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The Romanian Battlefront in World War I [Hardcover]

Glenn E. Torrey
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

Feb. 15 2012 Modern War Studies
Despite a strategically vulnerable position, an ill-prepared army, and questionable promises of military support from the Allied Powers, Romania intervened in World War I in August 1916. In return, it received the Allies' formal sanction for the annexation of the Romanian-inhabited regions of Austria-Hungary. As Glenn Torrey reveals in his pathbreaking study, this soon appeared to have been an impulsive and risky decision for both parties. Torrey details how, by the end of 1916, the armies of the Central Powers, led by German generals Falkenhayn and Mackensen, had administered a crushing defeat and occupied two-thirds of Romanian territory, but at the cost of diverting substantial military forces they needed on other fronts. The Allies, especially the Russians, were forced to do likewise in order to prevent Romania from collapsing completely. Torrey presents the most authoritative account yet of the heavy fighting during the 1916 campaign and of the renewed attempt by Austro-German forces, including the elite Alpine Corps, to subdue the Romanian Army in the summer of 1917. This latter campaign, highlighted here but ignored in non-Romanian accounts, witnessed reorganized and rearmed Romanian soldiers, with help from a disintegrating Russian Army, administer a stunning defeat of their enemies. However, as Torrey also shows, amidst the chaos of the Russian Revolution the Central Powers forced Romania to sign a separate peace early in 1918. Ultimately, this allowed the Romanian Army to reenter the war and occupy the majority of the territory promised in 1916. Torrey's unparalleled familiarity with archival and secondary sources and his long experience with the subject give authority and balance to his account of the military, strategic, diplomatic, and political events on both sides of the battlefront. In addition, his use of personal memoirs provides vivid insights into the human side of the war. Major military leaders in the Second World War, especially Ion Antonescu and Erwin Rommel, made their careers during the First World War and play a prominent role in his book. Torrey's study fosters a genuinely new appreciation and understanding of a long-neglected aspect of World War I that influenced not only the war itself but the peace settlement that followed and, in fact, continues today.

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"A masterful account of its subject, one that presents decades of research in a clear and absorbing narrative. . . . Likely will stand as the definitive account of the war in Romania for decades to come."--"Army History"

About the Author

Glenn E. Torrey is professor of history emeritus at Emporia State University, USA and author of Henri Mathias Berthelot: Soldier of France, Defender of Romania; Romania and World War I: A Collection of Studies; and The Revolutionary Russian Army and Romania, 1917. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Total War in the Fastnesses of the Carpathians Feb. 27 2012
Format:Hardcover
Glenn Torrey is an excellent historian who knows his Romanian subject intimately.I have studied the campaigns in this WWI "sideshow " for many years and found much new in this very well-written and engaging account. Particularly valuable are the descriptions of leading participants in these actions in all the armies and Prof Torrey's use of original sources is exemplary. The material is both detailed and readable, an impressive combination. This book will be of interest to both specialists on the Eastern front and the more general reader. I hope, with the centenary looming, there will be more such books on this most exotic front of the First World War ( especcially by this author ).
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Amazon.com: 4.7 out of 5 stars  15 reviews
32 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent and exquisitely detailed book March 4 2012
By F. Carol Sabin - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
"The Romanian Battlefront in WW I" is not just the one of the few English-language books on its subject, but it stands comparison with the best English-language studies of any individual country's armed forces in WWI.
Mr. Torrey has remedied this situation, his book being an excellent study to a subject unjustly ignored by many English-speaking historians; to date, I believe it is one of the few comprehensive accounts of Romania's military involvement in WW I in English. Very well written and organized, containing 17 comprehensive chapters on (mainly) military operations (plus Conclusions and an Epilogue) and illustrated with many maps and photos, it is invaluable for anyone interested in operations on the Eastern Front in WW I. Based not only on access to Romanian military archives but also on additional studies provided by German, Austrian, Italian archives etc, Mr. Torrey's book contains an detailed, chronological account of military operations on Romanian Front during 1916-1918 and even immediate postwar actions in 1919 in Hungary. Additionally, the author inspired from relevant Romanian and non-Romanian secondary sources such as published documents, memoirs, specialized studies etc.
After a short preface, the first two chapters describe the Romania's political (leaders, geopolitical factors, alliances, etc) and military (war plans, strengths, etc) situation at the beginning of the war. This short, balanced background information about the country and its political and military leaders is useful, since most readers are unlikely to have detailed knowledge of Romania in that period of time. It also provides a helpful context for Romania's two years of negotiation with the Entente countries.
In spite of its great numbers, the Romanian army entered the war poorly armed and trained when compared with its numerous (neighbor) opponents (Germany, Austro-Hungary, Turkey and Bulgaria). As the author mentioned in his book, the Romanian army spent most of the initial war period fighting with obsolete weapons and without the full training that would have made them a force equal to any of the major armies. Moreover, the country was in a very vulnerable geostrategic position and the Romanian General Staff (created in 1882, after the 1877-78 War for Independence) lacked professionalism and war experience.
Chapter 3 ("On the eve of war") is focused on political and military decisions, including the Central Powers' fault in miscalculating Romania's entry in war on Entente side, coupled with interesting accounts about the operations on Macedonian theater of war and the German strategy vis-à-vis Romanian threat.
"The invasion of Transylvania", the outbreak of the war, started with a complete surprise of the enemy troops. However, the initial Romanian ease advance was somehow timid due to the fact that many commanders lacked initiative and daring to penetrate much more in the heart of this Provence, against an inferior enemy (only 15 battalions). Thanks to a grotesque chain of mistakes and indecision, for a whole week, Romanian forces stood passive in front of town of Sibiu which was barely defended. As we could see in the next chapters this allowed Central Powers to concentrate over 40 divisions from other fronts, half of them German (among them Alpine Corps and Wurttemberg Mountain Battalion), and to regain the strategic initiative.
Chapters 5&6 show the operations on the Dobrogean Front since Central Powers decided to answer the invasion of Transylvania with an attack on Romania's southern border. As accurately described in this book, the Romanian and later, Russian, attempt to defend Dobrogea (The fall of Turtucaia fortress, Flamanda maneuver etc) during the first two months of the war, was a costly affair. Apart of losing the territory the personnel losses were heavy. As elsewhere, the German support proved decisive at all levels and I personally believe that Bulgarians and Turks couldn't win this campaign on their own.
Chapters 7 to 10 are dedicated to the Austro-German counteroffensive in Transylvania, battles on the frontiers, the struggle to defend Wallachia and the retreat to Moldovia. In my view, as throughout the book, Mr. Torrey presents the facts quite objectively, sparing neither side from criticism where it is due.
The book contains an incredible insight into the Romanian High Command faulty decision making process that led eventually to lose about two-thirds of Romanian national territory.
After the alert description of the military operations on different parts of the Romanian front, the author made, in a rather slow pace, but comprehensive description of the reconstruction of the Romanian Army after losing over 300,000 troops in the 1916 campaign. This transitional chapter is very important for the reader due to several reasons. It shows the environment of reconstruction, the morale & welfare factor, rearmament and last, but not least, the role of the French Military Mission in Romania (led by General Berthelot). Mr. Torrey's study is also interesting and can fuel a debate about the Coalition warfare relationship of both sides during that period. Despite points of tensions and cultural barriers, as author turned out, the different players from both sides cooperated quite well during the conflict.
The new weapons provided by the France proved decisive, Romanian division's firepower being comparable to that of German divisions and even superior to that of other Central Powers forces. As Mr. Torrey state, this augmented armament allowed implementation of new tactical approaches on firepower use similar with the Western front. If this much-needed help (especially heavy artillery, machine guns and aircraft) had came in 1916 or earlier, most probably the 1916 defeat could have been avoided.
In the next three chapters the author described the summer 1917 famous battles of Marasti, Marasesti and Oituz. The description is even handed, informative and well supported by maps. Here, I found of special interest the actions of the young lieutenant Erwin Rommel on the Romanian front (Rudolf Hess was also wounded here!) and those of the future Romanian leader, Ion Antonescu. Mr. Torrey did a nice job of incorporating many first hand accounts to supplement his narrative.
These Romanian successes demonstrated that Romanian troops, if properly trained and equipped, could fight on a par with any opponent. As many people know, while the operations on the Romanian front during summertime of 1917 had important consequences for the Entente, they occupy a small chapter in their total war effort. The heroic and successful performance of the (new) Romanian army in 1917 restored Romania's credibility with the Entente allies, as it turned out.
Chapter 15 ("Between war and peace...") focused on propaganda war of both sides, the impact of Focsani armistice and the departure of the Russian army (from 1,200,000 remained about 50,000 troops) and continued in the next chapter with reasons and conditions which led to the occupation of Bessarabia and its subsequent union with Romania as well as the peace of Buftea (march 1918, after German ultimatum), signed in the most unfavorable conditions since the remaining 15 Romanian divisions were required to defend the whole territory without any Russian support.
The last chapter shows the turbulent and also decisive times of the remaining months of the 1918 when the tide of wars turns and Romanian army started to remobilize to enter combat again in less than 24 hours before the armistice in the West went into effect.
Sensing that the story of the WW I on the Romanian Front would be incomplete without mentioning few postwar important issues, before Conclusions, the author added a really valuable "Epilogue". I found this idea sound since many things and historical events are correlated having their roots deep buried long time ago.
Since the Central Powers were defeated and in full withdrawal, Romanian troops reoccupied the lost national territory and the union of Transylvania, Bessarabia and Bukovina with Romania was achieved on December 1, 1918. As the appearance of a Bolshevik regime in Hungary started to take shape, Romania was pressed and with widespread Allied approval started an offensive to end this Red Revolution (led by Bela Kun), eventually defeating the Hungarian forces on the way to Budapest, which was seized on 3 August 1919, as was much of the Hungary. The author doesn't forget to mention that after the peace talks, Romania received the greatest part of what it had been promised in 1916, including alienated minorities and making some neighbors (Hungary, Soviet Union) irredentist and dissatisfied. The events of summer 1940 will show their revenge, Soviet Union occupying Bessarabia and Bukovina, and Hungary, as usually with German help, Transylvania.
Very useful and comprehensive Conclusions end this well-illustrated chronicle of that age.
The text is supported by 17 useful and detailed maps that show the deployments and course of action for the major battles on this front.
Very good are also 42 B&W photographs showing the key military & political leaders of both sides.
There is a useful notes section and bibliography to indicate the sources of various statements, so the readers can verify their accuracy, consider the context, or follow them further. There is also a comprehensive index.
I really hesitate to describe any WW I book as definitive or indispensable on its subject, but "The Romanian Battlefront in WW I" comes as close as any. Indeed, I consider it one of the ten most important books on the Eastern Front in WW I.
For anyone interested in the military history of WW I, I recommend it most strongly.
This is easily one of the best works of analysis on the Romanian Battlefront and absolutely deserves five stars given to it!
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An outstanding book that fills in a gap April 4 2012
By Daniel Carey - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book is an outstanding book that fills in a gap in the English language literature about World War I on the eastern front. The book explains how Romania got involved, discounting the idea put forth by many that Brusilov's Offensive was a major factor. It discusses the Romanian Armed Forces and its leaders, how they prepared for war, their objectives and what actually happened. The author does not stop the story when the Romanians were driven out of most of their country in 1916. He continues the story to show how the Romanian Army rebuilt itself in 1917 with French assistance, and how that made an impact on the course of the war. The improved Romanian Army denied the Germans and Austro-Hungarians easy victories like they won in 1916, also winning a few battles on its own. As a result, Romania's standing amongst the allies improved. The author also explains the impact of the Russian Revolution on the Romanians and how in the end, they were able to achieve their war aims in both Transylvania and even Bessarabia. The book uses mostly primary sources as well as secondary sources in Romanian, German, French and Russian. There is also a short bibliographic essay about the Romanian secondary sources.

I recommend this book for those who are serious students of World War I, or those who want to know more about the eastern front in World War I or pretty much any library.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best English-language book on the subject, possibly best overall May 14 2012
By Andrei Miroiu - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
"The Romanian Battlefront..." is Glenn Torrey's crowning achievement, in a career spanning five decades dedicated to the diplomatic and military aspects of Romania`s participation in World War I. While he wrote a biography of General H. Berthelot, commander of the French Military Mission in Romania and also published a few years back a colletion of his studies on the topic, this is a work of synthesis. Torrey has researched thoroughly the archives and libraries in Bucharest, Vienna, Berlin, Moscow, Paris, London and the United States, exhausting them; only the Bulgarian and Turkish sources are not consulted and this is the only serious methodological problem of the work. One wished he engaged more with them, especially the Bulgarians and maybe the author should have also consulted IR literature on Romania in World War I. Otherwise the writing is excelent; Torrey writes well and compelling about military organization, equipment, tactics and the politics of command. Less represented are civil-military relations and the level of human experience of war. While military and diplomatic historians will rejoice, there is little in this work that might be interesting for cultural historians and sociologists. But Torrey never claims that he intended to write more than a military history and the result is very good. One of the most interesting aspects is his ability to move from the Romanian to the Austrian and from the Russian to the German position in what regards a particular military action or a specific moment of the conflict. The author provides top-class naratives of the battles and operations and the maps - though adapted from older works - are good and sufficient. The non-Romanian reader will gain an excellent account of the conflict; the Romanian reader will get a perspective that is not only very detailed, but also less infused with nationalism than the usual treatment of the conflict in local treatises and textbooks. In my view, the only serious bias regards the treatment of I.I.C. Bratianu, the Romanian Prime Minister during the war, who somehow doesn't get the blame for leading his nation in a conflict that nearly destroyed the country and killed or wounded ten percent of its inhabitants, while making refugees and homeless many more. The eventual acquisiton of Transylvania and other territories in 1918 was less the result of his policies and far more due to the Allied victory in the West and in the Balkans and the collapse of Russia and Austria-Hungary. But aside from that, the book is a must read for those with an interest in Romanian history.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What a Piece of Military History Writing Jan. 25 2013
By Dr Y - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
If you enjoy military history at its finest, BUY this book. Yes it's an obscure theater of World War I, but author Glenn Torrey brings it alive. For me he writes the best kind of military history - - - one that takes you from the highest levels of command and strategy, through operational commanders at the army, corps and division levels, right down to individual soldiers who slugged it out in the cold and muck of the Carpathians and Dobrogea. He has borrowed from accounts written in Romanian that otherwise would be beyond the common readers' access, and brought them to life. I couldn't put this book down. My only criticisms are aimed the maps, which although detailed were difficult to read. A larger, detailed map of the entire area would have been helpful - - - the one in the book is just not precise enough. Colored annotations (yes, I know this adds expense, but I would have gladly paid more)would greatly clarify the battlefield movements. The photos are fantastic; I wish there were more. And I certainly hope Torrey writes more. I'm waiting!
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderfully written May 12 2013
By John R. Mcdonald - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A forgotten chapter of WWI history rarely taught anywhere. If you are interested in WWI history this is a must read.
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