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The Bulgarian Army
in World War Two

In 1939 the world is on the threshold of a new world war. Bulgaria hardly is able to keep aside of the coming military conflict, in spite of the policy of neutrality it had pronounced. On the war’s eve the armed forces of Bulgaria consist of four single armies, with ten infantry divisions, two cavalry divisions, Navy and air Force, with total staff amounting 72 250 soldiers, officers and non- commissioned officers. In July 1939 is formed a Covering Army, concentrated at the southeastern border.

After breaking out of the war, on September 1st , 1939 started mobilization and strategic deployment of the Bulgarian Army and its providing with modern arms and armored vehicles. For the first time the armed forces were divided in kinds of troops – Land Forces, Air forces and the Navy.

Bulgaria maintains neutrality till March 1st, 1941, when it signs the Tripartite Pact together with Germany, Italy and Japan and enters the World War II. In all kinds of troops and branches of the army are carried out organizational and structural transformations. In the Land Forces are established new operative formations – a separated 5th Army and two corps. In the Air Force are organized flying, airfield and parachute troops and anti-aircraft defense. In the Navy are included the Danubian Fleet , Cherno More (Eng. – Black Sea) and Byalo More (Eng. – Aegean Sea) Fleets.

In the course of war, through the mediation of Germany and USSR, on September 7th , 1940 in the city of Craiova, Bulgaria and Romania sign an agreement for returning South Dobrudzha. Thus the rights of Bulgaria on this age-old territory, unjustly taken away from Bulgaria by the force of the Peace Treaty of Bucharest (1913) and of the Peace Treaty of Neuilly (1919), are restored. The population of Dobrudzha welcomes troops of the 3rd Army under command of Lieutenant- General Georgi Popov with “hoorays” and tears in their eyes.

Fifth and Second Bulgarian armies take over by stages Macedonia and Belomorska Trakia (Eng. – Aegean Thrace). The Bulgarian population in these lands accepts this act as its national liberation, as a step to the unification of the Bulgarian nation. The losses of Germany at the Eastern Front and the menace of possible British-American landing at the Byalo More (Eng. – Aegean Sea) coast make it necessary forming two corps. In January 1942 the First Bulgarian Corps takes over parts of southeastern Serbia, its headquarters locating in the town of Nish, and, in November 1943 three infantry divisions are united in Second Bulgarian Corps with headquarters in Drama town. These corps carry out guardian, defensive and maneuvering tasks. Both corps are disbanded in September 1944.

On December 12th, 1941, Bulgaria declares war on the USA and Great Britain. The so-called “Symbolic War” later becomes a reality with tragic consequences. At the end of 1943 and early 1944 the air raids above Bulgaria become more intensive and with heavy damages. Bombed were 168 towns and villages, ruined are 12 000 buildings, the losses amount to 1 828 casualties and 2 372 wounded. The pilots, who defend the sky of Bulgaria, show bravery and are glorious. The names of Dimitar Spisrevski, Nedelcho Bonchev, Asen Kovachev, Petar Bochev, Stoyan Stoyanov and many others remain in Bulgarian military aviation’s history as symbols of heroism and self-sacrifice.

After the successful Yash-Kishinev operation the troops of Third Ukrainian Front reach the Bulgarian borderline. On September 5th , 1944 the USSR declares war on Bulgaria, and, on September 8th the government of Konstantin Moraviev brakes off the alliance with Germany and joins the anti-Hitler coalition. In the night before September 9th, 1944, in the country is taking place a state-political take-over. On October 28th, 1944 in Moscow is signed an armistice between Bulgaria, on the one hand , and the USSR, Great Britain and USA, on the other hand. In that way are created conditions to put Bulgaria into operations in the final stage of the World War 2 allied with the countries of anti- Hitler coalition.

Within September – November 1944 is carried out mobilization and a strategic deployment of the Bulgarian Army, as part of the Third Ukrainian Front. It was planned an offensive westwards, with cutting off the roads and defeating the retreating German Group of armies “Aegea”.Commander-in-Chief of the Bulgarian Army is Lieutenant-General Ivan Marinov. Carried out are four offensive operations: “Nish” and “Kosovo” operations – by 2nd Army under command of Lieutenant- general Kiril Stanchev, “Stratsin- Kumanovo” operation – by 1st Army under command of Lieutenant- General Vladimir Stoichev and “Bregalnitsa-Strumitsa” operation – by 4th Army under command of Major-General Asen Sirakov. Bulgarian soldier shows lots of acts of bravery and heroism at Nish, Stratsin and Strazhin , at Shtip and Veles. The names of thousand soldiers and commanders remain in the glorious annals of Bulgarian military history.

In the period since December 1944 to June 1945 Bulgaria participates in the final stage of the World War II with the newly formed First Bulgarian Army , comprising 130 000 men under command of Lieutenant Vladimir Stoichev. In January 1945 the Bulgarian troops march 250 km, twice are crossing over Danube River and take a defensive position on the left bank of Drava River. Carried out are “Srem”, “Drava”, “Mur” and “Chakovetz” operations. From the main forces of the army are formed 3rd and 4th Corps with commanders Major-General Todor Toshev and Lieutenant-General Stoyan Trendafilov.

The active defensive actions of the Bulgarian troops at the villages Dravasobolch, Dravachehi and Dravapolkonya are covered by the most respectable newspapers in Europe and all over the world. First Bulgarian Army finishes its combat actions at the foothills of Austrian Alps and cames back home on June 17th ,1945 with victoriously flying flags. The losses of the Bulgarian Army in The World War II number 40 450 men. Among them are 8 337 dead, 9 155 missing and 22 958 wounded.