Germans Take Odessa

Austrian forces pausing on the way to Odessa after being attacked by Red forces; the Germans, able to cut through Romania and Bessarabia, would beat them to the city.

March 13 1918, Odessa–Per the terms of the preliminary Peace of Buftea, the Romanians were to help the transit German forces across their territory towards Odessa.  On March 8, a convoy of 100 trucks left Galați on the Danube, bound for Odessa.  Romanian forces helped organize their route and provided needed supplies.  In addition to being a stipulation of the treaty, a German capture of Odessa would be in Romania’s best interest; the only major resistance to Romania’s occupation of Bessarabia was from the Red forces in Odessa; the Romanians would only complete that occupation with the capture of Cetatea Albă [Bilhorod-Dnistrovskyi] at the mouth of the Dniester on March 9.

The one awkward point of the German transit was the simultaneous evacuation of Berthelot’s French military mission in Romania, whose departure was also a stipulation of the peace.  They had rejected an offer from Mackensen to transit via Austria-Hungary (with significant delays and the risk of being treated as prisoners of war), and instead decided to risk travel via Ukraine and Russia. The Romanians did not want their faithful allies to be interfered with, and King Ferdinand told the Germans in no uncertain terms that their safe departure was “a point of honor.”  Although the Germans had no intention of doing so, threats escalated from both sides until the French were able to slip out by train towards Odessa only five hours ahead of the Germans.

German forces entered Odessa on March 13, quickly dispersing the Red resistance.  The shortcut through Bessarabia meant they arrived ahead of the Austrian forces who had been advancing south through Ukraine east of the Dniester, much to the Austrians’ chagrin.  Although technically all operations in the Ukraine were on behalf of the recognized Ukrainian government in Kiev, in practice it was a military occupation, and both the Austrians and Germans were eager to claim their share of the spoils first.

Today in 1917: Wilson Arms Merchant Vessels and Authorizes Them to Fire on U-Boats

Today in 1916: New U-Boat Campaign Begins
Today in 1915: British Attempt Minesweeping in Dardanelles

Sources include: Glenn E. Torrey, The Romanian Battlefront in World War I.