Croat legion in Italian Service

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GLADIVM
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Croat legion in Italian Service

Post by GLADIVM » 15 Mar 2007 14:42

Besides the Croatian regiment which fought at Stalingrad , there was a smaller croatian unit integrated into the italian 8th army on the river Don frontline .
The croat legion on the Don fought well and was destroyed together with the 3rd bersaglieri regiment around Meskov in winter 42/43 .
I know about the good combat record of this unit but would like to know more about its raising . Basically it was raised because Mussolini was unhappy that a croatian regiment has joined germans in fighting against soviet union and requested that a similar force to be raised to fight alongside with italians .
The unit was called Legione Croata and given Fascist Militia uniforms and badges , its force was composed on militia basis of two weak battalions ( 500 mens around each ) and should have been made up by volunteers .
It seems that Pavelic was not too happy about this legion but finally agreed to its raising . And this is all I have .
I would like to have more background infos about the legion's history and men and if they were realy volunteers or not .
Did any of the legionaires return back from russia in postwar Yugoslavia ?
Thanks for any help .

Yours

GLADIVM

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Allen Milcic
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Post by Allen Milcic » 16 Mar 2007 21:44

Hi Gladium:

The Light Mobile Regiment (Laki Prijevozni Zdrug) was formed on July 26, 1941, after a meeting between Italian General Antonio Oxilio and Poglavnik Ante Pavelic. The gist of the meeting was: Mussolini's pride was injured by the participation of Croat volunteers in the German and not in Italian armed forces. A majority of the troops for the unit came from a battalion of volunteers that were intended as reinforcements for the 369th Regiment that was fighting as part of the Wehrmacht in the Soviet Union.

The regiment was formed with 1100 soldiers, 70 NCO's and 45 officers (1215 total), divided into 3 infantry companies, 1 machine-gun company, 1 (81mm) mortar company and 1 (65mm) artillery battery. The commanding officer was Lt.-Colonel Egon Zitnik (a Croat).

The unit first trained in Varazdin, Croatia, where they awaited the Italians to organize their expeditionary force for the Eastern Front. During training, the unit performed sweeps in the Kordun, Banija and Bosanska Krajina regions of Croatia, searching for small groups of Yugoslav soldiers and bands of outlaws that were hiding in the forests and fighting against the new Croatian state.

On December 17th 1941, the unit travelled to Italy where they received their full complement of weapons and transports. 3 months of intense training exercises followed. At the end of the training schedule, the regiment was visited by General Ugo Cavallerio of the Italian Headquarters Staff, and the Minister of Defense of Croatia, Slavko Kvaternik. The regimental battle flag was presented at this ceremony, and the men took their oath to Italy, Croatia, the Duce, the Italian King, and the Poglavnik.

The regiment arrived on the Eastern Front on April 16th 1942, near the town of Harcjusk. Here they were attached to the Italian 3rd Rapid Division "Principe Amadeo Duca D'Aosta", and received the remainder of their equipment and transports (44 trucks, 3 automobiles and 6 motorcycles). On the 11th of May, near the town of Pervomajska, the regiment fought its first battle, alongside the 63rd Blackshirt "Tagliamento" unit. 5 men were lost in this minor engagement.

The regiment, during the next 10 months, fought around the towns of Stokovo, Greko-Timofejevka, and Veseli-Nikitovo. On July 11th 1942, the regiment was transfered to the Italian XXXVth Corps. The very next day, with a battle-group of Blackshirts, the regiment fought its way 30km deep into Soviet lines. Battles follow around Vladimirovka, Krasna Poljana and Fjodorovka. On July 28th 1942 the regiment crossed the Donjec River at Lubanskoje. On August 25th 1942, the Soviets counter-attacked and the regiment was involved in heavy fighting. The Croatians managed to hold their lines, inflicting 20 casualties and capturing 101 Soviet soldiers. The Croatians lost 8 dead and 12 wounded. For this battle, the regiment was decorated by the commander of the XXXVth Corps.

On December 19th 1942, the regiment was holding Hills 210 and 168 near Hracin. Here they were surrounded by a massive Soviet attack, but continued fighting till December 21st 1942, when they ran out of ammunition and were over-run. There were no survivors and the unit was totally destroyed.

After the destruction of the "Light Mobile Regiment", the Italians sponsored the creation of a new "Legion" unit. It came into existence in May of 1943, only 4 months before the Italian collapse, as a 1,800 man strong infantry regiment, reinforced with its own replacement battalion and an artillery battalion of 2 batteries. This "Legion" was sent to northern Italy, to the Lake Garda area, and then the Italo-Slovene border area. After the Italian surrender, the men of the Legion were used to reinforce the existing German-Croatian Divisions, mostly the 373rd "Tigar" Division.

Information based mostly on the book: "Hrvatsko domobranstvo u drugom svjetskom ratu" I dio.

Best regards,
Allen/

NOTE: edited for spelling errors
Last edited by Allen Milcic on 17 Mar 2007 15:00, edited 1 time in total.

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GLADIVM
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Post by GLADIVM » 17 Mar 2007 11:33

Thanks Allen ,

I knew I could count on you .

Yours

GLADIVM

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Allen Milcic
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Post by Allen Milcic » 27 Apr 2007 04:14

ADDENDUM:

Some new information on the "2nd" Croatian Legion serving with the Italians:
With the tragic fate of the Croatian legionaries on the Eastern Front fighting under the Italian flag, the Italians requested that a new, so-called II. Regiment be formed, in order to erase the bad impressions left after the first unit was destroyed due to a number of mistakes by the Italian military leadership. Therefore, in February 1943, 900 new Croatian volunteers arrived for training in Riva del Plata, where they were still located at the time of the Italian capitulation. A demand to the Croatians to also lay down their arms was refused, and instead the Croats fought their way towards Croatia. In the fighting, 9 Croats and a number of Italians that had joined them were killed. The citizens of Riva del Plata placed memorial stones on their graves, and Croatian emigrants recently repaired the graveyard, placed new headstones and cleaned the graves.
Translated from the Croatian to the English language by me; text found in the book "Hrvatsko domobranstvo u drugom svjetskom ratu, II dio" by Ivan Kosutic. The text is followed by a photograph of one of the legionary's graves; the gravestone reads: "2 Legione Croata, Serg. Slavko Zuletovic".

I have tried unsuccesfully to locate this "Riva del Plata" on an Italian map. Is the town's name wrong, or could someone perhaps advise me of its location? Perhaps the author is referring to the town of Riva del Garda?

Allen/

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GLADIVM
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Post by GLADIVM » 27 Apr 2007 14:40

Yes is Riva del Garda , on the Garda Lake .

Thanks for yr further infos which confirms what I read about croatians legionares killed fighting germans after 8th sept , unfortunately I do not recall the source .

Yours

GLADIVM

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