Romanian troops near Mărășești.
August 6 1917, Mărășești–The Germans had for some time been planning a renewed offensive in Romania, to try to knock them out of the war for good. Romania’s initial successes in a late July offensive around
Mărăști changed the German plans; the timetable of the attack was brought forward, and its location moved. Instead of attacking across the Siret, it would take place purely on its west bank, to relieve pressure on the area being attacked by the Romanians. By late July, however, the Romanian offensive had stopped, rendering this unnecessary, but the change in plans remained. Many of the commanders on the ground were unenthusiastic;
infrastructure in the area was poor, staying on the near side of the Siret diminished the chance of a breakthrough, and Romanian artillery could enfilade the advance from the heights on the far side of the Siret. Nevertheless, Mackensen was optimistic. Many of the troops in the area were Russian, who, it was assumed, would collapse at the first pressure.
The Germans opened their attack with an artillery barrage (including poison gas) at 4:30 AM on August 6, followed by the infantry three hours later. The defending Russians, outnumbered and low in morale, soon fell back–some units in more disarray than others. The Germans advanced over six miles in some places on the first day–but this was along the banks of the Siret itself. As a result, the Allied lines were actually shortened by the attack, and the Romanian artillery fire from the other side of the Siret caused “painfully” high casualties.
The Romanians were able to destroy the bridges over the Siret in the area (in some cases only after the Russians finished retreating over them), preventing the Germans from capturing them. Despite the Romanians having less than a day’s warning of the attack from aerial reconnaissance, reinforcements were able to arrive by that evening and stabilize the front. After two more days of fierce fighting, the Germans had advanced several miles over a broad front and captured 3000 PoWs, but at the cost of heavy casualties and with no sign of a breakthrough that would lead to a defeat of Romania.
Today in 1916: Italians Take Mts San Michele and Sabotino
Sources include: Glenn E. Torrey, The Romanian Battlefront in World War I.