Romanian Knights Cross Holders of WWII
|During WWII 16 or 17 members of the Royal Romanian Armed Forces (16 appear inGerman sources, while a 17th is cited in a Romanian one, hence the discrepency),were awarded the coveted German Knight’s Cross award, more than any othernon-German Axis power.
1. Maresal (Army Marshal) Ion Antonescu: 6th August 1941
As Commander in Chief of the Royal Romanian Armed Forces, Antonescuostensibly received his Ritterkreuz in recognition for his leadership ofthe Romanian troops during the initial stages of the Russian campaign.
2. General de armata (General) Petre Dumitrescu: ?? 1941
Dumitrescu, perhaps Romania’s most senior and able commander afterAntonescu, was awarded the Ritterkreuz for leading the Romanian 3rd Armyin its successful summer campaign against Soviet forces in 1941.
3. General de corp de armata (Lieutenant General) Corneliu Dragalina:?? 1941
Dragalina commanded the 3rd Army’s VI Corps, often in the vanguard of theRoyal Romanian Army’s advance into southern Russia during the summer of1941. His Ritterkreuz appears to have been awarded simultaneously withDumitrescu’s.
4. General Mihai Lascar: 18th January 1942
Perhaps one of Romania’s most noted Generals, Lascar won his Ritterkreuzfor leading the 1st Mountain Brigade to victory during the Crimeancampaign. Promoted to command a division, Lascar added Oak Leaves tohis award during the Battle of Stalingrad due to a heroic, if ultimatelydisastrous, defense against Soviet attacks. Captured at the end ofNovember 1942, Lascar spent three years as a POW before resurfacing incommand of a Soviet-sponsored division of pro-Allied Romanians in 1945.
5. General de divizie (Major General) Gheorghe Manoiliu: ?? June 1942
Manoiliu commanded the 4th Mountain Division, which under his leadershipcleared Soviet defenses at Balaclava in the Crimea, taking over tenthousand prisoners including virtually the entire Soviet 109th RifleDivision.
6. General de brigada (Brigadier General) Ion Dumitrache: 2nd November 1942
Dumitrache commanded the Romanian 2nd Mountain Division, which capturedthe Soviet town of Nalchik in the Caucasus, the farthest, or mostsouthern, Axis advance on the Eastern Front; he also received a promotionto the rank of General de divizie or Major General shortly afterwards.
7. Major Gheorghe Rasconescu: ?? December 1942
Rasconescu was a battalion commander in the 15th Dorobanti [infantry]Regiment of the 6th Infantry Division. His was the only Romanianformation of Lascar’s embattled group to escape Soviet encirclement duringthe Battle of Stalingrad. From 26th November until 3rd December 1942Rasconescu’s battalion prevented the Soviet 8th Cavalry Corps fromcapturing the vital German airfield at Oblivkavia, a heroic stand againstoverwhelming odds which earned this very junior officer a Ritterkreuz.
8. Colonel Ion Hristea: ?? December 1942
Hristea commanded the famed 2nd Calarasi Cavalry Regiment, which duringthe Battle of Stalingrad defended an eighty-kilometer stretch of front forthe embattled Romanian 4th Army. Incredibly, Hristea held this sectoragainst Soviet attacks for nearly a month before being forced to withdraw.Hristea himself suffering grievous maiming wounds while leading his troopsagainst heavy Soviet armor, in one instance firing his pistol at a KV-1tank.
9. General de divizie (Major General) Radu Korne: 18th December 1942
A cavalry commander, Korne led the independent Korne Motorised Detachmentduring the advance into southern Russia. His Ritterkreuz, won during theBattle of Stalingrad, may have included Oak Leaves, but this is not clear.
10. General Nicolae Tataranu: 17th December 1942
Tataranu commanded the 20th Infantry Division of that was encircled atStalingrad in the winter of 1942, receiving the Ritterkreuz asrecognition for his services there. A vocal supporter of the pro-GermanIacobici (former Chief of Staff of theRoyal Romanian Army and rival of Antonescu, often used by the Germans topressure Antonescu towards a firmer Axis standpoint), Tataranu escapedcapture at Stalingrad by flying out of the encircled pocket to personallycomplain to Antonescu of his loss of control in the face of Germaninterference. Tataranu narrowly escaped execution on charges ofdeserting his command, no doubt primarily due to German intervention witha much-displeased Maresal. Tataranu’s subsequent career was mixed.
11. Major Ioan Palaghita: 7th April 1943
Palaghita was a battalion commander in the 19th Infantry Division’s 94thInfantry Regiment. His personal leadership of a local counterattack inthe Kuban bridgehead saved neighboring German forces from being encircledand overrun. Palaghita was killed in action on 9th May 1943 and wasposthumously promoted to locotenet colonel [lieutenant colonel]; threedays later this was upgraded to full colonel.
12. General de brigada (Brigadier General) Leonardi Mociulschi: 18thDecember 1943
During mopping up operations of the Eltigen beachhead in the Kuban in1943, a force of 820 Soviet troops broke out of their encirclement in thedirection of Soviet-held enclave at nearby Ganikale. Overrunning Germanartillery batteries on Mount Mithridates, this force quickly jeopardisedthe entire German ring at Eltigen. Mociulschi assembled a force fromelements of the 6th Mountain Division and the 9th Rosiori (cavalry)Regiment, personally leading them in a counterattack upon the Soviets,obliterating enemy forces and saving the local sector from disaster.
13. General de divizie (Major General) Corneliu Teodorini: 18th December 1943
Teodorini commanded the 6th Cavalry Division during mopping up operationsof the Soviet Eltigen beachhead in the Kuban in 1943; his Division countedover 1,200 dead on the battlefield and captured some 1,570 prisoners alongwith a cache of equipment such as 38 tanks and 25 antitank guns, many ofwhich were subsequently pressed into Romanian service. Teodorini went onto command the 8th Motorised Cavalry Division. Teodorini’s award is cited inRomanian sources but not in German records; this is the elusive “17”possible recipient mentioned by Mark Axworthy. While Axworthy reports himwinning his Ritterkreuz the same time as Mociulschi, another source suggestshe had won it in September 1943, adding Oak Leaves for the Eltigenoperation.
14. General de ……… (Major-General) Emanoil Ionescu 10th May 1944
Ionescu commanded the Royal Romanian Air Force’s Corpul I Aerien deployedin Russia during WW2, and the largest non-German Axis air contingent toserve on the Russian front during the war.
15. Contraamiral (Rear-Admiral) Horia Marcellariu: 21st May 1944
Marcellariu commanded the units of the Royal Romanian Navy that duringApril and May of 1944 successfully evacuated no fewer than 57,386 Germans,35,877 Romanians, and 25,840 Axis auxiliaries (mostly pro-German Russianpersonnel) for a total of 119,103.
16. General Edgar Radulescu: 3rd July 1944
As commander of the 11th Infantry Division, Radulescu received hisRitterkreuz in recognition of his division’s local counterattack at TirguFrumos in eastern Romania, conducted in early June of 1944 against strongSoviet forces.
17. General de corp armata (Lieutenant General) Mihai Racovita: 7th July 1944
Racovita’s Ritterkreuz, the last one received by a Romanian, was won dueto his role as commander of the oft-luckless Romanian 4th Army (prior tothis appointment he commanded the Cavalry Corps), in its finalmanifestation/reconstitution from March 1944 or more specifically, for 4thArmy’s role in the Tirgu Frumos counterattack (see under Radulescu).