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The EK1

Although not part of the Alpenkorps, the Infanterie Regiment 187 was a veteran of the fighting in the Vogesen before being rushed to Romania to help in the mountain warfare at the Vulkan Pass, Fogaras, the Roter Turm Pass. During the fighting the II. Batl. was attached to the Bavarian Jäger Regiment 1.  

On September 21st the II. Btln. of the I.R. 187 was enjoying a well-earned rest in the village of Livazeny. That morning they had cleaned their weapons and kit and the orders for the afternoon were "rest and recuperation".

A muffled protest arose when new orders arrived to assemble on the road with assault packs. “Assault packs”, always a phrase that got the heart beating! The men milled around trying to guess what the day had in store for them. In the meantime the four company commanders were receiving their orders, the II. Btln. was to join the Gruppe Paulus for an assault on the Vulkan pass.  

Oberstleutnant Paulus was commander of the Bavarian Jäger Regiment 1, one of the units of the elite Alpenkorps. 

Left: A Death/Commemoration Card to a member of the 1st Bavarian Jäger Regiment killed in Romania.

After a hard two hour road march the battalion swung to the left and crossed a field to reach the edge of the forest that ran up the side of the valley. A 20 minute break was called in which the men stared at the forest with a sinking feeling. Due to the freezing cold they were soon happy to move off but they began to curse as they entered the forest. Climbing up the steep mountain side, the air hung heavily with the smell of rotting humus which was kept in by the heavy forest covering just as any moonlight was kept out. Physically and mentally it was heavy going, lungs bursting, stomach muscles aching the men advanced on hands and feet, clambering over fallen trees, rocks and bushes, unable to see their hands in front of their faces. 

It was past midnight when they arrived at the HQ of the Reserve Jäger Bataillon 10. The infantrymen collapsed into heaps, a six and a half hour climb behind them. As if their arrival was a signal, the heavens opened up and the Battalion was caught in a downpour which the men weathered, laying in the mud wrapped miserably in their greatcoats and groundsheets.

At 04:00 the order to assemble came and the men set off for another forced march, this time high above the forest line on a mountain pass that ran about 100m below the peak. Partially dizzy with the height, the men were able to look down on the road they had marched along the day before, from the path it looked like a thin cotton thread snaking through the valley below.

At 10:00 am a rest behind a ridge was called and the officers went forward to receive orders. The heights around the Vulkan pass were to be cleared of enemy soldiers, the II./I.R. 187 was to help the 2. and 3. Komp. of the Bayr. Jägerbtln. 1. to capture heights 1692 and 1691.

Above: An Iron Cross 2nd Class award document for Unteroffizier der Landwehr Hinrich Mohr, 7th Company Infanterie Regiment 187. The document was signed by Generalleutnant Edwin Sunkel

German and Austrian artillery had already opened a weak barrage on the enemy positions. Ammunition being hard to transport in the mountains the artillery had to ration its shots. The men of the 187 I.R. were almost eager for combat as it meant an end to the exhausting march. As the last shot fell the order to attack was given, the men rushing over the peak with a loud "Hurrah!!"

The surprised Rumanians looked in horror at the approaching Germans, a second "Hurrah!!" and a scattering of shots.... by the time the Germans reached the lines the Rumanian soldiers had abandoned their positions and were making for the forest. The Germans followed, taking a number of defensive lines that had been abandoned in the hasty retreat.  

Upon reaching Height 1672 the assault force ran into difficulty. As they approached they were greeted by well-coordinated machine gun fire and the first serious losses took place. Artillery support was not possible and the Rumanian positions were well prepared. The Germans returned fire, standing, then kneeling and finally on their bellies hugging the earth. One by one the German dead and wounded began to pile up, the screams of pain and the calls for water or a medic began to work on the nerves of the soldiers.  

A German machine gun tried to move into position but the gunner was hit in the forehead, another took his place and fell dead as well. Advancing was out of the question, Jäger and Infantryman lay in mixed companies under a hail of fire. The shooting did not abate until the sun went down, only then were the men able to move, their legs as heavy as lead and their minds numbed. First priority was the wounded, much too many for the Medics to handle on their own. Everyone lent a hand to get them back out of the line. Midnight had arrived before the men were able to prepare their positions, digging in with spade, bayonet and bare hands in the rocky ground.  

At 02:00 am the Romanians opened fire sending the Germans diving for cover. The troops lay clutching their rifles, peering into the darkness wondering if an attack was in the making. Soon the firing died down and the II. Btln. continued their digging.  

The next couple of days were quieter, the strength of both sides diminished by their losses and for the ll. Btln. by the fact that the two companies of the Bayr. Jägerbtln 1. had been withdrawn. The men of the 187th had to extend their lines to link up with the Bayerische Jägerbataillon Nr. 2. on their flank and they now fell under the command of the Gruppe Bauernschmidt (Commander of the Jägerbtln. 2.).

Above: A Militärpass entry for a member of the I.R. 187, a portion of the Regiment fought in the Fogaras Area, this is entered in Pencil.

High on the isolated mountain peak the men lay in their shallow foxholes, waiting for the counter attack that was sure to come. At 05.30 on the morning of the September 25 the enemy artillery opened up on the German lines to be followed by an infantry attack at 08:15. The massed infantry assault was thrown back by the men of the II. Btln. helped by fire from their flank where the Bayr. Jägerbtln. 2. was dug in. The Romanians launched 3 attacks that day, all which were beaten back, leaving many men in front of the German foxholes. The attacks were suicidal; many of the Romanians were killed before they had made it out of their own positions. After the last attack the Germans settled down for another night of random shooting, the Rumanians were left to prepare for an attack the next day.  

Suddenly orders arrived... the Gruppe Bauernschmidt was to abandon its positions that night. Masked by the darkness the companies left their foxholes, a rearguard was left behind to keep up the random fire on the enemy positions and to follow once the main force had gotten clear. The next morning the Romanians assaulted the empty foxholes after an artillery barrage. The ll. Btln. was at that moment far away regrouping at Height 934 having taken, defended and abandoned their positions at a very heavy cost.

For further information on the fighting in the Roter Turm Pass please click HERE