A volunteer division of Rumanian prisoners of war recruited into the Red Army. It saw extensive fighting in 1944–1945.
The 1st Romanian Volunteer Division Tudor Vladimirescu was created on 2 October 1943 after much pleading made by the Romanian Communists exiled in the USSR, led by Ana Pauker. The men were recruited from the POWs in the Soviet camps. The prospect of a better life than that enjoyed in the camps and of the promised return home meant that there were enough soldiers willing to join it. Obviously books published in Romania during the 1948-1989 period underlined the soldiers’ “desire to fight fascism and free the country of Antonescu’s dictatorship”, the main motivation was more related to survival and longing for home than to “Communist ideals”. The main problem of the recruiters was the lack of officers willing to join the division. Thus sergeants and NCOs had to receive a quick officer course by 1 February 1944 in order ensure the necessary staff. As political officers were used 500 Communists of Romanian citizenship, exiled in the USSR previous to the war.
The first Commanding Officer was Colonel Nicolae Cambrea, the former chief of staff of the 5th Infantry Division, captured at Serafimovich on 22 November 1942. He was released from the Suzdal camp and took over the Tudor Vladimirescu division on 15 November 1943 and began organizing it.
The Order of Battle was that of a Soviet rifle division:
– 1st, 2nd and 3rd Panduri Regiments (the panduri were a volunteer corps commanded by Tudor Vladimirescu, which served in the Russian Army during the 1806-1812 Russo-Turkish War); each regiment had 3 rifle battalions (3 rifle companies, one machine-gun company and one 82 mm mortar company each), one AT rifle company (36 pieces), one 120 mm mortar battery (6 pieces), one 76.2 mm gun battery (6 pieces), one 45 mm AT gun battery (6 pieces)
– 1st Artillery Regiment: two battalions of 76.2 mm guns (24 pieces) and one 122 mm howitzers battalion (12 pieces)
The weapons and equipment were Soviet, but the rank insignias were Romanian.
Because the Red Army was approaching Romanian territory, the preparations were hurried up. It took the oath on 30 March 1944 and the following day it was sent to the front and subordinated to Marshal Malinovsky’s 2nd Ukrainian Front. The division arrived at Vapniarka on 23 April, but since the Soviet offensive had run out of steam and the front stabilized, it didn’t get to see any action and was put in reserve and the political officers started a propaganda campaign on the Romanian territory (the northeastern corner of the country) under Red Army control.
After the Jassy-Kishinev Operation began, the Tudor Vladimirescu division was ordered to occupy Iasi on 21 August and Romania’s capitulation two days later avoided the undesirable situation of a Romanian-Romanian conflict. On 28 August, 150 vehicles were assigned to it in order to get to Bucharest as fast as possible. Malinovsky probably counted on the propaganda potential it had. Thus, the advanced echelon saw its first combat action against a small German force at Bulbocea, near Vaslui. The rest of the division engaged another German unit on 31 August, on the Ciunta Hill, near Deleni. The motorized detachment entered Bucharest on 31 August 1944. But because the order was secured by the Romanian Government and the division could not be used in this role, it was sent to the front in Transylvania.
Combat losses were heavy; by March 1945 the strength of the division had sunk to 4,436 men.
In March 1945 the division was pulled out of the front lines, but remained under the operational control of the 2nd Ukrainian Front until August 15, 1945.
Relentlessly politicized by their communist leaders, the Tudor Vladimirescu Division became a politically reliable military formation of the Romanian communists. Along with another Romanian communist unit, the Horia, Cloşca şi Crişan Division, and backed by tens of thousands of Red Army troops, the Tudor Vladimirescu Division played a key role in imposing communist rule in Romania after the war. The two communist divisions were integrated into the Romanian Army on August 22, 1945. The Tudor Vladimirescu Division was converted into an armored division by 1947 while the regular Romanian army was reduced to four divisions with no tanks, thus providing the Romanian communists the trump cards of mobility and firepower had a conflict with anti-communist elements in the Romanian Army taken place.