maintained the third largest army to serve against the Soviets in eastern Europe, and in 1944-45 fielded the fourth largest army of all the Western Allies, after the USSR, US, and UK (putting some 538,000 troops into the field against the Axis). One of Romania's main war aims, similar to that of Finland, was the restoration of territory lost in 1940.
The territorial losses of 1940 reduced the manpower pool for the armed forces from 2,200,000 to 1,500,000, causing some disbandments of the recently re-armed and expanded active army.* After territory in Transylvania, Bessarabia and northern Bucovina were liberated from the Soviets, the manpower pool was increased, though shortages of weapons did not allow these manpower boosts to be translated directly into new field formations.
Romania's war leader (holding the title Conducator (Leader)) was General Armata Ion Antonescu, who suppressed an attempted coup on the current coalition government in January 1941 and remained in power until overthrown in August 1944. The Army itself suffered from a lack of NCOs; mass expansion of the Army during the war diluted the NCO corps and limited education and training only allowed for a minimum of competency among many.
The peasantry that contributed most of the rank and file were also ill-educated, not well trained, and ill-equipped. The Army was expanded from a total of 130,000 men under arms in 1937 to 686,000 at the start of Barbarossa. Even this total was doubled by June 1944. The Romanian Army desired full mechanization, but the single Ford motor plant in the nation could only produce some 10 vehicles a day; 1938 saw only 34,000 motor vehicles in the entire nation with 10,000 of them being trucks. Horses remained the main method of transport for artillery and equipment; some 525,000 horses were lost between 1941 and 1944 (from a national total of 1,268,000 equines.)
Romanian involvement in the anti-partisan war was limited; two divisions did security duty in Romanian occupied portions of the Ukraine, where there was little partisan activity in any event. Some 54,000 Romanian-born Germans also served in the SS and 15,000 more in the German Army and Organization Todt, with 6,000 Romanian-speaking soldiers serving directly in the German forces also. Romania had been the largest ally Germany had on the Russian Front between June 1941 and August 1944, and had been generally effective, inflicting punishment on the Soviets in equal measure for punishment taken until Stalingrad. A high proportion of Romania's 1.8 million man army saw action in the Soviet Union. Some 71,000 Romanians were killed fighting the Russians, with 234,000 wounded and 310,000 missing, most of whom were killed in action or died as POWs.
Romanian Infantry Divisions were modelled after the German divisions beginning in 1941. The 1942 division saw a decline in manpower and increase in firepower and specialist troops - infantry regiments were reduced to two battalions each, with increases in the reconnaissance, assault pioneer and artillery battalions.
In addition to Romania's 20 Infantry Divisions, there were six Reserve Divisions which had the same organization but manned by reservists with less training and in lower categories of fitness, also armed with older weapons. These were all disbanded in 1941 and used to form two Security Divisions.
Eventually three Security Divisions were formed in 1942 for rear areas duties in the Soviet Union and were disbanded in 1943. In addition to three standard infantry regiments, a weak reconnaissance battalion and a single 75mm artillery battalion, the division also had three gendarme battalions.
The Romanian Army remained essentially horsedrawn throughout the war, though the national herd of 1.2 million saw over 525,000 animals killed from 1941 to 1944. The entire nation had only 34,000 motor vehicles, military and civilian, in 1938, including 10,000 trucks, with a single Ford factory able to produce ten vehicles a day. At the start of the war, domestic 2 wheel drive Fords and imported 4 and 6 wheel drive trucks outfitted two rifle regiments, six cavalry regiments, the seven corps artillery regiments, and a variety of supporting units. Deliveries of German and Czech vehicles continued until 1944.
Armour was never available in quantity or of sufficiently modern design to be influential in combat against the Russians; by 1940 a single armoured division and an independent armoured regiment made up the nation's armoured assets. German refusal to grant licenses to build Czech tanks due to balance of power issues with Hungary upset the Romanians; nonetheless some armoured formations did see action. The 1st Armoured Division was successfully employed in Basarabia. At Odessa it was split up for infantry support. Returned to combat in August 1942 with R-2s, Panzer III and Panzer IV tanks, but was wiped out at Stalingrad with the loss of its vehicles. Rebuilt and redeployed in the summer of 1944 with Panzer IV ausf H, StuG III, Tacams and SdKfz 222s, and had one motorized infantry battalion upgraded to panzergrenadier status with armoured halftracks. Punished at Iassy in August, broke encirclement and fought in the Carpathians and Transylvania. The 2nd Armoured Regiment (independent) was employed at Odessa, the R35 tanks were inferior and the unit was broken up for training following the siege. After Stalingrad, German deliveries of Czech tanks enabled the unit to redeploy to the Kuban and Crimea, where these tanks were lost. The 2nd Armoured Division was very briefly formed from the 8th Motorized Division in August 1944. A Moto-Mechanized Corps was planned from a merger of 1st and 7th Cavalry Divisions and aborted after Stalingrad. The 5th and 8th Cavalry Divisions were then to be upgraded using their motorized regiments, but lack of vehicles saw the 5th Division fight largely on foot in 1944. The 1st remained horsed, and the 7th disbanded to reinforce the 1st, 5th and 8th. Finally, by late 1942, the six cavalry brigades each had a motorized cavalry regiment and until 1942 the brigade reconnaissance squadron had four R-1 light tanks. The Cavalry Corps deployed to the Kuban and Crimea, where their vehicles were lost in the evacuations of 1943-44.
At the time of Romania's defection, the 2nd Armoured Division, 2nd Armoured Regiment, depot elements of 1st Armoured Division, and the Cavalry and Armour schools represented what was left of Romanian armour, fielding mostly obsolete tanks. The Peace Treaty signed with Russia in October demanded the disbanding of the 1st Armoured Division and 5th Cavalry Division and turning in of AFVs, but the 2nd Armoured Regiment was permitted to go to the front in January 1945 with 79 vehicles of a wide variety of types, including captured Hungarian and German vehicles. By war's end only two were still in running condition. Other motorized units also saw the serviceability of their vehicles dwindle as the provision of spare parts and confiscation of vehicles by the Red Army made itself felt in the war's final months.
Three battalions of Marine Infantry (part of the Romanian naval service) saw action as the 1st Marine Detachment, usually as second-line troops in the Soviet Union, though in August 1944 they were engaged against both Russian and then German troops. The Air Force also trained ground troops, in particular a paratroop battalion raised in June 1941. The unit saw no action in Russia, but in August 1944 seized vital airfields around Bucharest, beating the German's own Brandenburg commandos to the punch, who lost a battalion of glider troops in their own operations in the area. The unit was disbanded in February 1945 having suffered heavily by an accidental bombing by US aircraft. The 4th Parachute Battalion consisted of two infantry companies, a support weapon company and a headquarters, and armament included large numbers of submachine guns in the rifle platoons (three per company), an HMG platoon in each company, a mortar platoon (60mm MTR) and an assault pioneer platoon in each company equipped with flamethrowers. The support weapons company included 47mm AT guns and 81mm MTRs, and headquarters included a bicycle mounted platoon.
Slovakia had belonged to Hungary before 1918; after Hitler took control of Czechoslovakia, he forced the Slovaks to split from the Czechs by threatening to turn them back to the Hungarians. On 14 March 1939, Slovakia officially split from Czechoslovakia, to enjoy the only real period of independence in their history. The Premier of the new state, a Catholic priest and fascist named Jozef Tiso, set up a model satellite patterned after their German masters, with a fascist government ruled by one party, and a state militia modelled after Germany's SA (Sturm Abteilung - Storm Troopers). Slovakia's army inherited Czech equipment and Czech officers, and by the time war erupted in Poland in 1939, the fledgling army assisted Germany, with two divisions occupying territory they claimed was theirs.
Slovakia, still afraid of Hungarian takeover, were among the first to join what Tiso called "the crusade against Bolshevism." A Slovak Army Corps of two divisions joined Germany's Army Group South in the earliest days of the Russian invasion. In August 1941, Slovak forces were reorganized, with the two divisions going on to serve seperately under German operational control in different regions of the southern front. The year 1943 saw more reorganizations, and as morale among the Slovaks began to wane, requests to relocate to the west were refused. After throwing Slovak units into the line after a breakthrough, without first getting approval from higher Slovak headquarters, the reliability of Slovak troops plunged, and in 1944 they were converted into Construction Brigades, serving in Romania, Hungary and Italy. Two other divisions organizing to defend the Carpathians in light of Russian advances westward were disbanded by the Germans after an uprising in August 1944. The uprising was put down by the Germans, with 3,000 resistance fighters killed and 10,000 more captured. In early 1945, with Tiso still in power supported by the state militia, all ethnic Germans serving in the Slovak Army were transferred to the Wehrmacht in exchange for German troops of Slovak ethnicity.
Mobile Division - two small infantry regiments (20th Infantry and 21st Infantry), one artillery regiment (three x 9-gun battalions), reconnaissance battalion. All divisional units were motorized, and a tank company with twelve tanks was also on strength. In 1943 the tank company was disbanded and the 1st Infantry Regiment joined the order of battle the same year, serving into 1944.
Security Division - two infantry regiments (101st Infantry and 102nd Infantry), a horse-drawn artillery regiment, a partially motorized reconnaissance battalion, and one armoured car platoon later transferred to the Mobile Division.
Both infantry divisions had partially mounted reconnaissance battalions and horse-drawn artillery:
1st Infantry Division - 1st, 2nd and 3rd Infantry Regiments.
2nd Infantry Division - 4th, 5th and 6th Infantry Regiments.
The Italian Army had been instrumental in implementing the foreign policy of their leader, Benito Mussolini ('Il Duce') almost as soon as he became the youngest national leader in modern Italian history. In 1923 a small force was sent to seize Corfu from the Greeks, though political pressure made him back down. But his dreams of a new Italian empire focused his gaze on other areas of the Mediterranean, the Balkans, and northeastern Africa. An Italian show of force in 1934 thwarted German unification with Austria, and diplomatic successes yielded new territories in Africa. Minor incidents in Abyssinia in 1934 precipitated the move of 12 divisions to East Africa, and hostilities were opened against Somalia in October 1935. In May 1936, despite official disapproval and sanctions by the League of Nations, Italy was victorious. Mussolini further flexed the Army's muscles by sending troops to fight in the Spanish Civil War in 1936. In April 1939, an unready Italian force seized control of Albania (to then a protectorate of Italy).
In the meantime, Italy had been drawn into Germany's sphere of influence, officially forming the Axis in May 1939. Mussolini fully realized Italy was unprepared to fight a major wars for several years (optimistic appraisals in September 1939 set the date of Italy's readiness at October 1942 at the earliest), and Hitler never informed his new ally of the attack on Poland. Mussolini, by now convinced of the myth of Italian military might that had been set by lucky successes in the 1930s, declared war on France and Britain in 1940.
Mussolini sent a 60,000 man force called the "Italian Expeditionary Corps in Russia" (Corpo Spedzione Italiane in Russia, or CSIR) to participate in Barbarossa, feeling it would bring prestige and material gains to support Germany in this endeavor. This initial corps of three divisions (Pasubio and Torino, both infantry divisions, as well as the 3rd Mobile Division), ostensibly motorized, followed the Germans of Army Group South into the Ukraine, mostly on foot. They were later joined by a Legion of Blackshirts. The CSIR impressed the Germans at first, but the initial high morale brought on by thoughts of an easy campaign (as France had been in 1940) waned as it became apparent the force had neither the leadership, armour, motorized transport or artillery and anti-tank weapons to be able to fight effectively.
Italian troops in Russia
Nevertheless, a 2nd Corps was also sent to Russia in March 1942 (Sforzesca, Ravenna and Cosseria Divisions), as well as an elite Alpine Corps of one infantry and three mountain divisions. More Blackshirt units also were added to the CSIR, now renamed the 35th Corps. This Italian force of 3 Corps eventually numbered over 225,000 men and was grouped to create the 8th Army. In August 1942 it found itself garrisoning the Don front after advancing with Army Group B to the north of Stalingrad. In December, an expected Soviet counterattack disintegrated the 2nd and 35th Corps, stranding the Alpine troops and creating a large breach in the Don line.
In January 1943 the remnants of the force assembled in the Ukraine and were returned to Italy by the Germans, with some small units staying behind to fight partisans. The 229,000 man 8th Army left behind 85,000 killed and missing men, and most of its artillery and motor vehicles.
Some historians argue that these forces might have had a larger impact on the outcome of the war had they been sent to North Africa in 1941 instead of being squandered in the Soviet Union. Mussolini was ousted in 1943 and the nation formally changed sides. Italian garrison forces in Yugoslavia numbered 17 divisions when Italy defected. Every commander refused to join the Germans; two divisions joined the Montenegrin Partisans as complete units, others surrendered to the Germans (their personnel were either imprisoned or executed), still more surrendered to the Croatians and Partisans, and still others simply dissolved, as individuals attempted escape to Italy. Germany occupied Rome, liberated Mussolini from Italian captivity and set into practice an existing contingency plan in which 22 divisions took over garrisons in Italy, Greece and Yugoslavia. Thousands of Italians died through both ruthless action by the Germans and vague instructions by their superiors. Eventually over 600,000 Italian soldiers were packed off to labour camps in Germany where 30,000 more died of neglect. As the Allies fought their way north in a campaign that lasted until May 1945, the former Italian armed forces found themselves divided.
The basic formation of the Italian Army was the infantry division. The often-quoted boast by Mussolini that the nation could muster eight million bayonets fell well short of the mark, with peak strength during the war coming at just over 2.5 million. In June 1940, the Army stood at 1,630,000 men under arms, divided into 73 divisions.
Cavalry and Lancer designations were purely traditional and all were equipped and organized alike. No cavalry served in the front lines in France in 1940; a handful of regiments served in Greece and Yugoslavia in 1940-41, including the massing of the three Fast Divisions into a Fast Corps. The 3rd Cavalry Division went to Russia with the CSIR, the 1st to army reserve in Croatia/Slovenia in 1943, and various regiments were assigned duties in the occupied Balkans.
Foreign Units under command:
Albania: The former Albanian army was absorbed into the Italian army in 1939, to include one Albanian Blackshirt Legion and six Royal Albanian Army Battalions, along with two fortress MG battalions, a Royal Guard Battalion and police legions. These units performed poorly in the invasion of Greece. New units were formed to combat Albanian communist partisans, and in June 1942 the Albanian component of the Italian Army consisted of four regiments of light infantry (Cacciatori d'Albania, or Albanian Hunters) as well as 14 battalions of militia.
Croatia: An Italian-Croat Blackshirt Legion was formed in imitation of a similar German unit. The force of 1,211 men was dubbed the Motorized Croatian Legion (Legione Croata Autotransportable), and sent into action in April 1942. The Legion performed adequately, but was destroyed with the other units of the 8th Army in December 1942. Some members of the Legion apparently changed sides to fight with the 1st Yugoslav Brigade of the Red Army. An abortive attempt to raise a second legion was made in May 1943.
Cossacks: A small group of 364 Cossacks was raised in September 1942 and attached to the Novaria cavalry regiment. After Italy's withdrawal from Russia, they joined German Cossack units.
Yugoslavia: To assist in security duties, the Italians raised auxiliary forces in Yugoslavia beginning in 1942 known as the Milizia Volontaria Anti-Communista (MVAC - Volunteer Anti-Communist Militia). Their two main enemies, the Chetniks and the Partisans, spent a great deal of their time battling each other, and the MVAC capitalized on that, at one time adopting the Chetniks as their own. MVAC units were raised by regular Italian divisions on a local basis and were segregated by religion. In March 1943, they amounted to about 30,000 men, about half Greek Orthodox, a quarter Catholics and another quarter Moslems.