Dated: December 9, 2006.
By Mr. Clifford Frederick.
As anyone who has ever tried to find Tables of Organization and Equipment (TOE) at platoon level knows there is almost no information available on even well documented armies let alone minor powers. Just for comparison, it is difficult for me (an American) to get information on a WWII US Infantry Platoon, since there seems that every division had it's own squad and platoon TOE. So this task seemed daunting, but surprisingly the Romanian web site www.worldwar2.ro was very detailed in this respect and provided this information and as an added bonus it was in English. It is an excellent web site for everything concerning the Romanian Army of WWII, fantastic in fact.
The history of Romania's involvement in WWII is not the topic for this article but a brief overview of the common Romanian soldier that made up the manpower of the platoon is. For the most part the army was composed of poorly trained conscripts, as odds would have it, there was a better than 50% chance that he was a reservist recalled to the colors. They were mostly peasant farmers with limited literacy. Early in WWII, the public opinion on becoming a German Ally was positive. Romania had lost a large section of its pre-war sovereign territory to the USSR and a German alliance promised its return. So initially the army was well motivated for the “Crusade Against Bolshevism”. There were some excellent units; the mountain and cavalry brigades had well trained professional soldiers and NCO's. The Guards and Frontier Divisions were used as spearhead units during the attack, suffered appalling casualties, but still fought on. Many regular divisions had German training cadres and were very competent. Excluding the second line divisions, the first line divisions used modern, up to date equipment. The rifle was the Czech ZB M-1924, which was identical to the German 98K rifle. The squad light machinegun was the Czech ZB M-1930, which was the father of the famous British BREN gun. NCO's and Tank hunter teams used the excellent Italian Beretta M-1938a submachine gun. At the battalion level was the heavy weapons company with 16 Czech ZB53/54 heavy machineguns. It was at division level that the Romanian army was lacking with it's few and obsolete artillery pieces and anti-tank weapons. A telling feature of the Romanian army's performance was its capture of the fortified city of Odessa without German assistance.
1941 Platoon Organization
In 1941 the Romanian Infantry Platoon had a unique structure not found in other armies. It was divided into three squads with a small headquarters section as most armies at the time possessed. It was the division of the squad into three sections (fire teams in US Military terminology) that made it different than the norm of two.
1942-1945 Platoon Organization
After the massive losses in the first year of the war, in 1942 the Romanian Infantry Platoon was reorganized to relay more on fire power than man power, and it structure was changed to conform more with their German allies. Like the Germans, the squad was subdivided into two sections (fire teams). The platoon differed from the Germans with the addition of a 60mm mortar instead of the normal German addition of a MG34/42 mounted on a tripod. This mortar was used to make up for the lack of rifle grenade launchers in the squad. An interesting note is that the 1939 German platoon had included a 50mm mortar at the platoon level as an indirect fire weapon, but replaced it with the tripod mounted MG in 1941, since each squad contained a 98K rifle with a grenade launcher. An additional squad was also added to the Romanian platoon, giving it an additional LMG and total of four rifle squads and one mortar squad.
The Infantry Company
For those of you that war game using larger formations, I will briefly describe the infantry company. The three of aforementioned platoons belonged to an infantry company and this remained unchanged throughout the war. The company command squad included chemical, medical, signals, and observation teams. The chemical team consisted of a corporal and two privates trained for chemical warfare. The medical team consisted of a sergeant acting as a chief medic and four medics. The signals team had a corporal and three privates who were responsible for the one or two company radios. The observation team had a corporal and three privates and was tasked with coordinating supporting artillery fire. In-charge of the company was a captain or senior lieutenant, with a senior NCO commanding the various attached teams. There was also a company bugler.
The Machinegun Company
For those of you that want to use your ZB54 machineguns it would help to know the organization of the machinegun company that was located at battalion level. It consisted of three machinegun platoons, each with four squads. Each squad led by a sergeant contained a ZB54 medium machinegun. The squad itself was divided into two sections each under a corporal. The first section consisted of the machinegun team and the second consisted of the ammunition supply team. The machinegun team was equipped with pistols and carried the machinegun, tripod, spare barrels, and tools. The team could also employ a mule to carry this equipment. The ammunition/security team was armed with rifles and carried the large volume of ammunition associated with these weapons. They also provided security for the weapon when it was employed.
Many thanks to Mr. Frederick.
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