Split Decision

Discussions on every day life in the Weimar Republic, pre-anschluss Austria, Third Reich and the occupied territories. Hosted by Vikki.
pitman
Member
Posts: 277
Joined: 08 Jan 2006 21:54
Location: Columbus, OH

Split Decision

Post by pitman » 21 Jul 2006 15:39

Does anybody have a good account of the fighting in Split (in Yugoslavia) following the announcement of the Italian armistice on September 8, 1943? I have seen photographs of the destroyed Italian AFVs following the fight, and I know generally that partisans briefly held the port, disarmed many Italians, accepted the services of others, and were eventually chased out by the Germans, but I would be interested in more details about the fighting.

Mark V.
Member
Posts: 1488
Joined: 22 Apr 2002 20:50
Location: Ljubljana, Slovenia

Post by Mark V. » 24 Jul 2006 15:26

Greetings pitman,

Here's what I managed to put together from the sources cited bellow. I couldn't get a hold of any more detailed works focusing on the operation from the partisan side, so there might be some errors. I would be grateful for any corrections and additions.

Alcazar on Adriatic

In accordance with the plan Achse, XV.Gebirgs-Korps deployed 7.SS-Freiw.Geb.Div. "Prinz Eugen" to disarm the Royal Italian Army formations along the South Dalmatian coastline and secure the area. The situation and relations in the division were at this time far from perfect. Summer 1943 marked considerable personnel changes, after the creation of a new corps HQ - V.SS-Freiw.Gebrigs-Korps new officers had to be delegated to the vacant positions, some of whom lacked proper experiences in mountain warfare (Michaelis, p.119), this coupled with increased tensions between Reichs- and Volksdeutsche personal, which lead to mutiny in August (ibid, p.117) were obviously a bad sign for things to come. At this difficult point, higher HQs entrusted the division a crucial role in restoring the situation in the previously Italian held strategically important territories. The plan was to use SS-Geb.Jäg.Rgt.1 (Petersen) at Split/Spalato and SS-Geb.Jäg.Rgt.2 (Schmidthuber) along the Neretva valley and Dubrovnik/Ragusa. The task was especially difficult for SS-Geb.Jäg.Rgt.1, on 8th till 11th September, Rgt.HQ was airlifted with 2 btl. and 1 art.bttr. to Sinj (20km NE of Split) and was supposed to in a bold move secure Split (Kumm, p.107).

But the Germans weren't the only one preparing for Italian surrender, partisans well aware of it began organizing and redeploying their units. In Split itself the local CP committee organized a general uprising, bringing thousands of newly mobilized citizens into their ranks and successfully took control over the city and disarmed the Italian garrison - Division Bergamo and HQ XVIII. Corps and support units plus large ammunition and weapons dumps. The mobilized men were organized into Split Brigade (later renamed in 4th Dalmatian Brigade). On its part Partisan's Supreme HQ sent first the 9th Dalmatian Division, followed later by 1st Proletar and 4th Krajina Divisions to strengthen the perimeter around Split.

First to arrive in Sinj, I./SS-GJR1 (Zeitler), successfully disarmed the Italian garrison in Sinj and secured the airport for further transports. While further elements began arriving in, Petersen went ahead with elements of I./1 in the night 10th/11th September towards Split choosing the road going through Klis with its ancient fortress, which dominates the approaches towards the coastline. Overcoming 1st Dalmatian Shock Brigade (9th Division)' resistance, KG Petersen, reached the fortress in the morning, captured the Italian garrison, occupied positions and began preparing for the advance on Split. This proved impossible as elements from 1st DSB, Mosor Detachment and Split Brigade (several hundred Italian soldiers also joined the partisan ranks) blocked further advance by occupying the heavily entrenched defense line around the city and furthermore began pressuring the Germans, eventually isolating them. On the next day another KG from Rgt.1 left Sinj and after heavy fighting with the 1st DSB managed to reach Klis. The next two days were marked with failed attempts by the Germans in Klis to capture Split. In spite of strong Stuka support all attempts were repulsed by partisan forces, now supported by captured artillery and tanks. The partisan superiority began weighing in and by 15th KG Petersen was surrounded in the town and fortress. At this point II./Rgt.1 (Breimaier) was ordered by Petersen to relieve his group. On 16th Breimeier followed the same route as his predecessors but was ambushed and blocked at Sv.Jakob by 3rd Dalmatian Brigade (9th Division), encircled and barely managed to retreat to Dicmo, suffering 50 KIA and 120 WIA (Kumm, p.111), where it too was isolated. KG Petersen's attempt to send a relief party failed.

By 16th the situation for SS-GJR1 looked bleak, it was split in three isolated groups at Klis, Dicmo and Sinj, while partisan reinforcements began arriving in the area. Recognizing the seriousness Div.Kdr. von Oberkamp scratched together whatever forces he could find but these amounted to only a single panzer company supported by an infantry company and a few artillery pieces. All hopes of a quick relief were soon dashed as group's advance was blocked several miles from its starting off positions by local partisan forces, probably reinforced by some 1st Proletar Division's elements. As a result of this failure, according to Kumm, the moral in the division sank low and had a negative impact on von Oberkamp's prestige among his soldiers.

While German HQs began scrambling together whatever forces they could, HQ of partisan's 4th Operational Zone began preparing for the kill. As Klis was too heavily defended, the HQ first concentrated its forces on Sinj and its airport. The plan was to use 3rd DB/9th D, 1st PD and 4th Krajina Division but before the attack it was to eliminate the remnants of KG Breimaier at Dicmo. In the evening of the 19th 1st PD attacked Dicmo with only one battalion and was repulsed. Coupled with the news of preparations for a renewed German relief attack it forced the partisans to temporarily call off the attack and send 1st PD southwards to Imotski.

As both sides awaited the arrival of new reinforcements, the isolated German groups were continuously harassed by heavy artillery fire and probing attacks. The only support they could count on were Stukas and Ju-52.

Then on the 23rd both sides began with their operations. Partisans finally launched the attack on Sinj with 4th Krajina Division and elements from 9th Dalmatian Division. On the other hand the Germans unsuccessfully tried to airlift II./Rgt.2 (Dietsche) into Sinj and organized a formidable relief force approaching the Sinj/Klis area in three directions - from S KG Div.Prinz Eugen and Inf.Rgt.(mot.)92 and from North a KG from 114.Jäg.Div. On 24th II./2 was successfully airlifted in Sinj and partisan attacks repulsed. In the next days KG Dietsche supported by KG "PE" relieves Breimaier and Petersen and together with Inf.Rgt.(mot.)92 they capture Split, which was abandoned by the partisans before the final assault. In Split the Germans capture 9,000 Italian soldiers and execute 40 officers.

Casualties on both sides were heavy, SS-GJR1 alone suffered 242 KIA (Kumm, p.114), due to its losses von Oberkamp suggested disbanding the regiment in late 1943.

A war correspondent accompanying KG Petersen described its struggle at Klis as Alcazar on Adriatic.

Sources:
Kumm: Vorwärts Prinz Eugen
Michaelis: Die Gebirgs-Divisionen der W-SS
Kvesić: Dalmacija u NOB
Schmider: Partisanenkrieg im Jugoslawien

pitman
Member
Posts: 277
Joined: 08 Jan 2006 21:54
Location: Columbus, OH

Post by pitman » 24 Jul 2006 17:19

Thank you, Mark, that is very helpful!!!

streljko1
Member
Posts: 273
Joined: 25 Dec 2004 17:58
Location: Croatia

Post by streljko1 » 25 Jul 2006 22:10

As always, great and very informative answer, mr.Mark, here are few additions about Split operation, I tried to follow your post and to add only info that I held important:

Around 6.000+ volunteers joined partisans in Split, most of them were send to other units, but around 1.000 were organised in Split brigade, it must be noted that most were not communists(as ilustration, one veteran partisan commander inspected battalion of 600 volunteers, and to establish command line he asked all communists to step out, to his shock, only 2 men and one woman stepped out).
Most of the new partisans belived that war would soon be over and did not want to miss victory parade, many expected that allies will soon land and help them liberate country.
Group of anticommunist from Split formed so called “Jadranski korpus”, that failed to get stronger support, and some joined Četnik Dinara division, other went to partisans.

With I/1 were parts of 27.Ustaša battalion(bojna), company sized.
Second KG that reached Klis was IV/1, artillery battalion, pioneer company and AT platoon.

Italian garrison in Klis refused surrender of weapons to partisans and declared they are willing to fight with them against the Germans, but after firing one mortar round, entire garrison surrendered to Germans and even took part in defence of Klis (around 700 soldiers), according to German report in just one day (13.09.) Italians had 5 KIA and 8 WIA, 50 were captured by partisans.
It is possible that in Klis fortress was also some Ustaša unit, that intervened and persuaded Italian commanders to wait German troops, from German reports is clear that they were very good informed about situation with IT troops, so it is possible that Germans had direct communication with profascist officers of Split garrison.


II./Rgt.1 (Breimeier) alone had 29 KIA 202 WIA and 65 MIA for entire operation (according to first German report, when situation was not clear, that bat. had ”300 bloody losses and 100 missing” first day, 50 KIA and 120 WIA is mentioned in 16.09.day report and I think that refer to losses of KG Petersen, not II/1, phrase used in Šalov is ”vlastiti gubici do sada” or in english “our losses till now” so is quite hard to discover who are “our”).
With Breimayer unit was small Ustaša group(12 officers and reporters) that were escorting Ustaša minister dr. Edo Bulat who supposed to take control of Split in the name of Pavelić.
II./Rgt.1 was ambushed by 3. battalion/3.Dalmatian brigade, that unit was around 160 partisans strong(16.09.1943., later was reinforced, also is interesting that Germans estimated partisan strenght around Dicmo at round 3.000), it was well armed and supplied by ammunition( 5 Breda HMG, 15- 20 MG, 120 rifles and LMG, 4 - 82mm mortars). Partisans took positions in hills overlooking Dicmo valley and when German column arrived between village Butige and Sv.Jakov church partisans opened strong flanking fire, Germans suffered heavy losses. Larger part of II./Rgt.1 was blocked in village Butige (19 stone houses) one group reached village Klanac and with help of local Ustaše sympatisers returned to Sinj.
Many were killed or wounded and on the road was left almost all heavy equipment. 26 Germans were captured, some pinned Germans rather killed themselves.
Partisans estimated German losses as 500 killed, losses of 3DB were 3 KIA(including battalion commander) and 10 WIA.
Ustaša reporters claimed that most losses were inflicted by accurate mortar fire.
Partisans captured “one gun, many MG, one mortar, many rifles and other equipment”
Ustaša group had 1 KIA, 5 WIA and 1 MIA first day(4 KIA for whole operation), Minister Bulat was wounded.
His group spend several days hiding under small bridge. How serious situation was we can see from Bulat`s letter send to Zagreb (with German help):

“Abandoned. Almost every day someone from my escort is killed. Ustaša stožernik Roglić killed last night. We expect same fate. All state elements are responsible in front of history, nation and our families. Partisans have lot of heavy weapons and ammunition. I can` t understand why no serious steps were taken, because we are only 12 km from Sinj. SS troops are fighting heroically and with superhuman efforts test Partisan assaults”.

Main reason for German heavy losses were three ambushes of newly formed Kamešnica battalion (belonged to Cetina brigade-later 10DB)between Split and Dicmo, that poorly organised and small ambushes were easily defeated, and only real damage for Germans was that Breimeyer belived only that kind of enemy activity will be encountered on the road, so he didn` t secure his unit with patrols, also fire alarmed 3/3DB.
Partisans were reluctant to risk more men in attack on Butige because it was very hard to unseen approach village surrounded with fields and vineyards, also to 3DB were promised tanks, flame throwers and elements of 1PD(best Yugoslav unit) so it was not wise to waste more men if German group this or that way was doomed. But, tanks never came(crews were not informed) and elements of 1PD that came were too small for such attack and Germans managed to survive.


According to Šalov, II./Rgt.2 was airlifted on 20.09., but without one company (airfield came under heavy artillery and mortar fire of 3. Krajina Proleter brigade, and one Ju – 52 was destroyed, so planes returned to Mostar)-date could be mistake.

7.SS Division losses:
officers /NCOs/soldiers/total
KIA 3 9 79 91
WIA 20 50 507 577
MIA 4 4 81 89


1DB had 37 killed, Split brigade losses were higher, but remain mostly unknown(brigade was in state of forming). Around 150 civilians were killed by rampaging SS troops between Split and Klis.
Sources:
Novović, Stupar...:1. Dalmatinska proleterska NOV brigada
Mate Šalov: 4.Dalmatinska Splitska brigada
Mate Šalov:3.Dalmatinska brigada

Mark V.
Member
Posts: 1488
Joined: 22 Apr 2002 20:50
Location: Ljubljana, Slovenia

Post by Mark V. » 27 Jul 2006 14:16

I knew I can always count on you to deliver the goods, mr.streljko. Thanks for all the corrections (especially the casualty numbers) and additional info. Any maps to go with the text?

pitman
Member
Posts: 277
Joined: 08 Jan 2006 21:54
Location: Columbus, OH

Post by pitman » 27 Jul 2006 20:02

Thanks very much!

michael mills
Member
Posts: 8792
Joined: 11 Mar 2002 12:42
Location: Sydney, Australia

Post by michael mills » 28 Jul 2006 02:40

Around 6.000+ volunteers joined partisans in Split, most of them were send to other units, but around 1.000 were organised in Split brigade, it must be noted that most were not communists(as ilustration, one veteran partisan commander inspected battalion of 600 volunteers, and to establish command line he asked all communists to step out, to his shock, only 2 men and one woman stepped out).
Most of the new partisans belived that war would soon be over and did not want to miss victory parade, many expected that allies will soon land and help them liberate country.
Group of anticommunist from Split formed so called “Jadranski korpus”, that failed to get stronger support, and some joined Četnik Dinara division, other went to partisans.


Any information on the ethnicity of the volunteers?

The fact that some of them later joined a Cetnik formation suggests that those particular volunteers were ethnic Serbs, since the Cetniks were ethnic Serb nationalists.

Since Split and the surrounding area had been under Italian rule, it may be that ethnic Serbs living there had not been subjected to the sort of persecution inflicted by Ustasha units in the area under the rule of the Independent Croatian State, but I would welcome any information on that point. Certainly the Italians had maintained good relations with ethnic Serbs, in particular with the Cetniks.

streljko1
Member
Posts: 273
Joined: 25 Dec 2004 17:58
Location: Croatia

Post by streljko1 » 30 Jul 2006 09:18

Here is map from Šalov book dedicated to 4DB, unfortunately author covered only part of the battlefield where 4DB was:

http://img86.imageshack.us/img86/83/klisbt4.jpg

Mr. Mills, in Split lived small Serbian minority, but I think most of those anticommunist volunteers were Croatians, who supported king, most were from rich families(so small group of royalists who joined Četniks in 1942. were ironically nick-named “Svilena brigada” or “Silky brigade” by their political enemies- I suspect their actuall size was brigade, more platoon or company).
In town were based Četnik officers and troops(some were captured and executed after fall of Italy),so yes, relations between IT and Četniks were good, I don`t belive that “Jadranski korpus” posed any significant threat to partisans or Germans, Communist leaders were aware of them, and they were labeled as “undeterminate”.
If we speak of numbers, in XII.1944. 4. Dal. brigade had 87% Croats(1269), 60 Slovenes (my guess they were ex German soldiers and sailors) and only 23 Serbs. When 9.Dal. division left Dalmatia and moved to Bosnia in 43/44 it became very difficult to replace casualties with new men, because Division find itself on part of Bosnia inhabited by Serbs, who already suffered from Ustaše actions, and were very vulnerable to Četnik propaganda that these newcomers are Red Ustaše, so in the time of Drvar operation 4DB had only around 500 partisans ready for action(additional few hundert were absent, in hospitals or special schools).

[/img]

michael mills
Member
Posts: 8792
Joined: 11 Mar 2002 12:42
Location: Sydney, Australia

Post by michael mills » 30 Jul 2006 09:36

Streljko,

Thanks for this information.

"Red Ustase", eh? Shows how complex the the situation was, with an intertwining of ethnic and political allegiances.

I know that a political allegiance to Communism was stronger among Croats than among Serbs, ie there were many more Croat Communists than Serb Communists, but a large proportion of the recruits to Tito's forces were ethnic Serbs from Bosnia who were not really Communists, but rather were seeking refuge from persecution by the Croatian Government.

User avatar
Ivan Bajlo
Member
Posts: 113
Joined: 18 Aug 2003 02:50
Location: Zagreb, Croatia, Europe, Third rock from the Sun

Post by Ivan Bajlo » 07 Aug 2006 20:20

Switching sides wasn't that to big deal to average person, many who joined partisans would leave after finding guerilla life too difficult. Also in 1944 first Ante Pavelic issued amnesty for anyone who left Partisans followed by Tito later in the year for anyone who wanted to join them that this was there last chance.

And most armed village guards would basically declare themselves aligned to anyone who controlled the area as long as they avoided looting.

streljko1
Member
Posts: 273
Joined: 25 Dec 2004 17:58
Location: Croatia

Post by streljko1 » 02 Sep 2006 11:56

Few words must be said about attempts to evaculate Split garrisson by sea:
On morning of 09.09.43 Admiral Antonio Bobiese gave orders to prepare evaculation of navy troops and Italian civilians to Italy, news that Italy capitulated shocked the troops and almost all discipline was lost, most of Italian soldiers and sailors wanted to go to Italy, even by force.
At time of capitulation, Italian navy had enough ships to transport most if not entire Split garrisson to Italy.
Partisans and their supporters begin to disarm Italian troops.
10.09.43 torpedo boats “Giovannini” and T5,patrol boat, 2 armed tug boats, minelayer, tanker and 2 motor sailing boats went from Split to Italy, carrying only few Italian soldiers. To make things worse, these ships could organise AA defence of town and port, but without them, port lay open for air attacks.
14 flying boats also left from their base Divulje near Split.
Battle for Klis begins.
During the night group of sailors tried to take control over some support ships, they were suppressed.
11..09. Commander of gunship “Iliria” went on coast to meet admiral Bobiese, during his absence group of sailors and soldiers took control over ship and abandoned port without commander.
In German air attacks on Split port steam ships Balcic,Lapad and Korčula sunk, many damaged, some ships, empty or with small grups of soldiers hide in bays around Split.
11/12.09. Admiral Bobiese and his HQ in vain search for gunboat that supposed to take them to Italy, finaly they abandoned Split with small rescue boat that was used by gunboat commander.
12.09. Italian garrison disarmed by Partisans, according to agreement between Italians and Yugoslavs, Split garrisson and Italian civilians will be evaculated with all possible help, Italians were concerned about 500 WIA and 250 medical personel in Split hospital.
23.09. To evaculate part of Italian garrison, allies organised convoy of following ships:
steam ship “Diocleziano”(ex “Ivo Matković”)
steam ship “Ston” (crew refused to continue mission and with ship defected to Yugoslavs)
steam ship “Borsini” (ex “Srbin”)
steam ship “Corfu”
steam ship “Persani”
steam ship “Risagno” (ex “Sitnica”)
destroyer “Aretusa”
corvetta “Chimera”
Ships embarked around 3.000 soldiers and civilians and turned for Italy, during the morning of 24.09. they were two times attacked by Stukas near Vis island, in first attack “Ivo Matković” recived direct hit, and to evade sinking ship was stranded on Biševo island, around 300 people died.
Around 0942 new attack of Stukas met determined resistance, one Stuka was shot down and few were damaged.
Corvetta “Chimera” saved 240 people(62 wounded) from “Ivo Matković” and in next few days one tug boat and 3 motor sailing boats saved aditional 1.044 people.
Rest of garrisson(except those who joined partisans) surrendered to Germans.

streljko1
Member
Posts: 273
Joined: 25 Dec 2004 17:58
Location: Croatia

Post by streljko1 » 15 Sep 2007 12:54

On this site there are numerous photos of war in Yugoslavia, just type “jugoslawien” or “kroatien” in search function: http://www.bild.bundesarchiv.de/
For this thread you can find photos of German armoured column arriving in Split after retreat of Partisans:
Image

Armoured cars on Marjan hill, left of them was Jewish cementary, proof of long existance of Jews in Split, that will change after arrival of Germans:
Image
Image

Soldiers with captured Yugoslav flag, Marjan hill, flag on Marjan has great importance to people of Split and Dalmatia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marjane%2C_Marjane

Image

German flag over Split:
Image

streljko1
Member
Posts: 273
Joined: 25 Dec 2004 17:58
Location: Croatia

Re: Split Decision

Post by streljko1 » 05 Jul 2010 09:53

Aftermath of fighting around Butige in 1943:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ah_rNiJSfeQ

paratatruc
Member
Posts: 162
Joined: 24 Nov 2004 19:24
Location: Paris

Re: Split Decision

Post by paratatruc » 05 Jul 2010 16:36

Mr. Mills, in Split lived small Serbian minority, but I think most of those anticommunist volunteers were Croatians, who supported king, most were from rich families(so small group of royalists who joined Četniks in 1942. were ironically nick-named “Svilena brigada” or “Silky brigade” by their political enemies- I suspect their actuall size was brigade, more platoon or company).


Hello Sreljko,
So I understand that the Croatian upper classes supported the king(Peter, I assume)?
Did monarchic allegiance exist in other part of the Croatian population or as limited to the elit?
Thanks a lot in advance,

streljko1
Member
Posts: 273
Joined: 25 Dec 2004 17:58
Location: Croatia

Re: Split Decision

Post by streljko1 » 06 Jul 2010 15:24

Hello Sreljko,
So I understand that the Croatian upper classes supported the king(Peter, I assume)?
Did monarchic allegiance exist in other part of the Croatian population or as limited to the elit?
Thanks a lot in advance,

Hello mr. Paratatruc
Support for the monarhy existed among the Croatian people during the first Yugoslavia but it was not strog as should be to preserve state`s cohesion, during the war only few Croats continued to fight for the monarhy.
Upper classes in most countries support rulers simply to preserve their position. Soon as king was evicted new rulers got their support.

Return to “Life in the Third Reich & Weimar Republic”