31 August 1917: Mihai Viteazul Order 3rd class
23 August – 6 September 1940: Chief of the General Staff
August 1944: promoted to lt. general
23 August – 12 October 1944: Chief of the General Staff
11 November 1944: promoted to general
15 November 1944: Mihai Viteazul Order with swords 3rd class
Gheorghe Mihail was born on 13 March 1887. In 1905 was admitted in the Military School for Infantry and Cavalry, which he finished in 1907. The fresh 2nd lieutenant was assigned to the 6th Vanatori Battalion. On 1 July 1910 he was promoted to the rank of 1st lieutenant and moved to the 34th Infantry Regiment, the unit in which he served for a long time. Between 1911-13, lieutenant Mihail was detached to the Austro-Hungarian army for a specialization course and was very appreciated by its supervisors there.
He returned home and was promoted. Captain Gheorghe Mihail took part in the Bulgarian campaign in 1913 commanding a company of the 34th Infantry Regiment Constanta. He fought with the same unit also during WW1. In the autumn of 1916, the fresh major Mihail distinguished himself in the battles on the Buzau Valley, while commanding the 2nd Battalion, being wounded at one leg on 7 October. After he recovered from the injury he returned to his unit, with which, after the reorganization of the entire Romanian army in the spring of 1917, he took part in the bloody battle of Marasesti. Late on 8 August 1917, the 2nd Battalion, which had just arrived in the sector after a ten day march, was sent to relieve Russian forces in the first line. Major Gheorghe Mihail, lacking knowledge of the terrain, advanced up to the Focsani-Marasesti-Bacau highway and did not find the Russian troops he had to relieve. He installed the battalion in the ditch by the road and made contact on his flanks with the 36th Infantry Regiment (also from the 9th Infantry Division) and a Russian division. The following day the Germans attacked and the 36th Regiment and the Russian division were forced to pull back. In spite of the pressure of the 12th Bavarian Infantry Division, the 2nd Battalion/34th Infantry Regiment stood firm and repulsed 3 assaults, delaying the enemy until the reserves could come to the aid. The battalion took 62 POWs and 2 machine-guns. But the regiment's losses were very high (1,586 casualties). From its remnants only one battalion was organized and maj. Mihail, being the only valid battalion commander after the fights during the day, was assigned to it. On 10 August, at 1700 hours, the battalion attacked. Seven minutes later, Gheorghe Mihail was wounded in the other leg. He ordered his aids not to tell the men and gave the command to the captain of the machine-gun company. He was found by medics later in the evening and was evacuated. For his deeds in those two days of savage fighting he was decorated with the Mihai Viteazul Order 3rd class and the Legion of Honor Knight class.
After the war followed a very promising career in the higher echelons on the army. Between 1919-20 he attended the Military Academy, which he graduated first in his class. In 1927 he was promoted colonel and in October 1933 he was named the chief of the Intelligence Section of the General Staff. In 1935 he became a brigadier general and, for a short period, between November 1937 and January 1938 was the chief of the Royal Military House. Between February and October 1939 he was the undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Defense, being also promoted to major general.
Romania was in a critical situation in the summer of 1940. On 4 July he was appointed vice-prime minister and on 23 August he became the Chief of the General Staff. From this position he advised King Carol II to accept the Vienna Diktat, because, although the army was willing to fight, the equipment was poor and the number of enemies too big (Hungary and the Soviet Union). It was wiser in his opinion to keep the state and the army and to try to retake the territories later. After Ion Antonescu came to power, maj. general Gheorghe Mihail, considered to be a member of the former regime, was retired and put under house arrest at Sinaia.
In November 1943 he was summoned to the Foisor palace (in Sinaia) by Mihai I. There the young king presented him the plan to sue for peace and offered him the position he held in September 1940. He took part at several meetings later, but following a conflict with the Communist leader Emil Bodnaras, he decided to retire.
The events on 23 August 1944 found him in Bucharest. He was immediately named Chief of the General Staff. He ordered the 3rd and 4th Armies, on the front in Moldavia, to retreat to the Adjud-Namoloasa-Focsani-Braila fortified line and to oppose any attempt to disarm them. Realizing that the order was almost impossible to fulfill, he decided to retreat all the available troops towards the Bucharest-Ploiesti area, especially since the fights with the Wehrmacht for the capita lhad already started. Until 31 August he coordinated the liquidation of German troops on Romanian territory, taking 56,455 POWs. More important than this was, however, the covering of the frontiers. Thus the passes in the Carpathian Mountains were kept in front of the Hungarian-German offensive, until the rest of the Romanian troops and the Red Army could come to the new front line. In the same time he fought a parallel battle with the abuses of the new allies. After the 1st and 4th Armies had been subordinated to the 2nd Ukrainian Front, the General Staff was left with only administrative and training tasks.
Lt. general Gheorghe Mihail (he had been promoted in the meanwhile) adopted a firm attitude towards the Allied Control Commission and the Red Army. He refused marshal Malinovsky's request to disband the divisions left inside Romania or to send them to the front. He also refused to sign the Military Collaboration Protocol, exasperating the Soviet delegates, because the document mentioned that the Romanian army had started to fight against the Axis on 12 September 1944. He repeatedly requested the liberation of the Romanian troops taken prisoners in Moldavia after 24 August, but without success.
All these misunderstandings and the fact that he disagreed with the participation of the Romanian troops in fighting beyond the 1940 borders, made him resign on 12 October 1944 (after a first resignation was refused on 7 September). He was named General Inspector of the Infantry. In November he was promoted to the rank of general and was awarded the Mihai Viteazul Order with swords 3rd class.
After the war he was retired again. On 20 January 1948 Gheorghe Mihail was arrested and put on trial together with Ion Gigurtu and other members of his cabinet for the measures they had taken against Communists in 1940. He was sentenced to 12 years in prison which he served in the Vacaresti, Pitesti, Ocnele Mari, Sighet and Jilava prisons. He was released on 10 Ocotber 1957 and passed away almost 25 years later, on 2 February 1982.