Vanatori de Munte - History
The historical context
In the 3rd of November, 1916, the 1st Mountain Corps was established, opening a very important chapter in the history of this elite branch.
This event was remembered in the 3rd of november 2001, when the Mountain Hunters celebrated 85 years of existence.
The elite branch of the infantry existed in the past as well, however it was in 1916 when they started to be called "Vanatori de Munte" (Mountain Hunters) and when their main purpose was set to be fighting in mountainous regions. By Order no. 294 of the General Chief of Staff in the 3rd of November 1916, the Military Ski School in Bucharest was expanded and transformed into the 1st Mountain Hunter Corps.
World War I
During World War I the corps participated at battles in north-eastern Romania and helped regained the country's territory after desolant defeats in 1916. In the late 19th century Romania was an ally of the newly renamed Austro-Hungarian Empire. Little did the Bucharest authorities knew that in Transylvania the Empire had established a constant policy of mass conversion of various ethnic population into Hungarians. Transylvania was a provence rich in agricultural lands, woods, gold, silver and salt, being crossed by many rivers and having no natural hazards (earthquakes, tornadoes, tsunamis, etc). The provence was inhabitted by a gross Romanian majority and very small German, Hungarian, Slovak and Jewish minorities. The Empire realized the importance of the provence and started a mass conversion process, in which children born in Romanian, Slovak, Croat and Jewish families were to be given birth certificates with Hungarian names and be counted as ethnic Hungarians.
One of the "victims" of the conversion program was aviation pioneer Traian Vuia, born in the village of Sudries (now Traian Vuia) in Timis country, south-west Transylvania. He was registered at birth as "Trajan Vuja", ethnic "Hungarian", even though both his parents and all his grandparents and ancestors were Romanian. In the west of the provence all the Slovak villages were converted while in the east of the provence 400 Romanian villages have been completely converted by 1916. Due to these mass conversions, from the provence incorporation into the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1867 until the provence union with Romania in 1918 the percentage of ethnic Hungarians more than doubled to a staggering 25%.
Enthusiams versus real capabilities
As such, during World War I Romania decided to join the Allies in their war effort on condition to recover the provence from the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The start of the war caught the Romanian military in a pretty poor estate; they confused enthuziasm with capability and suffered heavy losses during 1916. The military was organized into 23 divisions numbering 500 000 men; pretty large, but ill-trained and ill-equiped, the Romanians tried to conquer Transylvania but were pushed back by strong German opposition and by the end of 1917 the Germans occupied the oil fields of Ploiesti and extracted 1 million tons of crude oil, while also requisitioning 2 million tons of cereals. Without these supplies the Germans would have not been capable of waging a war in Central Europe during WW I.
The Romanians have lost half of their military and most of the country was under foreign occupation.
The turning point, and the VMs
All that was about to change when the Romanians finally realized that numbers dont make up for training and enthuziasm can't completely replace equipment. The remaining forces, now groupped in Iasi (east of the country) were re-trained and re-quipped and manage to recover most of the country's territory. In march 1918 Basarabia merged with Romania which was followed in december of the same year by Transylvania merge with the country. The VMs participated in the most heavy of the fightings, especially while conquering German positions in Transylvania. Even though without various natural territories, Romania has somewhat recuperated its historial and linguistical space after World War I, getting to occupy a territory of 295,000 square km. Current day Romania has a terriroty of 238,000 sq km.
The 1919 occupation of Hungary
After 1918, the Hungarian government launched what they described as a major re-equipment and war preparation program and had plans to invade Slovakia and attack Romania. With the accept of Western European powers, the Romanian military attacked, invaded and occupied the country between july 1919 and march 1920. Spearheading the invasion was once again the Mountain Hunters Corps.
World War II
During World War II, the 4th Mountain Corps, commanded by general Paul Dumitrescu, was at the spearhead of the German-led invasion of the Soviet Union, and took part in all the major operations there. The Germans have always used the Romanians as cannon-meat, putting them in front of their armies to sustain the toughest battles, while it was always the Germans who then occupied the conquered cities or signed the surrender documents, making it look as it was them who had obtained those victories.
By 1943 there were already 3 Mountain Corps and an ad-hoc created 4th Corps which was sent with the German military in their invasion of the Soviet Union.
The 4th Mountain Corps had an astonishing 'adventure' in the Soviet Union, which started with the liberation of Basarabia and Bucovina, two Romanian provinces in the North and East of Romania, that were anexed by the Soviet Union in 1939. The Romanian military and also Marshall Ion Antonescu then told the Germans that this is as far as the Romanian Army will go. However Hitler needed the Romanians badly, and general von Manstein, the commander of Army Group South, convinced general Paul Dumitrescu of the Romanian 4th Mt Corps to participate with his mountain hunters in the siege of Ukraine. The 4th Mt Corps was therefore present in the battle of Odessa.
After Odessa and the conquest of the Ukraine, the German Wehrmacht started to be over-stretched over its newly conquered land, and could no longer be an effective fighting machine. As such, general Dumitrescu's Mountain Hunters were put in the frontline of a war that was not theirs, and got as far as Stalingrad and Moscow. In fact, when in october 2003, German historians digged up mass graves near Stalingrad, looking for dead German soldiers in WWII, all they found were Romanians. About 3,500 of them. However there were tens of thousands of Romanians who died in the Soviet Union.
Later on in the war, when Romania switched sides to fight among the Allies, the Soviet Army, a bunch of barbaric peasants, treated Romania and its territory as a test-ground for atrocities. Robbery, murder and rape were their speciality. Romania, as now an ally of Stalin's Soviet Union, wanted to fight until the defeat of Germany and thus the end of World War Two.
It therefore comes at no surprize that it was the Mountain Hunters again, that lead the way. The Soviets treated the Romanians exactly the same way as the Germans did, as cannon-meat.
In 1974, the "Sarmizegetusa" indicative was given to the 2nd VM(Mountain Hunters) Brigade. Sarmizegetusa was the regional capital of the part of Dacia, the ancient state of Eastern Europe, that was conquered by the Romans after four bloody wars in 101, 102, 105 and 106 AD.
The 2nd VM brigade saw action for the first time after world war two during the 1989 Romanian Revolution, when they fought unidentified terrorist elements in the central counties of Harghita and Covasna.
Several VM (Mountain Hunters) died in those operations.
There is no recognition of any kind and usually even no mention of the Mountain Hunters when talking about Odessa, Stalingrad, Moscow, Transylvania, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Austria and Germany in all the documentaries, books, films, manuals and materials about World War II available in the West.
The only mentioning of the "Romanian Mountain Corps" in the entire World War II was a single line in a Discovery Channel documentary about the battle of Odessa. There, in a one-hour long film, a single line ever remembers them: "The Romanians were pushed back by Soviet tanks whom their anti-tank weapons could not penetrate".
A single line, tens of thousands of deaths. Perhaps you should remember the Romanian Mountain Hunters next time you thank your God for the freedom you enjoy.
The Mountain Hunters are an elite part of the infantry. Under the command of the Ground Forces, their specialities are fighting in mountaineous and difficult terrain. However they handle combat just as well when faced with fighting in forrests, hills or even flat ground and beaches. Officially they are described as "infantry with special abilities". They are not a "special force" per see but have been a spearhead of the Romanian military since the late 19th century, before the start of World War One.
The Mountain Hunters usually have a climber license. The exceptions are made of troops which form the anti-aircraft and light artillery personnel incorporated into the branch.
Mountain Hunters are divided into three cathegories, 3rd class, 2nd class and the most elite, 1st class. Being a 1st class VM required a 1st class climbing licence, a transmissionist license, a graduation of the Mountain Special Missions course of the VM Application School in Predeal and a graduation of the cold survival training course.
Admission and Selection
Most of the soldiers selected to become mountain troopers are from a rural background and hail from areas around the Carpathian Mountains, where the base is located. Many already have some experience in rock climbing and skiing.
Young people receive the command of the units
Tough physical training, marches, climbing, firing... these are the all important aspects in training conscripts incorporated into the VM units. In the 4th VM instruction base, located in Curtea de Arges, the home of the former 4th VM Brigade, conscripts are training hard. Major Gheorghe Gheorghe, chief of PE in the Ground Forces Chief of Staff, takes care of that.
After a punishing physical training that reminds the newly recruited conscripts that they are in an elite unit, instruction camps, dangerous rock climbing and live artilery firing follow. Afterwards, a 28 kilometer march from the barracks in Curtea de Arges to Cheile Argesului (Arges' Keys).
Weapons and Equipment
Vanatorii de Munte usually rely on a large variety of weapons. At the heart of their arsenal is the Romanian-made AKM, an upgraded and recoiless local version of the famous AK-47 Kalashnikov. Romanian-made and NATO compatible 5.45mm automatic rifles are the weapon of choice of the Mountain Hunters. The guns are resistant to cold temperatures, soldiers said. The rifle butts have been designed so they can lie flat on soldiers' backs without hindering them on hiking missions.
Automatic, semi-automatic guns, as well as machineguns are also a part of the arsenal. Artillery can be found in the VM formations as well. The 21st VM battalion for example has a battery of 76-mm cannons, specifically designed for mountain operations. "Each battery has two sections, and each section has four systems. So altogether there are eight pieces", he said. The cannons have a range of 5,600 meters, while the mortars can reach out to 8,000 meters. The mortars use 82-mm caliber ammunition while 14.5mm portable anti-aircraft cannons are also employed.
A mountain force that does not use horses is only a hill force. The only two mountain forces in the world to still employ large numbers of horses are the Swiss mountain special forces and Vanatorii de Munte. For anyone familiar with the kind of terrain a real mountain force operates in it is quite clear that cars, may they be 4x4, do not belong there. A horse however, especially breeds specially developed for heavy duty at altitude, can easily get almost anywhere in the peaks, and carry a large quantity of supplied on its back as well.
However, a semi-armoured personnel carrier, called MLVM (Masina de Lupta a Vanatorilor de Munte - The Mountain Hunters Infantry Fighting Vehicle) is available for quick transportations. Also, each company of the 21st VM battalion in Predeal employs the usage of 10 tracked armoured vehicles that can operate at altitudes of 2,500 meters, for safe transporations or men and equipment on the roads that are enduring a snow lair of up to five meters. The armoured vehicles can sustain steeps of up to 25 degrees, cross mountain rivers and they also have limited NBC defense systems. The 10-ton vehicles are equipped with a 7.62 mm machinegun and a 14.5 mm cannon.
Between 2003 and 2008 the 21st VM battalion benefited from a $122,000 program to outfit its troops with new equipment. The sum seems and perhaps is, small, however viewed in the contexted of the total defence spending, it is appropriate.
A pair of new skis, for example, costed $400 at the time. Each soldier is received a pair of Austrian "Fischer" skis. Soldiers are trained to hike up the mountain with the skis on their feet by attaching what they call "seal skin" on the bottom of the skis, explained Capt. Adrian Buzea. The "seal skin," a synthetic material, "allows the soldier to slide in one direction," said Buzea. "You can go up the hill that is very steep because this skin compensates in traction. It has a special adhesive."
However, the soldiers in basic training still use old Romanian wood skis. "These skis are still used in training, because the Fischer skis are too expensive," said Buzea. The mountain battalion is also trying to replace the traditional pitons that have to be hammered into the rocks, with new devices called pictogram keys. The serrated edges of these keys can be pegged into the mountain wall, noted Buzea.
In a storage room, equipment is neatly stacked in piles and rows: rifles, frontal flash lights that can be attached to the helmet, Kevlar vests, altimeters, portable heaters, tents, roll mats, ropes, boots, the seal skins and the skis.
Cernea said that soldiers could use sturdier, waterproof boots. The battalion has received a new boot, but it has not yet been tested in harsh weather environments. For the airlift of cannons and mortars, helicopters also are used. The Romanian Air Force operates a large number of Romanian-made IAR-330 Puma helicopters.
Order of Battle
During World War II Romania had no less than 4 Mountain Corps, 3 created in the early stages of the war and a 4th created ad-hoc and sent to join the German forces in their invasion of the Soviet Union.
After World War II the communists disbanded the VM, together with the Paratroopers and Marines. In 1968 however the 4th VM Brigade was re-established in Curtea de Arges. It was then followed by the 1st VM Brigade (Bistrita), the 2nd VM Brigade (Brasov) and the 5th VM Brigade (Alba Iulia), the latter being established in 1985 during a re-organization of the entire military.
During the early 90's two more brigades were established, the 61st in Miercurea Ciuc and the 7th in Petrosani. By the early to mid 90's Romania already had 6 VM Brigades incorporated into a military roughly the size of 340,000 troops.
The military's size was drastically reduced, from 340,000 to 160,000 and in later stages to 120,000, 90,000 and 75,000. By 2012 Romania's military numbered around 60,000 troops. Together with this general drastic reduction the VM units were cut to a third of what they were before. The 7th VM Brigade (Petrosani) and the 1st VM Brigade (Bistrita) were the first to be disbanded. From the remaining four brigades, the 4th VM (Curtea de Arges) was disbanded in the mid 2000's and the 5th VM (Alba Iulia) in the late 2000's.
Vanatorii de Munte are currently divided into two brigades, and a large number of subunits which are incorporated into infantry and mecanized brigades.
Brigada 61 Vanatori de Munte "General Virgil Badulescu", the 61th VM brigade is located in Miercurea Ciuc (central Romania) and is part of the regional armed forces.
Brigada 2 Vanatori de Munte "Sarmizegetusa", the 2nd VM brigade, is located in Brasov, central Romania. This is the active force brigade, being also the first VM unit to be fully composed of professional soldiers while the others were still employing conscripts at a large scale.
Owners of Cheile Bicazului
A state of silent excitement envaled the Mountain Hunters of the 61st VM brigade (Miercurea Ciuc) as soon as they heard they will have a climbing camp in Cheile Bicazului.
Cheile Bicazului, an amazing place composed of rocks which are hundreds of meters tall and steeped at 90 degrees, but just a few meters close to one another and separated by small but very "nervous" rapids, is ranked 3rd most difficult climbing place in Romania. Bucegi in central Romania is ranked 1st, and Piatra Craiului, also in central Romania, 2nd.
Lt-Col Ioan Burghelea, the 2nd in command of the 2nd VM Brigade, prepares his men, both enlisted and conscripts, for the training ahead. The military barracks seem like a building full of busy bees, each one doing its own job for the benefit of the group.
Cheile Bicazului - The Bicaz Keys
A place of amazing natural beauty, unique in Europe, are busiers than ever. The VM's look like small ants on top of the mighty rocks, when looked upon from down below. Foreign and Romanian tourists stop from their hike and stare at the rocktops to see the Hunters rappeling down.
On the almost vertical rocks, the climbers from the 17th VM battalion from Vatra Dornei (north Romania), lead by colonel Ioan Gaftone, are coming down. Ninety percent of the members of this battalion are recognized climbing experts and all of them have the 1st class climber degree.
In the past 10 years (1991-2001), this battalion has sent men to the platoon that represents Romania at the international military patrol competitions organized in common by Austria, Switzerland and Germany. In the past four years (1997, 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2001), the Romanian platoon has been ranked first. Corporal and 1st degree climbing expert Simion Alboi was present at all these competitions. With him have also participated men like corporal 1st degree climbing expert Fanica Pascar, seargant 1st degree climbing expert Ion Pascaru and also seargants Nistor Doroftei, seargant-majors Nicolai Hondac and Nicolae Olaru and lieutenant Nestor Arcadie.
The head of the Combat Training Department, major Ion Procopiuc, is also the head of the Mountain Rescue Service in Vatra Dornei. Some of the best Mountain Hunters in the country are also members and sometimes leaders of the ultra-experienced Romanian Mountain Rescue teams. Called "Salvamont", these teams have rescue missions 3-4 times per week during the summer and daily rescues during winter. A typical rescue can involve marching for ten miles and then a recovery and transportation of the lost person/dead bodie(s) back to base that can take more than 12 hours. These teams can be deployed in a time interval as short as 10 or 15 minutes from the distress call, no matter the weather, and no matter whether it is day or night, wednesday of sunday, and even if they have just returned from a 12-16 hrs mission.
Major Ion Procopiuc's team is made of nine men, all Salvamont members in Vatra Dornei, plus himself, the leader of the VM team and Salvamont team at the same time. All of them are graduates of the National Salvamont School, and have obtained in the previous years places 3 and 4 in the National Mountain Competitions !
But the VM's from the other battalions are also acting bravely. If they didn't had the same experience as their collegues from Vatra Dornei, they try to gain it here, by watching and asking the experts. The teamwork can be felt in the air. Nobody acts alone, no matter how experienced they are, and there is no such thing as a "show-off", as you so often see in American movies. This is not a cheap Hollywood movie. One, no matter how much of experience he might have, can very easily die here. One centimeter in the wrong place, and you become a 75 kilograms diving bomb into nothingness.
Near-by, on a cliff nicknamed by the VM's "Kodoi", in an ironical referal to the famous Hymalaian peak K-2, we find the VM's from Miercurea Ciuc. From some distance, they don't look human, they look like a team of Spider-Men (not Spiderman), acting together. Reality is indeed more spectacular than any movie. In some parts of it, "Kodoi" has sections of 9+ and 10- difficulty, exactly as its hymalaian "sister".
The cliffs from Bucegi have a 10++ difficulty which is as high as you can get, and which is exactly the same as the toughest cliffs you'd find on Everest. In fact, those are the places where Daniel Pisica, the Mountain Hunter that climbed on Everest, trained before his climb there.
After such an amazing day, your stomach is screaming for a hot meal. The mountain air also makes it come faster. But the spirit is also not forgotten. Before lunch, Mihai Negrea, a Christian Orthodox priest, blesses the food and prays for the health of the soldiers and their victory in the battles with the unforgiving mountain. Father Negrea is a priest in a near-by village called Brosteni. He took the day off from his own church, in order to come here and be with his friends, the Hunters. In the future, he would like to become a permanent priest inside the unit, employed by the Army.
Most of these exercises took place in the Diham cabain, in the central Carpathian Mountains, near Brasov. Diham cabain was a very old mountain cabain which entered the international tourism circuit in the 1920's. It was renovated around the year 2000 by the sapper subunit of the 2nd VM brigade and 131 independent commando squadron, Royal Engineers. Diham burned completely in a fire in the winter of 2002.
A visit by US Senate advisorsA group of 7 US Senate advisors visited thursday, the 9th of august 2001, the 21st VM battalion from Predeal. They met and talked there with Sorin Encutescu, secretary of state in the Romanian MoD and also the head of the Department for the Relationship with the Parliament and Public Relationships. The visit included a static display of weaponry and equipment used by the Mountain Hunters and a dynamic show consisting of a complex search and rescue exercise combined with an ambush simulation which took place in Cheile Rasnoavei. At the end of the exercise, col (ret) John Miller, a foreign policy and military advisor of US senator Sam Brownback highly appreciated the training and professional level of the VM's, and underlined the unit cohesion, stating that this is a living example of Romania's military offer for NATO. He also stated that NATO needs such units for peace keeping and other types of operations.
A visit to Georgia14 military personnel and enlisted men from the 2nd VM Brigade "Sarmizegetusa" and from the 1st VM battalion participated together with aproximately 300 soldiers from other 14 NATO and PfP countries at a peace-keeping exercise in Georgia.
The exercise, organized and conducted by the South-East NATO Headquarters from Izmir, Turkey, lasted two weeks.
The purpose of the exercise was to increase interoperability at a multinational subunit level by a change of experience in the area of peace-keeping. The scenario of the exercise was one of a NATO conducted, and UN ordered, peace keeping mission.
The Romanian Mountain Hunters have been present at all leves of the exercise.
The 15 countries organized their soldiers in multinational platoons. The platoon where the VM's were assigned to was formed of Romanian VM's and mountain troops from Georgia, Canada and Armenia.
Attention! The Romanians are coming!In the second day of the exercise, thanks to the physical and moral support offered by the VM's to their collegues from the other three countries, their platoon obtained the 1st place in the exercise, out of 6 participating multinational platoons.
During the first week of the exercise, the Command of the Multinational Battalion familiarized itself with the standard procedures, such as reports and action orders. The next four days were of specific training sessions, which meant that the combatants and the Command centre had to be on duty for 24 hours a day, sometimes on a 49o Centergrade, in order to achieve their missions.
In all the structures and leves where they got involved, the VM's have managed to impress. The good English language skills helped the VM's from the battalion and Brigade command's to make adequate documents, orders and reports, which ensured the good organization and coordination of the subunits in the field.
A new challenge to which the VM's have been asked to response was PR. A Canadian team, experts in the relationship with mass-media, offered theoretical and practical lessons to everyone present at the exercise. Later on, this team impersonated the mass-media and its reactions during all the incidents that took place on the field. Despide their lack of experience in such activities, the VM's have managed to handle it adequatly.
During World War II the VMs went from Moscow to Berlin and from Viena to Stalingrad, liberating Romania, Czechoslovakia and Austria. After WWII there haven't been any combat operations until the 1989 Revolution. Only two days of live fire in Brasov and Sfantu Gheorghe (both in central Romania) were left apparently with no results against a real or simulated enemy. Conscripts opened fire in a quite hectic way during the powerful jamming and misinformation of the Revolution, but to what success rate remains to be debated by historians.
In September 2001 a company of the elite 21st VM battalion (Predeal) was offered for operations in Afghanistan. The company, numbering 170 men, was not requested by the Americans. Serious hiring in the VM units started in january 2002. At the end of 2003, the entire 2nd VM brigade was fully operational with 100% professional soldiers; at that time it was the only brigade (out of 4 still existing) which was incorporated into the Rapid Reaction Force. From that moment onwards Romania offered an entire Mountain brigade for operations abroad, as well as deploy its elite 21st Mountain Hunters battalion anywhere in the world in a time interval between 7 and 30 days (same as the US Navy SEALs). The offer was reduced in the late 2000's to a single battalion.
In the year 2000, after the US and NATO saw the capabilities of the Mountain Hunters, they requested that these units should participate in special operations anywhere in the world under UN, EU, NATO or US command. During the time when Donald Rumsfeld was US Defense Secretary, the plan was to incorporate a company or battalion into the NRF, the NATO Rapid Reaction Force.
Starting with the mid 2000's, the battalions of 2nd VM Brigade have made rotations in Afghanistan. The 21st, 30th and 33rd VM battalions have been on 6 months rotations in that war theatre ever since.
The Legend Of General Mociulschi
From Russia to Berlin, a forgotten Mountain Hunter fought for freedom
From the long list of forgotten heroes of the Romanian people, brought to an unfair state of annonimity, either by a Soviet-pressued communist government, or by our own and cheap habbit to despize and forget our great past, comes one who has been nicknamed "the legendary commander".
General Leonard Mociulschi, a real life tactical genius and brilliant commander, was rising in rank during the 1920's and 30's. It's in this period that the leader, now in command of ever increasing Mountain Hunter units, formed and trained his men, men who, in just a decade's time, will make "the best in the world" soldiers run for their lives on the battlefield.
After taking command of the VM unit in Sighetul Marmatiei (N-W Romania), he plans and conducts douzens of tactical applications, throughout the Maramures mountains (N-W Romania).
Start of the war and unexplainable give away
World War Two came, uninvited, to Romania, in the 22nd of june, 1941. Previously, the nazi rules of Germany (Adolf Hitler) and Hungary (Miklos Horthy) have signed a dictate which ordered Romania to give away northern Transylvania Hungary. In a baffling hystorical moment, the government in Bucharest agreed and northern Transylvania was ceeded without a shot fired from the 400,000 strong Romanian military. Following the anexation, 500 000 Romanians fled the area while around 45 000 more were converted into Hungarians by the new authorities, which changed their names and surnames and registered them as ethnic Hungarians. Between 1941 and 1944 thousands of Romanians were slaughtered in the annexed territories, some shot while others burned alive, dismantled in public, having their eyes cut off or buried alive. How is it possible for a 400,000 strong military to retreat without a fight and let an invading army perform such acts on the local population is still a heated debate.
The Mountain Hunters had to retreat in front of the enemy, giving up the land without a fight. For the time.
General Gheorghe Avramescu, the supreme commander of the Mountain Corps, calls Mociulschi "a terrific fighter and an excelent organizer".
Atrocities, results of the give away
The Hungarian Army's occupation of Northern Transylvania proved to be a Romanian version of the Holocaust. The Hungarian military, strongly backed by local extremists have had 4 years at their disposal to organize massacres of Romanians and Jews, focusing primarily on the first category. The combined military and partizan groups roamed villages known to be inhabitted by Romanians or villages with Hungarian majority where they would ask the locals to point out to houses where Romanians live. When found, the Romanians were gathered in the center of the village where they were beaten up and spit upon by their captors and then put to dig their own graves. The "lucky" ones were shot before their graves, while the unlucky ones were dismembered, in some cases having their eyes cut off with the bayonette. Others were tortured and some were also buried alive. In a display of cynism, the Hungarian soldiers then covered the mass graves with lime, so the smell of decay would be more 'bearable' for the remaining Hungarians living in the villages. It probably took hours, or even days, for all the people to suffocate or die of hunger, burried alive in their own villages.
After 4 years of massacres and conversions, a quick recovery
But all these atrocities, conducted by Miklos Horthy, the ruler of the Hungarian Nazi party, were about to come to an end. Divison-General Leonard Mociulschi had arrived from Stalingrad with his 3rd Mountain division, straight back to Transylvania. In the battle of the Valley of Crisul Negru, his severely outnumbered forces manage to repell a powerful German-Hungarian counteroffensive. The Germans, which are called everywhere the best soldiers of World War II, in a high numerical superiority, together with the Hungarians, were pushed back towards the Tisa river (today in central Hungary). The city of Oradea, today at the western border of Romania, was re-taken much earlier than planned.
In a surprizing turn of events, the Hungarian people in their own turn have had enough of Miklos Horthy and his dying nazi regime. Horthy sent 350,000 Hungarian soldiers to the German-led invasion of the Soviet Union, in exchange for Hitler's order to attach Northern Transylvania to Hungary. Many of the Hungarian soldiers, poorely trained and equipped, have been used like the Romanian and Italian ones, as a frontline buffer during the invasion. Now, the Mountain Hunters are pushing on. The German armies, now on retreat towards the river Tisa, and under herassment by both Serb and Hungarian partizans, fought dearly for the keeping of Debretin (Debrecen, E Hungary) and Budapest (capital city, N-central Hungary). The Mountain Hunters however manage to smash the German resistance and liberate the two cities, and later the entire country of Hungary. Go back to the history section to see pictures of Romanian soldiers giving hot meals to Hungarian civilians, on the streets of Budapest. This comes in stark contrast to the atrocities performed by the Hungarian military and partizans just a couple of years earlier.
Later on, Division General Leonard Mociulschi passes the border into Czechoslovakia, attacking the Tatra mountains, another strong-hold of the retreating German forces. The German Army Group Center felt the power of the spearhead which was the Romanian 3rd Mt Division. However, in the 8th of April, 1945, while the 3rd Mt Division was nearing Prague, Mociulschi receives an order to immediately return to Romania. Other Romanian major units will continue the fight and reach Viena and later Berlin.
Falsifying the history
The Russians burned the archives and as such, if one visits Hungary or Czechoslovakia today, at the entrance of each village stays written "This village was liberated by the Soviet Army". Romanian veterans going to Budapest for a ceremony were outraged. "That's impossible, I fought here!", says one 86-year old officer. "I fought here and there was no Russian foot around for miles !!!", he continues.
Downfall and "rewards"
But the returning general was not received with military honours, nor with hand-shakes, when he stepped back on Romanian soil. After being ruled by pro-German governments, Hungary and Romania now have new, communist governments. Due to the great pressure of Moscow, both of them step asside any past conflicts and behave, on the surface, as good communist comrades. For sure, someone like Mociulschi, who lead his Mountain Hunters almoust all the way to Moscow, is now a political embarassment. And the Soviets want him.
The Soviets behaved more or less the same as the Hungarians, when they entered Romania. But they made no mass graves, no extermination, and no wipe-out plan. However, a large number of people were superficially executed by ad-hoc judging parties. One of them was Marshal Antonescu, the leader of Romania at that time. The Russians did engage in mass raping, stealing and torture. Perhaps it should be 'understandable', if one looks at their experience with the Germans, when they too, were invaded by them. Basarabia and Bucovina have been ripped off from Romania again and attached to the Soviet Union, which now represents more than sixty percent of Romania's border. All the factories were dis-assembled and sent by train, to Russia. General Mociulschi is sent to jail for one year. After that, an ad-hoc "People's Tribunal" remarcably finds him 'not guilty', and by the Court's Order No. 18, from the 31st of may 1946, he is aquitted. This was indeed remarcable because the People's Tribunal was of course, a mock judging authority meant only to quickly execute people.
58 years old and after 40 years in service, "the legend" who fought and achieved remarcable victories in two world wars is now seeking a job in a country that has to pay a multi-billion dollar war payment to the Soviets, even after a quarter of its territory was already anexed by them and all its factories were deported to Siberia.
But this situation would not last long. From bad to worse, during 1948 he is again arrested, this time without a trial. Still with no trial nor any kind of conviction, the communist authorities send him to force labor camps, working in places like the Danube-Black Sea cannal, Onesti and Castelu. After this detention, he is again freed, with no further comments, in 1955.
Times have changed for the Mountain Hunters. The ones who once roamed from Moscow to Berlin, from Stalingrad to the Tatra mountains, are now looking for a job, any job. Leonard's former chief of staff, sacked and therefore still ranked as a colonel, Petrescu, was selling his decorations in the markets of Baia Mare (capitol of the Maramures region, N-W Romania), the former battlefield, in order to have money for bread. General Mociulschi, now a civilian, works on the lowest jobs. The state that he once served, has betrayed him.
Commander of large units of the Mountain Hunters, victorious in strips of land that are longer than Europe taken from one tip to the other, decorated twice with the Mihai Viteazul order and with over a hundred other orders and decorations, has passed away without nobody even noticing it. Like him, many more, have been deprived even of a decent burial, due to, of course, 'lack of funding'.
In 1999, 20 years after his annonymous death, the local military organization in Baia Mare has replaced its display panel at the entrance. The new one states, near by "COUNTRY, HONOUR, DIGNITY", the name of Division General Leonard Mociulschi.
A Mountain Hunter on Everest
The famous loyalty of the VM's and a remarcable story about humanity
After many years of mountain climbing in the military, and personal hiking trips in the amazing Romanian mountains, conquering peaks such as the ones from Fagaras or Bucegi, lieutenant Daniel Pisica got to be a member in the select group of Romanian mountain climbers. Also experienced in climbing peaks in far away continents, lt Pisica was one of the men who Defence officials thought of when they planned sending a soldier to the Romanian mission to Everest, at the 50th celebration of its conquest.
No gear, no deal
After the Defence Ministry had approved his departure, the youngest member of the team, lt. Daniel Pisica, started to look for proper equipment. Not a problem for climbers from countries like US or Switzerland, who spend tons of money in a douzen expeditions and still don't bring any results back home, the cost of the gear was the first obstacle in front of this mission. A simple pair of Lorpen sox costs around $50. And there's also tents, termarest, gore-tex, sleeping bags, boots, safety belts, communication equipment, taxes, etc. In total, 3,000 euros to say the least.
There is a funny saying among Romanian climbers today: "In the 1960's, sex was safe, and climbing - unsafe. In the 2000's, climbing is safe, but sex - unsafe".
After their arrival in Kathmandu, the group increased by three members: Gheorghe Dijmarescu, a Romanian climber who has been living for 20 yrs now in the US, his wife, Lapka Sherpa, a world champion and the only woman to climb the Everest three times, and their 16-year old daughter, Dony Sherpa, who even at this young age already proved that she carries her parents genes.
The storm - a curse, the accident - bad luck
During the climb, a sherpa gets pulmonary endema. Being the youngest, and also a Salvamont member, he decides to accompany him down to Base Camp, knowing very well that the person doing that would probably miss the ascention to the peak.
Lt. Pisica goes down the mountain with the injured Dyly Sherpa, thru the storm, arm to arm, as the sherpa could bearly walk. The road that was supposed to take 10 hours, now took 16. In the end, lt Daniel Pisica saved Dyly Sherpa's life. However, in the mean time, the climbers which were still on top got a window of opportunity, and they took it. Good weather came for a brief moment, and some of them have climbed the peak. The three "Americans" and three members of the group.
And that was it.... waiting your entire life to climb the top of the world, when misfortune happens. One more proof, if ever needed, of a Mountain Hunter's famous loyalty. Lt. Daniel Pisica got as high as 7,200 meters, and in the end, he saved a man's life. "And isn't that the supreme duty?", he asks in a bitter-sweet smile. Back to Kathmandu, Dyly Sherpa was very giving with beer and good words. His new friend and rescuer, a Romanian Mountain Hunter, left his own life-long desire to climb the peak, in order to save his life.