15.08.15 Oarba de Mures

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Between 10 and 15 august 2015 we explored the Romanian Mures County, where the village of Oarba de Mures is located. There, in the fall of 1944, the Romanian troop joined the Soviets, in  the common purpose to set the territories free from nazi troops, which only 2 weeks before were the Romanian’s allies in the fight against the Soviets. 

In this scenario, the soviet general Trofimenco, which had the 4th Romanian Army under his command, gave to the Romanian troops the mission to cross the Mures river, and proceed in a frontal assault of the German positions, well posted on the hills facing the river.

The decision by the Russian general command to send in a suicidal attack the Romanian infantry was perceived also as an act of revenge by the soviet, considering that only days before their soldiers were killed by the Romanians. The assault was intended to be followed by the Russian troops on the flanks, but in fact the Russian units present on the field were more likely intended as guards of the Romanians, being ready to execute them in case of hesitation in the engaging of the frontal assault. In this context, the Romanian Colonel Vatasescu addressed his men, telling them the truth about the situation: “We have to do this to stay alive and protect our country. If we don’t attack the Germans, the Soviets will shoot us as prisoners and burn our houses and kill our children. And the Russian units you see here are not supposed to support us, but to shoot us if we retreat, so don’t count on any help from them. If any of you survive this war, remember that we did it for our nation”. quote from WorldWar2.ro

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The 9th and 11th Romanian infantry Divisions from the 6th Army Corp were deployed and had to attack the hilltops occupied by the 8th SS Cavalry Division ”Florian Geyer”. The battle took place in 22-25 September 1944, reporting heavy casualties for the Romanian troops: 11.000 deaths on a frontline of 800m width.

During the several assaults, many Romanian soldiers used to choose a close combat fight, entering the German trenches with bayonets. One detail of these attacks, reported both by Romanian and German veterans, states that many Romanian soldiers entered the trenches barehanded, with shovels or sticks, taken from the vines cultures facing the hills. Many of the soldiers were very young peasants children, not knowing how to handle weapons, preferring to resort to simpler methods, like the wooden sticks.

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During our stay, we searched three hilltops, where clear signs of entrenchments were visible. Verifying also several information about the elevation points of the attacks, we were able to identify the Romanian line of assault. At the beginning we recovered plenty of empty shells, shrapnel and mortar tails, but nothing of real interest. We had to face also multiple holes of other diggers, who know the zone pretty well…

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Somehow discouraged, we started to dig up some signals, trying not to loose faith and patience, even if we were pretty convinced that all the good items were already gone. After several Mauser empty shells, we found a Romanian belt buckle, plain iron type, which was located in a trench’s wall, maybe that was also the reason why it wasn’t already dug up. At some point I got a very high and strong signal, coming from an area which was already ”prepared” to be dug: leaves and grass removed, the first layer of soil removed. We believed that it would be a very big piece of shrapnel on a 3­5cm depth, but still, why the spot wasn’t dug up? Probably also the previous digger felt the same, that it would be just another useless chunck of iron…

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We decided to dig the signal, just to skip the paranoid feeling that at 1% could be something else. I was prepared to see the useless iron after the first shovel, but it didn’t show up; the signal was high and strong even after I reached 20cm depth, so at that point we became sure that it must be some bigger piece of iron. At around 35cm we started to see some round borders, deep stuck in the soil; what at the beginning seemed some larger pot, revealed as a Romanian M34 Dutch helmet. Underneath it, there were another two helmets of the same model, together with a German MG34 drum magazine and a MP40 magazine.

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Being struck by the luck of the discovery, we started to analyze the items, discovering that two of them were reporting battle damage signs. The MG34 magazine reported a small entering hole, probably a shrapnel, and a larger exit one, suggesting a strong blow from the inside. We guessed that probably the shrapnel detonated the magazine’s ammunition, causing the explosion.

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One of the helmets had signs of perforations both on the neck and top area, caused by bullets or shrapnel. Considering the items mix, we tend to believe that the hole was somehow a dump one, for the useless battlefield remains. After further searching on the spot, we weren’t able to find anything else, so we decided to skip to the immediate front of the trenches, where we were able to recover a Romanian ZB bayonet. After reconditioning the MG34 drum magazine, we discovered traces of white paint, which stands for a winter camouflage application. Following the history of the Florian Geyer SS Division, we were able to find out that they were previously deployed on the Russian front, where probably they used the winter camo.

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The conclusion of the trip found us at the monument for the soldiers who died in the Oarba de Mures battle.

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