4th Paratroopers Battalion

4th Paratroopers Battalion

The first company of paratroopers in Romania was formed by the Romanian Royal Air Forces on 10 June 1941, 12 days before the entrance of Romania in the Second World War. The goal was the creation of a unit capable of military operations similar to the German ones in Belgium, the Netherlands and Crete. Two additional companies were created one in 1942, another in 1943.
These 3 companies, the 3rd one being a heavy weapons company, have formed the 4th Paratroopers Battalion. It was attached to the 3 battalions of antiaircraft balloons. The latter totalled 7 companies, thus, the numbering of the paratroopers companies started with 8.
By October 1943, only 215 soldiers had obtained their parachutist certificate. The wish of the high command for an accelerated increase of their fighting capacity has led to the establishment of a regiment of paratroopers that was supposed to reach the number of 2877 men; however, because of the long training time necessary, the outfit did not reach its planned strength by the end of hostilities.
The Army formed a glider airborne battalion, with a structure identical to that of a Mountain Troops battalion. The difficulties were linked to the operational air transport capacity.
An improvement of the air transportation capacity occurs in 1943, when several Junkers-52 planes, 27 gliders of German construction DFS-230 and a number of obsolete, modified, bombers and civil air transport aircraft(Potez – 65, IAR-39, etc) become available. The allocation of additional 54 airplanes Ju-52 was stipulated.
The paratroopers were armed with: pistols, rifles, submachineguns, an array of special daggers, machineguns, 60mm and 81.40mm mortars, antitank cannons and Zündapp motorcycles.
On 23 August 1944 Romania withdrew from the war due to the failure of the Germans to fulfil their obligation of defending Romanian territory; a peaceful withdrawal of German troops was granted. But Hitler ordered the bombing of Romanian military and civilian targets and a lightning operation with special troops, in order to gain controol of the country. The crack troops of the commando unit 500.Battalion Waffen SS Paratroops of the Brandenburg Division, under direct command of the Abwehr, have landed at Boteni and Tandarei, near Bucharest, on 24 August. Their first objective was to taking control of the Romanian Air Corps 1.
The Romanian paratroopers stationed on aerodromes around the capital, together with the airfield security guards, attacked the German special troops and neutralized them.
Part of the German commandoes escaped and retreated to join General Gerstenberg’s forces around the Otopeni airport (more than 2000 soldiers with mechanized means and 58 cannons) and Baneasa forest (more than 4000 soldiers). The massive German reinforcements that were due to land at these 2 airports were intercepted and largely destroyed by the Royal Romanian Air Force and anti-aircraft artillery.
Romanian forces, among which Bat.4.Parasutisti, that stormed the strong German positions, got U.S. air support in their first joint operation. An unfortunate coordination error made that an advanced company of Romanian paratroopers be bombed by the U.S. Air Force, leaving half of its numbers dead on the field. Operations continued on 28 August, when the last, surrounded, ~ 1900 German troops surrendered, including the remaining members of the Brandenburgs.
The commander of the 4.Parasutisti Battalion was awarded the highest Romanian military Order “Mihai Viteazul with Spade” cl.lll., for bravery.
The 4.Parasutisti Battalion was withdrawn from operations in September 1944, upon arrival of the Soviet army. The unit was disbanded, following a request of the Soviet high command, in February 1945.

> Combat uniform of Romanian parachutists (1941):

– kaki overalls with zipper closure in front from neck all the way down, with 6 pockets, all zippered: 2 breast-pockets, 2 on the upper legs, in front, 2 lateral, below the wais, plus 1 narrow pocket closed with 1 button on the shin, for the special dagger. Legs and cuffs were pulled tight with elastic bands;

– black or dark blue beret with air force metal crest: crowned eagle with open wings, cross in beak, holding sword, surrounded by a laurel wreath, or, grey-blue aviation cap with embroidered air force crest;

– german parachutist’s helmet;

– white or beige shirt, often made of parachute silk, worn with black tie;

– laced boots in black or natural leather worn with socks rolled off over top of boots or with leggings in leather, fastened with three side straps and buckles, worn with trousers;

– natural leather waist-belt, fastened with a belt plate plain or adorned by a crown;

– natural leather square cartridge pouches, fixed on the waist-belt, framing the belt plate, or, web magazine pouches for the MP-40 submachinegun;

– bread bag in kaki canvas, carried diagonally, on the right hip;

– Romanian rectangular mess tin, made in enameled metal, fastened by a strap on the outside flap of the bread bag, or German mess tin;

– Romanian, German or Russian canteen,  suspended on the waist belt;

– wristwatch with 4 dials, Arbor Sport or Rodana Sport;

– Walther or Luger de 9mm pistol;

– submachinegun MP-40 cal.9mm or ZB cal.7,92mm carbine;

– special dagger with collapsible, 185 mm long, lockblade;

– parachutist’s badge (metal, enamelled): royal monogram between open wings, surmounted by a parachute.

Rank insignia was worn, as by air force regulation, on the sleeves, above the cuffs.