The Rumanians constituted the most important German ally on the East Front during 1941, and for most of WWII. The Rumanian dictator Antonescu was the first of Germany’s allies to be informed of the pending invasion of the USSR; although the notice was so short the Rumanians were unable to participate in the initial attacks. The Rumanians immediately supported Operation Barbarossa and initially saw it as an opportunity for Rumania to regain possession of Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina, which they had been forced to concede to the Soviets in 1940. However Antonescu saw the German invasion as an ideological crusade against communism, and also realised that if Rumania was to hold onto the regained territory it would have to support the Germans in the longer term.
After spending the latter part of June mobilising, the Rumanians launched their first serious attacks across the Prut River on 1st July, although several more minor exchanges had occurred prior to this date and the air battle in this sector had begun in earnest on 22nd June. The Rumanian forces (Army Group Antonescu) on the Rumanian border launched their offensive against the Soviet’s Southern Front, supported by the German 11th Army (Schobert, with seven German divisions). Although the German 11th Army was technically subordinate to Army Group Antonescu, in reality it received (and acted on) direction from von Rundstedt in Army Group South.
The Royal Rumanian Army and Royal Rumanian Air Force (Fortele Aeriene Regale ale Romaniei, FARR) Forces Available to Support Operation Barbarossa on 1st July 1941*
Army Group Antonescu
- 3rd Rumanian Army and 4th Rumanian Army (deployed from north to south), with
15 divisions, 9 brigades and 325 690 personnel.
- 5 infantry corps HQs, 1 mountain corps HQ, 1 cavalry corps HQ, 14 infantry divisions, 1 tank division, 4 cavalry brigades, 3 mountain brigades and 2 fortress brigades.
- 223 light tanks and tankettes, 28 armoured cars, 365 combat and transport aircraft
(deployed with GAL Combat Air Grouping only, and 3rd and 4th Armies) ^,
2 307 (37-155mm) artillery pieces (including 944 37-47mm AT guns), 207 (20-88mm) AA guns,
1 570 (60-81mm) mortars, and 14 000 motor vehicles (excluding artillery prime movers, armoured cars and motorcycles).
- Commander: Marshal Ion Antonescu.
* Aircraft numbers shown from 22nd July 1941 ^ GAL (Gruparea Aeriana de Lupta) Combat Air Grouping supported Army Group Antonescu. An additional 227 combat and transport aircraft were also deployed with the 2nd, 3rd Air Regions and Air Command Dobruja, defending the airspace over Rumania. Also an additional 218 combat and transport aircraft were not deployed with any front line aviation units. (Total 810 combat and transport aircraft in service, excluding light training aircraft).