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Letters from Georgescu



V. C. GEORGESCU

4th January 1990

Colonel William R. Cubbins

U.S.A.

 

Dear Colonel Cubbins,

In the following I have tried to put together a few memories of events in 1944.

If I remember correctly, it was in July 1944 that your flyers bombed the Bucharest marshalling yards, which in your style of carpet bombing also covered our little prison in Calea Plevnei. An order came from the then Prime Minister that I should be taken to shelter during the bombings. I refused unless all the prisoners accompany me to the new railway building shelter. The Colonel in charge reluctantly agreed and assembled all the prisoners saying that should anybody leave the group in an attempt to escape, Mr. Georgescu would bear the responsibility and as a result might well be shot. The prisoners, among whom were several Russians, two British airmen and about 30 Poles, came to me and thanked me warmly for my attitude and swore that they would not try to escape.

On our way to the new railway building shelter, through an alley of the hospital area, there were several compounds of American prisoners. Our guards escorted us to the shelter but I was lucky enough to have two guards who were friendly and who allowed me to speak in a loud voice as I passed the barbed wire where the American flyers came to listen to what I had to say. I was thus able to give them the latest news and gradually more and more of them came to hear what I had to say. I clearly remember telling them about the middle of August 1944 that things were cooking and that it would not be long before they were freed. It was around 18 or 20 August that I remember saying: "Boys, get your whisky ready because things are going to happen next week" - and true, they did.

At around 5.30 in the morning of 24 August two American officers came to my cell. How they got there, I don't know, but they said: "We think we know who you are and that you are on our side", to which I replied: "Yes". They then said: "Until we hear from our base in Italy, we will consider you as our C.O. and follow your advice". Colonel Gunn and Major Yager were the two officers concerned and I invited them to come back at 9.30 and accompany me to the Royal Palace. There I introduced them to General Sanatescu, the then Prime Minister, Mr. Maniu, President of the National Peasant Party and the man who should have been Prime Minister, to General Racovita, Minister of War, and to other high-ranking officials. General Sanatescu immediately agreed that all the American and British flyers were free as from that moment and said that they were to travel, if possible, in open cars so that the population could see them and possibly some of them inform their German friends that American troops were driving in open cars in Bucharest.

I believe that Colonel Gunn went back to the lodgings of the highest echelon flyers from where they subsequently all retrieved their belongings.

I asked that all the radio crew members should be assembled with their

equipment at the vaults of the National Bank where we set up our headquarters as the Germans were continuously bombing the Royal Palace and creating havoc with that beautiful building.

Major Porter, whom I had met that morning, accompanied Mr. Maniu and me to the National Bank in one of the royal cars. We were bombed along our way but luckily without a direct hit. On our arrival at the National Bank, I asked the Governor to let us use the vaults for the time being so that the radio men could set up their equipment and endeavour to contact Bari or other bases abroad. That night I lost track of what Colonel Gunn and Major Yager did.

At about 5 o'clock next morning we found out that none of the radio men had been successful in contacting their Bari base as they did not have the up-to-date code. I then drove in a royal car to my former prison where I knew that my radio man Turcanu had his equipment stored when he was arrested in July. I picked up the radio transmitter without difficulty, took it to the car and drove back to the National Bank. On our way back we passed a shop which had sold melons but which had been bombed with the result that hundreds of melons were strewn all over the street. I told the driver not to mind them but to accelerate and drive over them, which he did, and we got back safely to the bank in spite of continuous bombing.

My associates had gone out at 5 o'clock to try to find Turcanu, my radio man. He was ready at 6.45 and available to start his transmission to Cairo. He remembered the code and we were thus able to alert Cairo of the urgency of bombing the Baneasa and Otopeni airfields. The next day we gave them the co-ordinates of the locations and on behalf of the King and the country, requested them to destroy those two German-held bases as soon as possible as they made life impossible to live in Bucharest. The King had already left for his country place and was not available. I do not know what happened in Cairo or at the U.S. Air Force HQ in Italy, but on the morning of 26 August I was delighted to see the American bombers coming in over Bucharest and bombing the hell our of Baneasa and Otopeni. There were 10,000 Germans dead and we had no further bombing in Bucharest from those airfields.

This prompted Colonel Gunn and me to meet again and I introduced him to Captain Bazu Cantacuzino, one of Pomania's best flyers, at Popesti-Leordeni. We then had an excellent meal together at Capsa's. Colonel Gunn accompanied me to my house and spent the night there.

On Sunday morning, after obtaining the necessary permission from the Ministry of Air, we went to Popesti-Leordeni. Bazu thought that an old Hispano-Suiza plane would be the best with which to fly to Italy with Colonel Gunn as it had Pomanian markings. However they returned after a couple of hours as the plane was not appropriate for the flight to Italy. Bazu then suggested that they take his Messerschmidt 109 for that purpose. They managed to get through all right although Bazu was scared that the U.S. Air Force might shoot them down as they approached the Italian aerodromes.

A few days later General Sanatescu called me in and said:

" I have received a message to send back to Italy all the American flyers."

and crewmen totalling 1,200. Would you take care of that?? I replied that I would be very happy to do so. I was then a member of his Cabinet.

Some of the flyers were not in Bucharest whilst others had been hospitalised and were unable to move. I insisted that the return of the flyers should take place as soon as possible on account of the advancing Soviet Army, and for that purpose I called in Colonel Dombrovsky, Mayor of Bucharest, and told him to requisition all the buses in Bucharest so that they could be at the disposal of the American flyers. Some of the buses had to be driven out as far as Sinaia, Predeal, Timis and possibly Brasov to collect those prisoners who were not in Bucharest. Those who were in Bucharest were driven to Popesti-Leordeni to await the return of the buses from the country. According to Colonel Gunns assessment, the Popesti-Leordeni airfield could just about take in a Liberator. I was at the airfield to see the Liberators come in, pick up the flyers and return them to Italy. It was wonderful to see the happiness and joy of the flyers as they assembled and then entered the Liberators to fly back to Italy. Arrangements had been made at Popesti-Leordeni to have beds and food available for the men as they assembled. According to you and Colonel Gunn, all the flyers were accounted for, even some who were outside Romania.

Several weeks later I had a call from the Royal Palace and was informed that Generals Ira Eaker, Twining, Johnston and others were flying in to Bucharest to thank H.M. King Michael, myself and the others who had helped in the return of the American flyers.

It is important for you to know that as the return flights were taking place at Popesti-Leordeni, Soviet ground troops were entering Baneasa and Otopeni, the main Bucharest airports. However they had no idea at that time of the existence of a third airfield near Bucharest which was for the use of the Romanian fighter pilots (Popesti-Leordeni). I was later given to understand that the Soviet High Command had looked with displeasure at my action to be responsible for returning the American flyers so promptly to Italy.

Yours sincerely,

V.C. Georgescu




V. C. GEORGESCU

15th February 1990

Colonel William R. Cubbins

U.S.A.

Dear Colonel,

In order for you to have a more complete story of what transpired during 23 August 1944 and 26 August 1944 when we were bombed to hell by the German air force, it is important for you to know the reasons thereof.

At about midnight on 23 August, general Gerstenberg of the German army (a cavalry officer) came to see general Stanescu, the new prime minister, following the kings speech at 10 o clock that evening when he asked the German troops to withdraw from the Rumanian territory quietly and he assured the Germans that there would be no firing from the Rumanian troops as long as they were withdrawing and behaving quietly. The German general assured general Stanescu that he wanted to go to Ploiesti and make sure that the German air force and the aircraft batteries would leave their basis orderly and quietly and he wanted to be present there and make sure that they did so.

As Stanescu was also a cavalry officer, the German offered Stanescu his hand and he said:

"On my word of honour, I shall do the best I can to order the Germans to withdraw immediately, orderly and quietly from Plolesti to the frontier of Hungary." General Stanescu, in his naivete agreed to let Gerstenberg go back to Ploiesti and even gave him a Rumanian colonel as an escort.

When general Gerstenberg arrived in Ploiesti, the colonel was arrested and Gerstenberg ordered the German air force and the anti-aircraft artillery and the remaining troops (about 10,000) to return back to Bucarest and occupy the Baneasa and the Otopeni airports and the woods surrounding them. That is why, during the morning of 24 August, the German air force began to blitz Bucarest every 10 minutes as they were only 10 km away.

We had a hell of a time to drive from the Royal Palace to the National Bank where we set up headquarters in the vaults of the bank. While in the Royal Palace with colonel Gunn and major Jaeger, the palace was destroyed and we had to go down to the shelter. I won't tell you about my meeting with Mr. Maniu in the laquais room. It was pretty hellish!!

You and colonel Gunn will recall that Bucarest was being bombed every 10 minutes day and night until I was able, on the 25th early in the morning, to pick up our old transmitter set and send Cairo an urgent message to bomb Ortopeni as soon as they could manage from Italy. At about 10 or 11 o'clock on Saturday 26 August, I was delighted to see the Liberators fly over Bucarest and bomb Ortopeni and Baneasa. They killed over 10,000 German troops, all from the aircraft. Saturday afternoon, the "all clear" rang out and we were so happy and relieved to be able to move freely around the town. We paid heavily for general Stanescu's mistake to believe general Gerstenberg because they were both cavalry officers and that the German would respect his word of honour.

I hope that this will give you a better understanding as to why the Germans bombed so frequently during those three days. If you have any further questions, please let me know.

 

 

 

Yours sincerely,

V.C.Georgescu

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