Romania is a European country located north of Bulgaria, on the eastern Balkan Peninsula. During World War II, it fought for the Axis until 1944 when it switched sides to join the Allies, later becoming part of the Eastern Bloc and Warsaw Pact during the Cold War.
Romania's involvement in World War 2 began in mid-April 1939 when, along with Greece, Romania received a guarantee that, in the event of a German invasion, Great Britain and France would go to war.[N 1] The same could not be said for the Soviet Union, as its Red Army was refused access to the country. After the German-Soviet nonaggression agreement, and the brief three-week invasion of Poland, Romania claimed neutrality. However, Romania had agreed to harbor Poland's government-in-exile, and Romanian trains were sent to evacuate civilians and national treasures from the country. As a result, the Romanian Prime Minister, Armand Calinescu, was assassinated by the pro-Nazi Garda de Fier (English: Iron Guard) movement soon after. King Carol was left in control of the country.
With France's surrender and Great Britain's retreat, King Carol agreed to appease Hitler, Stalin, and Mussolini. Romania's land was then divided among the Axis. In 1940, the Soviet Union had claimed Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina. Later that year, an Axis-backed Bulgaria was ceded Dobruja. That same month, German and Italian ambassadors demanded the return of northern Transylvania to Hungary. After loosing significant amounts of land, King Carol resigned under Garda de Fier pressure. His young son Michael I succeeded him, but the little power he had was taken over by Garda de Fier legionnaire General Ion Antonescu.
Antonescu's government quickly began to mirror Hitler's. Strict anti-Semitic laws were put in place, and businessmen of "inferior quality" had restrictions placed upon them. These included Jews, Greeks, and Armenians. The Garda de Fier continued to massacre Jews and politicians associated with King Carol. Their actions reached a peak in November of 1940, when they broke into Jilava prison and killed roughly sixty-four of Carol's political allies, including Virgil Madgearu and Nicolae Iorga.
On November 23rd, 1940, Romania officially joined the Axis. The country was used as the main supplier of fuel and food to the Wehrmacht, and Nazi troops entered the country in the thousands. The Garda de Fier soon became a nuisance in Hitler's eyes. After an attempt to disarm the Garda, a rebellion sparked and fierce street fighting followed. Jointly, German and Romanian troops crushed the organization after several weeks, finally putting an end to their terrorizing and killing.
Romania, along with the other European Axis powers, took part in Operation Barbarossa. The ages-old Romanian-Hungarian rivalry, first brewing with Hungary's loss of land to Romania in the Treaty of Trianon, still had a heavy presence on the Eastern Front. Romania was eager to earn back the land it lost in 1940, which it only just acquired in 1920. Hungary on the other hand was still in control of the heavily disputed northern Transylvania and the invasion of the Soviet Union presented a larger opportunity to retrieve its lost territories. Romania and Hungary constantly competed to gain Hitler's favor by sending supplies, consumables, and manpower. But Hungary's troubles would be for nothing when Romania provided a larger army than any of Germany's other allies combined.
Hitler repaid the country with the lands of Bessarabia and northern Bukovina, which it lost in 1940, as well as everything east of Dniester. In the summer of 1941, Romanian soldiers, supported by Germans, retook Bessarabia and northern Bukovina, and proceeded to press further into Soviet territory towards Dniester. Within the season, Romania had control of the city of Odesa.
Romania continued to be the main Axis military contributor during in the European theatre, second only to Germany. In September of 1941, Romania provided two armies for the Crimean Campaign. Most of these troops were used in the short-lived Siege of Sevastopol. Along with many other Axis countries, Romania supported Germany in the Battle of the Caucus.
In 1942, Romania troops moved along the Don river to secure Germany's flanks as they pressed forwards. But in the opening moments of the Stalingrad Counteroffensive, almost all of Romania's troops were over-ran and vaporized. It proceeded to retreat from the Soviets with what little manpower it had left. Romania would continued to suffer great losses from the Soviets for the rest of the war.
The King's Coup
As the Soviet's war machine advanced towards the Balkans, Romania was hopelessly outnumbered. But the country's morale was renewed when King Michael I, Carol's young son, launched a daring coup against General Antonescu, which succeeded in removing him from power. Under Michael's orders, Romania joined the Allies and had its army pull back to defend against German attacks. The Battle of Paulis ensued as a result. The King's coup eased the Soviet advance into Europe and, by extension, Germany. The Romanians ended the war fighting alongside Soviet troops in Hungary and Czechoslovakia in their conquest of Europe.
After the War
A new Prime Minister, Constantin Sanatescu, was elected after the war and General Ion Antonescu was turned over to Soviet authorities. King Michael, only in his twenties, had successfully saved all of Romania from certain destruction. In 1945, Joseph Stalin awarded him the Order of Victory, and in 1946, President Harry S. Truman presented him with a Legion of Merit award at its highest degree.
Romanian Armed Forces during WW2
Romania, although having a sufficent amount of troops and motivation, they were stationed as allies for the Germans in many occasions, but failed miserably in Operation Barbarossa due to their lack of anti-tank weapons.
The Romanians power was supressed during the downfall of Operation Barbarossa, along with Hungary they were crushed in Russia because they had a lack of supplies to fight back.
The Royal Romanian Air Force (Fortele Aeriene Regale Romana - FARR) was formed in 1913, eventually relying on the support of a national aircraft industry dominated by three firms; Societates Pentru Exploatria Tehnice (SET), founded in 1923, Industria Aeronautica Romiana (IAR), founded in 1925,[N 2] and Interprenderes de Constructii Aeronautice Romanesti (ICAR), founded in 1932.