The Siege of Sarajevo 1943

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Miloslav Samardzić

The Siege of Sarajevo 1943

(Parts of the book:

Miloslav Samardžić

SERBS AGANST THE WEHRMACHT

A History of World War Two in Yugoslavia

Based on previously unknown German documents

Pogledi, Kragujevac, 2011.

Translation: Nebojsa Malić)

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

The Siege of Sarajevo  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .   .  .   4

October 15, 1943   .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  7

October 16, 1943   .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  8

October 17, 1943   .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  9

October 18, 1943   .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .10

October 19, 1943   .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .12

October 20, 1943   .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .14

October 21, 1943   .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .15

Siege of Sarajevo Ends   .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .18

DOCUMENTS.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .   26

ENDNOTES .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .32

SOURCES .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .36

17. The Siege of Sarajevo

 

After the defeat on the Jabuka Pass-Mesići-Rogatica line, the Germans retreated far to the west, to the Sokolac-Mokro-Pale line. Sokolac is 40 km and Pale 50 km west of Rogatica, while Mokro is between these two towns. The Sokolac-Mokro-Pale line, 37 km long, was the last defense of Sarajevo facing the east. Another line to the north-northwest would be manned by a regiment deployed between Vogošća and Semizovac. A southern line was being prepared on the outskirts of the city as well.

There were, however, no German defenses facing west or southwest – because those were areas with Partisan presence. However, the Partisans had not attacked a single town held by detachments of the 369th German Division, so west and southwest of Sarajevo there were still numerous Axis garrisons.

A sentence in the daily report of the XV Mountain Army Corps, dated October 8, 1943, horrified the Germans: “Chetnik rebellion has begun.” This was the first mention of a Chetnik concentration south of Sarajevo as well: “Chetnik brigades Romanija, Jahorina and Ivan, 4000-men strong, are concentrating in Kalinovik, probably for a march to Dubrovnik.” (205)

The provisional 1st Bosnia Corps was indeed in the area of Kalinovik, comprised of elements of the Romanija and Drina Corps. Major Milorad Momčilović was in command. Parts of the Romanija and Zenica Corps tasked with attacking Sarajevo from the north, were commanded by Colonel Gojko Borota. He was also the commander of Sarajevo’s underground resistance (i.e.  “Commander of Sarajevo”). However, the mission of the 1st Bosnia Corps wasn’t to march on Dubrovnik, but on Sarajevo – which the Germans were about to find out.

The daily communiqué of the XV Corps Command for October 10 mentions the units east of Sarajevo, at this time behind the frontline: “Area of Pale: Supreme Command in Croatia reports that there are about 400 Chetniks in the area of Veliki Stupar, Crni Vrh, Dvorište, Paljevine”. (206)

On the same day, at 1215 hours, Operational Section of the German 369th Division for first time warned the XV Corps Command of a the possibility a Chetnik uprising might occur in Sarajevo itself: “Necessary urgent deployment of reinforcements in areas east of Sarajevo. Impossible to withdraw Battalion B of the 1st Special Regiment, as well as other units from Sarajevo, because a Chetnik uprising could break out at any moment, in this area and in Sarajevo itself.” (207)

This German report confirms the information contained in Chetnik documents, namely that a strong Chetnik underground existed in Sarajevo and that the Orthodox Christian population had sympathies for Mihailović, and not Broz. Furthermore, though they had noted the arrival of the Partisans’ Krajina brigades from the west to the area around Sarajevo, the Germans did not mention the possibility of a pro-Communist uprising in the city. Nor were they afraid of the Muslim and Croat population, as it was loyal and – to be entirely precise – actually helpful to the Germans’ cause.

Later in the day on October 10, the Operational Log of the 369th Division recorded a skirmish with the Chetniks that took place on October 8, in area of Pale:

“Domobrani patrol scouting Crni Vrh encountered Chetnik resistance. One railway engineer severely injured, and one Domobran slightly wounded. Strength of the Chetkniks south of Pale couldn’t be established.” (208)

In the report sent on October 14, at 1840 hours, the Operations Section of 369th Division noted for the first time the full circle of the Chetnik siege around Sarajevo:

“Very strong forces of Chetnik bands at the Kula–Prača line east of Sarajevo, aiming to seize the town after merging with the Chetnik 1st Bosnian Corps north, south and west of Sarajevo (Visoko)… 92nd Regiment and SS Battalion have not yet arrived … Requesting specific orders to the 92nd Regiment and urgent transfer of troops to Sarajevo to fend off the Chetniks.” (209)

This is referring to the SS Battalion the 13th Mountain Jaeger Regiment of the 7th Waffen-SS Division “Prinz Eugen”, while the 92nd Motorized Regiment was one of the German units previously sent to the Adriatic coast, to oppose the expected Allied landings. This regiment had been deployed down to the Albanian coast, and now was the first unit recalled to the interior.

Until this time, the most numerous force in Sarajevo were the Croatian Landwehr (Domobrani), in which the Germans had no confidence. They were the first to succumb to the widespread belief among the residents of Sarajevo – which also existed in Mihailović’s Supreme Command – that Chetniks would soon enter the city. Furthermore, the Domobrani garrison actually sent an envoy – Major Predojević – to the Chetniks, to offer them cooperation in fighting against the Germans. Predojević came to the HQ of Lt. Col. Ostojić, who reported the encounter to the Supreme Command. Capt. Todorović from the Supreme Command wrote:

“However, this offer was made with reservations, actually on the following condition: if the attack on Sarajevo developed successfully, the Domobrani garrison pledged it would not fight against us. Otherwise, in case the operations took an unfavorable turn, the Croat Domobrani commanders stated that they could not guarantee their cooperation and even asked us not to speak of their offer, as they would prefer not to arouse the suspicion of Germans. Lt. Col. Ostojić reported further that he had sent Major Predojević, who did not want to return to Sarajevo, to the HQ.” (210)

Here are the Chetnik units that Mihailović’s Supreme Command counted on for the attack on Axis forces in Sarajevo:

  • Zenica Corps of Maj. Borivoje Mitranović, advancing from the northwest (from the direction of Visoko),
  • Elements of the Romanija Corps, commanded by Col. Gojko Borota, striking from the north,
  • Cer, Mačva and Avala Corps under command of Maj. Dragoslav Račić, from the northeast (to Sokolac),
  • HQ Group of the Bosnia Command, led by Lt. Col. Zaharije Ostojić, with at least one Mobile Brigade and the Drina Corps of Maj. Aleksa Drašković, from the east (to Pale).
  • 1st Bosnia Corps of Maj. Milorad Momčilović, from the southeast (out of Kalinovik and Trnovo).
  • Two batteries of artillerty, of various calibers.

This order of battle indicates that one direction was left uncovered – southwest, the road and railway towards Konjic. There are two possibilities: that this was deliberately left open for an Axis withdrawal, or that it was covered by other units, but no documents survived to confirm it.

Actually, almost the entire story of the 1943 battle for Sarajevo is only now emerging, thanks to the documents found at the BundesArchiv. In addition to operation details of the battles, information about the number of Chetniks in the area had been carefully suppressed for decades. Thus the strength of the Romanija Corps was officially considered to be about 3,000 men – although its area of responsibility was a vast territory north, east and south of Sarajevo, and it had eight brigades: 1st and 2nd Sarajevo, 1st and 2nd Rogatica, 1st and 2nd Romanija, Vlasenica and Kalinovik.

Then in the ten-day report of the 369th Division, dated October 10, 1943, there are references to “Derikonja’s Chetniks north of Sarajevo” (i.e. the 1st Sarajevo Brigade), and estimates of up to 7,500 Chetniks in the area of Visoko–Vareš–Olovo–Vlasenica–Sokolac. (211) Looking at the map, these towns form a wide arc north of Sarajevo, and were the area of operations of the Zenica and Romanija Corps.

According to the earlier mentioned daily report of the 369th Division of October 8, the 1st Bosnia Corps was 4000 strong, while the Germans estimated Kosorić’s units around Renovica to number “many hundreds” of Chetniks. Their estimate of Corps’ under Račić’s was at 2000 men, while they had no information about the strength of the Drina Corps or the HQ Group of the Bosnia Command.

In other words, the Germans counted about 14,500 Chetniks, at the same time calling Ostojić’s and Drašković’s units “very strong”. From Chetnik documents, we know that they had 4000 men. This means that in October 1943, there were some 18,500 Chetniks around Sarajevo, about 10,000 of them attacking the main line of defense: Sokolac–Mokro–Pale.

The strongest Chetnik unit numerically was the Romanija Corps. Its elite force was the 1st Rogatica Brigade, commanded at the time by Lt. Radomir Nešković. In the summer of 1944 Lt. Nešković would write a list of 453 Chetniks of his unit who had been killed in action or died from injuries and disease since the beginning of the war. Every man is listed by rank, first and last name, place of birth, the enemy they died fighting, as well as places of death and burial. This list is a testimonial to the long war path of the 1st Rogatica Brigade, from Sandžak in the east to Knin in the west, and from Herzegovina in the south to Han Pijesak in the north.

353 Chetniks of the 1st Rogatica Brigade died in battles against the Ustasha – as Nešković referred to all the formations of the Independent State of Croatia; 72 were killed fighting the Partisand and 28 fighting the Germans. Among the killed is one officer: 2nd Lieutenant Vojko Čvoro from Seljani, killed while fighting the Germans in Višegrad, and buried in Pozderići. Others were non-commissioned officers – 27 of them – and enlisted men. Five members of the 1st Rogatice died in Višegrad, another five at Semeć, and another five at Mandra. Chetniks of the 1st Rogatica Brigade died fighting the Germans in twelve more places, one of which was Kalinovik – which obviously happene don May 12, 1943, the first day of “Operation Schwartz”. (212)

Here is how events unfolded on the Sarajevo front, day by day.

October 15, 1943:

According to the daily report of the German XV Corps for October 15, larger Partisan units were west of Sarajevo, threatening Zenica, Travnik, Zavidovići, Kiseljak and the railroad to Konjic. Some Partisan units were “on the march south,” where their clashes with Chetniks in Herzegovina were noted. The Germans left one battalion of the 92nd Motorized Regiment in Travnik, while the majority of this unit was on the move toward Sarajevo. East of Sarajevo, the Chetniks attacked a train near Stambolić. The report goes on:

“Rogatica taken by Chetniks. 3rd Battalion/370th Regiment moving from Prača to Pale. Chetniks striking westward. Our troops in withdrawal to the line Sokolac–Mokro–Pale.”

The XV Corps Command decided to redeploy another unit from the area west of Sarajevo to the front against the Chetniks: the German 1st Reserve Jaeger Regiment. The unit was transferred from Kiseljak to a crossroads for Pale and Sokolac, 8 km east of Sarajevo. Axis losses that day were “6 dead, 24 wounded, 7 missing Croats and 4 Ustasha wounded” while “enemy losses” were unknown to the Corps Command. (213)

At 1130 on October 15, the 369th Division log noted the exchange between the Division CO and the Operations Section, which follows:

“Division CO and Operations Section hold a principled position that removing the security units from Sarajevo is hardly possible, because in case of an attack on Sarajevo presence of troops inside the city would be required to suppress insurrections.

It is urgent to reinforce units in the east, because the enemy is slowly pushing through the line Pale–Mokro–Sokolac. To relieve the situation, the the situation, the Operations Section proposes to the CO:

  1. Deploy the 1st Jaeger Regiment east of Srajevo and leave the security companies in Sarajevo
  2. Reinforce the outer defense lines with the Ustasha Recruit Battalion and local reserves of the Croatian III Corps.
  3. Deploy police and security units to guard posts previously manned by the 1st Jaeger Regiment.
  4. Set an earlier curfew for the civilian population.
  5. Possibly declare a state of siege

The CO is in agreement with the proposals. Order to proclaim a state of siege will depend upon talks with commanders of the territorial police and military command.” (214)

At 1200 hours, the III Croatian Corps’ Chief of Staff reported to the 369th Division that “Pale is populated by a majority Orthodox population” and therefore “there is danger that they will disclose to the Chetniks our new positions”. After this report, the Operations Section “orders arrests of hostages.” (215)

At 1220 hours, the Operations Section inquired at the Xv Corps Command about the arrival of the 92nd Motorized Regiment, concluding: “Chetniks east of Sarajevo are very strong. Something is also being prepared in Sarajevo itself. Night passed quiet in Travnik. New reinforcement will be needed unconditionally”. (216)

October 16, 1943:

At 0020 on October 16, the 3rd Battalion/370th Regiment reported that “Nedić regulars seized Prača” (24 km east of Pale, 44 km east of Sarajevo). “Routed” Axis formations – probably meaning the Domobrani, were “disarmed and let go with passes”. It was these “routed” men that brought word of the fall of Prača. The Operations Section informed the 3rd Battalion that they would be withdrawn further to the west, to the crossroads for Sokolac and Pale, where the 1st Jaeger Regiment was deploying from the other side. (217)

Just as a note here, the 3rd Battallion was mistakenly calling Račić’s men “Nedić’s units” (as explained in Chapter 16, because they were from occupied Serbia) – but even that is not accurate, because the unit they were fighting was actually the Drina Corps.

At 0940 the 369th Division Command reported to the Operations Section that all the units had arrived in the area of Pale, where they were placed under command of Col. Hammerschmidt. All units were ordered to reconnoiter towards the south, southeast, east and north, and even the Operations Section itself was sent into the field. (218)

At 1050, the Operations Section ordered the Croatian Air Force to execute aerial reconnaissance. Later that day the Croats responded that reconnaissance was not successful because of the fog. (219)

October 17th 1943:

At 0145, the 369th Division’s operations log recorded:

“Area Sokolac–Pale: enemy seized Prača and the heights on both sides of railroad line Podgrab–Sjetlina. Ustasha from Sokolac report: 200 Chetniks at position Zavarine”. (220)

Later in the day, the Croatian Air Force reported results of the areal reconnaissance along the directions Sarajevo–Rogatica–J abuka–Goražde and Jabuka–Prača–Pale. Bridges on both sides of the railroad for Goražde were destroyed, while the bridges near Prača still were “intact”.

The aircraft bombed and strafed two villages in the area of Rogatica. Croats thought that a “Chetnik HQ” was supposedly in one of them, Dedovići. (221)

At 1445 hours the XV Corps CO ordered the 1st Jaeger Regiment to advance “to Goražde”, and the 92nd Motorized Regiment – without the 1st Battalion, which was left in Travnik – to advance “to Rogatica”. The Corps CO ordered: “Line Rogatica –Goražde has to be held, and Jabuka Pass taken.” The 369th Division Operations Section advised that “the line can be seized but it cannot be held with available Division forces.” The Corps CO nonetheless ordered the 92nd Regiment, which was supposed to arrive in Sarajevo the following day, to seize Rogatica on the day after. (222)

By this time the 1st Jaeger Regiment was already engaging the Chetniks in the direction of Prača. Lieutenant Seifert from this unit reported at 1510:

The enemy retreating from Prača since 1500. 1st Jaeger Regiment with its main force reaching Vitez in the evening hours. Enemy cleared from the heights around Prača. Prača seized with little resistance from the enemy. The bridges intact, supports damaged. Railroad bridge destroyed.” (223)

Vitez is a village located about 10 km east of Pale.

At 1730, the Croatian III Corps reported about its own activities in this sector:

“Two groups of scouts reconnoitered the area in the direction Sokolac–Vukosavljevići– Bogovići. Near Vukosavljevići, enemy contact with 150 Chetniks, that withdrew under the pressure toward Romanija. Burned houses from where fire was opened.

Own loses: 3 wounded.

Enemy loses: unknown.

Loot: one case of ammunition lost.

By reconnaissance from the direction of Sokolac toward Rogatica, we found entrenchments near Zvaršnica and Vitanj. Enemy strength: 500 Chetniks. Enemy HQ is in Dedovići.

Permanent Ustasha rear-area post on Romanija attacked, outcome still unknown.” (224)

Just before midnight, the 369th Division’s Operations Section informed the 1st Jaeger Regiment that the Croatian 6th Mountain Regiment would be transferred from Pale to Vareš. The 1st Jaeger Regiment would retain control only of the 1st Battalion/6th Croatian Regiment, a battery of howitzers, and the armored train. Operations Section ordered: “As soon as possible take over positions of the 6th Mountain Regiment”. The Pale Railway Station was ordered to prepare three transport trains for the transfer of the 6th Mountain to Vareš, by 0700 on October 18. (225)

October 18th 1943:

The daily report of the XV Corps for October 18 repeated that the Chetniks were retreating “before our forces” from Vukosavljevići toward Romanija, as well as from Pale, “over the line Podgrab – Prača, to the north, east and south”.

Then they reported “statements of the population” that “strong bands” are in Ponor. The 1st Battalion/6th Mountain (Domobrani) Regiment received orders to secure Bistrica, the source of Prača River, and the railroad toward Stambolići. Positions of the German 1st Jaeger Regiment were near Vitez (half way on the road and railroad between Pale and Prača), and the 92nd Motorized Regiment was deployed along the line Sarajevo-Vogošća.

Previous day’s losses in the Corps’ area were one German killed, 15 Germans and four Croats wounded, while “five men were injured by their own flak” [anti-aicraft cannon]. (226)

From this day onward, the majority of units engaged against the Chetniks would be German. Of the Croatian units, the Germans left only the 1st Ustasha Brigade and parts of the 6th Mountain and 9th Artillery regiments. Strength of the Axis units was close to 10,000 soldiers.

In the morning of October 18, the 369th Division command came out into the field near Mokro to investigate events on the spot. There they found many refugees, and suggested to them to settle in the empty houses (which were most certainly Serb). (227)

At 1445, the air force group “Rajlovac” reported the results of aerial reconnaissance to Višegrad, saying that “no movement was noticed.” The Prača railway station and several houses in Prača were in flames. (228)

At 1450, the combat log of the 369th Division recorded the following statement from one of the officers from the Division Command:

“Today at 1030 hours in Mokro I ordered the 3rd Battalion/370th Regiment command to hold Mokro at all cost. The Battallion is not to withdraw without orders to do so.” (229)

According to the report of the Croatian III Corps, one company of Ustasha scouted the line Stari Grad–Šahbegovići. While the company returned to Bijela Voda, it was attacked by 40-50 Chetniks, who were allegedly routed. At the same time the Ustasha who scouted from Sokolac toward Kratelj were attacked by 50-60 Chetniks. The 369th Division’s Operations Section “begged for reconnaissance” (in those very words) for the following day, October 19. (230)

Šahbegovići are located west of Sokolac, which means that the 1st Ustasha Brigade was not surrounded only from the direction of Pale.

At 2120 hours, the 369th Division’s operations log recorded:

“Command of Railroad Station Sarajevo reports by radio: Railroad Station Semizovac reports that a guardsman from Reljevo noticed that a group of Chetniks came and disarmed Domobran’s transport. The guardsmen from Reljevo fled. Railroad Station Reljevo is not seized.”

Semizovac is located at the northwest exit from Sarajevo, near Vogošća. Ten minutes later, Colonel Hildebrand reported that the 2nd Battalion/92nd Regiment “is located at northern edge of Vogošća”, reporting new information: “Chetniks attacked and took away the 3rd Battalion, 6th Croatian Regiment north of Reljevo, aboard the fourth transport train.” (231)

That was the battalion which had suffered the heaviest losses in Višegrad and at Semeć Field.

Colonel Hildebrand called at 2200 hours, when the Operations Section told him to deploy one company “toward Reljevo, which was seized by Chetniks.” (232)

The following morning, when reports from Rajlovac airfield arrived, the Germans received new information. The Chetniks had not captured the entire battalion, but only seven Domobrani – guards at the Railroad Station Reljevo – who were stripped of arms and ammunition. Allegedly it was one company of Chetniks, which had crossed over the Bosna River, and returned in the direction of Crni Vrh when it was attacked by a scouting detachment from Rajlovac. (233)

In the area of Crni Vrh, about 10 km northwest of Sarajevo, was the 1st Sarajevo Brigade of 2nd Lt. Savo Derikonja.

Later during the day, it was established that the Railroad Station Reljevo was not attacked by a company but only a squad of eight to ten Chetniks. One of the seven captured Domobrani managed to escape. (234)

At 2130 hours, the operations log recorded information from the 1st Jaeger Regiment scouts. Among other things, it says:

“On October 17, we noticed individuals and groups of armed civilians, ten men strong, some with pack animals. Troops moved from eastern direction toward the villages of Račinovići and Luke, where they off-load large boxes from pack animals and hide them in the bushes.

Especially in the villages of Račinovići and Osatnica, civilians and men in green uniforms constantly gathered and split up.

In the night of October 17-18, the enemy scouted from the western end of valley toward the advance positions of the scout company at elevation 1427, which mowed away doing nothing.

Reconnaissance in the morning of October 18: 4 men in dark green uniforms with machine-gun and rifles, advanced in a firing line toward the western end of the valley.

At dawn we could hear songs which our interpreter recognized without a doubt as songs of loyalty to the King…

Battalion B/1… Road: Vitez, heights north of the road Vitez–Podgrab to elevation 975 (1,5 km east of Podgrab).

Movement on October 18 at 0500, return at 2030 hours…

At Podgrab the scouts saw guards at the western exit…

Also at 1515 hours, noticed armed men crossing the road with one pack animal each, at regular intervals.

One bridge in Podgrab is destroyed.

Around 1800 hours noticed in Podgrab strong groups of men. We hit the gathering dead-on with a mortar round. Exact losses of the enemy couldn’t be determined.

Intention: at 1830 hours first parts of Battalion B are returning.

Battalion A arrives on in the morning hours of October 19 …” (235)

October 19th 1943:

At dawn of October 19, the XV Mountain Corps Command ordered the 1st Jaeger Regiment to take the battalions “A” and “B” and with the support of an armored train conduct a “strong undertaking” along the railroad and road Mokro–Rogatica. (236)

Some time later, the Croatian Air Force was ordered to scout the direction Sokolac–Renovići–Rogatica and to bomb Crni Vrh (a height south of Prača). (237)

The 1st Jaeger Regiment first reported from Prača, at 1335 hours: “Armored train crew and motorized detachment arrived at Prača without encounters with the enemy worth mentioning.”

But the Chetniks had surrounded and attacked the other column, which was moving without the armored train. The report of this column was recorded at 1535 hours:

“Battalion B south of Bud attacked and surrounded from three sides at about 1030 hours. It broke through at 1400 to the road Prača–Podgrab.

Heavy loses of the enemy.

Own loses: 1 dead, 4 wounded, about 7 missing. The Regiment is returning to Vitez.”

The command of the 1st Jaeger Regiment again reported at 1615 hours:

“Own loses are increased to 3 dead, 5 wounded. Losses of the enemy estimated to 150 dead. Strength of the enemy: couple of hundreds of uniformed Chetniks and about 100 in white shirts and folk attire.” (238)

The 1st Jaeger Regiment sent new information the following day, about losing 3 more dead, 6 wounded (one of them an officer) and 6 missing. Three pack animals were lost with weapons and equipment, which is explained by “attempt of Italian animal-guides to run away during an encounter with the enemy.” Chetnik strength was estimated at 600–1000 men, and loses at 84 dead, among them “many guides”. (239)

There are no Chetnik documents or testimonials about this fitghting on October 19. But the fact that the Germans had to return to Vitez means they were actually defeated. Note that the 1st Jaeger Regiment had no great combat value: it was a reserve unit, composed of older men. Judging by the mention of civilians – “100 in white shirts and folk attire” – the Germans likely killed any civilians they encountered during their retreat, and classified the dead as either Chetniks or “guides”.

On this day the operations log of the 369th Division mentioned for the first time the Chetnik artillery on the Sarajevo front.  At 1300 hours, one or two Chetnik cannons opened fire at the Ustasha barracks “Podromanija”, located 2 km mile southwest of Sokolac. The artillery was presumably was near Podbukovača, about 7 km southwest of Sokolac. The Rajlovac airport was ordered to find the guns and destroy them. (240)

The artillery attack consisted of just two rounds, which meant it was just a range-finding probe, in preparation for the attack.

At 1835 hours, the 3rd Battalion/370th Regiment reported from Mokro. Its reconnaissance patrols sent north and northeast did not have “contacts with the enemy”. But according to information gathered from the Ustasha a group of 300 Chetniks was noticed in Bogovići, Nepravdići and other villages around Sokolac. (241)

At 1845 hours the 1st Jaeger Regiment reported. They intended to send parts of Battalion A to reconnoiter from Pale over Bistrica, “to observe possibly concealed crossings of Chetnik units”. Battalion B was tasked to scout east from Vitez. (242)

At 1900 hours the Croatian III Corps conveyed the latest report of the 1st Ustasha Brigade from Sokolac. Two of the four Ustasha reconnaissance patrols on this day came across the Chetniks. One clashed with 20 Chetniks near Vidrić, and the other, which had moved over Crni Vrh to Vukosavljevići, with 200-300 Chetniks. The Ustasha reported that one of their men was wounded and that three Chetniks had been killed. (243)

At 1925 hours, the CO of the 369th Division’s supply section reported of “increased activity of Chetnik scouts at Okruglica”, east of Dabravina, or rather Breza (about 10 km north of Vogošća). (244)

At 2000 hours the 369th Division Command’s Operations Section ordered Captain Heinrich, commander of the security company, to go to Pale with his unit, so he would “take over security of the town”. The company was subordinated to the 1st Jaeger Regiment. (245)

Also at 2000 hours, the 1st Jaeger Regiment sent a report of sending reconnaissance toward Kasindol, Jablanica, Hrasnica, Butmir and other towns south of Sarajevo. They had captured one Chetniks messenger from Kotorac (7 km southwest of Sarajevo); during interrogation he said that a group of Chetniks would be arriving soon to plan an attack on Butmir Airport. According to statements of peasants, smaller groups of Chetniks were seen in the direction of Trnovo. (246)

At 2000 hours another report was recorded. The Croatian III Corps reported that in Kotorac, 50 well-armed insurgents seized 20 Croatian laborers, which had worked for the “Luftwaffe”. The workers were taken to Neđarići, where their clothing (i.e. uniforms) was taken away, and then they were released. During the previous night, an armored train collided with a freight train between Semizovac and Ilijaš, but there was no information whether that was caused by sabotage. (247)

At 2220 the 369th Division’s Operations Section informed the 92nd Regiment’s command that one of their battalions had already boarded a train for Pale. Ten minutes later, the Operations Section asked the SS Division to send their 3rd Battalion/2nd Regiment to Pale. (248)

Therefore, the Germans were still reinforcing their eastern positions.

October 20th 1943:

The daily communiqué of the XV Corps Command, sent at 0115 hours recapitulated the events of the previous day, with a note: “Strong Chetnik bands between the road fork Mokro–Rogatica–Prača”.

Then it added that Chetnik artillery was in action on October 17 “from the direction of Vitanje to Sokolac”. Under the item “Intent” it was ordering reconnaissance from the line Sokolac–Mokro–Vitez eastward in six directions, with “six strong Jaeger units”, then “reconnaissance at remaining security areas” as well as bringing new reinforcement to Pale. (249)

At 1120 hours the CO of the 2nd Battalion/13th SS Regiment reported his arrival in Pale. Soon the 3rd Company of this battalion arrived, having been “sent to march toward Mokro as per order of the general” at 12 20 hours. (250)

At 1500 hoursm the Railroad Station Sarajevo reported an attack on the armored train in Sjetlina, which took place about 1300 hours. There were no loses. (251)

At 1700 hours the 1st Jaeger Regiment reported that scouts in Vitez had noticed a grouping of Chetniks “at bridge 825”. A “train and an armored train” were sent there at once. At the same time, the Operations Section ordered that “armored train Bistrica be sent to Breza at once” (to the northwest). (252)

At 1810 hours the operations log of the 369th Division noted the report of the 1st Ustasha Brigade from Sokolac. The Brigade reported for the first time encountering the Partisans near Košutica. A second reconnaissance group came across Chetniks near Podbukovica and a “brief clash” followed. One dead and one wounded were reported as “enemy loses.” (253)

At 1910 hours, the XV Corps operations section rejected the request of the 369th Division’s operations section that the 1st Battalion of the 92nd Motorized Regiment “be engaged in the east”.

At 1955 hours, the SS Division informed that its Battalion moves in nine trains. The arrival of the last two trains was expected in two days.

At 2145 hours is a report from 1st Jaeger Regiment from Vitez was recorded, saying among other things:

“Croatian mountain artillery disrupted smaller movements of Chetniks in a valley near Sjetlina and with the help of an armored train monitors a railroad bridge and the valley toward the southeast. The light armored train, whose German crew attempted to repair telecommunication lines, was attacked. Another attack followed in Sjetlina from north and south at about 1600 hours. Observing with binoculars from Vitez, we noticed men descending the southern rock face of Mt. Romanija with cables around 1700 hours. About 1900 the gathering site for the “Vasal’ force came under fire briefly.” (254)

October 21st 1943:

The daily briefing by the XV Mountain Corps for October 21 mentioned new events from the previous day: clashes of the 1st Jaeger Regiment with “smaller groups of Chetniks” near Sip and Galeš, which were “driven back” towards the east and south. (255)

Most of the activity on October 21 was on the Sarajevo front. The 369th Division’s operations log does not cover the events chronologically, because many reports arrived afterwards. We have reconstructed here a chronology of events, keeping in mind that some were logged out of order (256):

  • “At 0520 hours, with the help of an armored train, Chetnik attack at Stambolići was repelled” states the document.
  • “Contact with Sokolac no longer exists,” 3rd Battalion/370th Regiment reported at 1100 hours.
  • The SS company that thould have moved to Breza was still in Mokro, so the Operations Section of the 369th Division repeated the order.
  • A company of 100 Ustasha near Orlovići came across to a 10–15 strong Chetnik supply squad, which “dispersed after a short fight”. There were no losses.
  • Commander of German forces in Croatia (Independent State of Croatia) General Litters reported at 1405 hours that the Ustasha in Sokolac were “working on trenches”.
  • At 1540 hours the 1st Jaeger Regiment reported the railway near Vitez was mined and the armored train turned back.
  • According to this report of the 1st Jaeger Regiment, damage was found “at two railroad bridges at 2.5 km southeast of Vitez”.
  • Chetniks seize Elevation 1037 above Vitez. A company of Germans “broke out” from Galeš to the northeast, but “was attacked from all sides near Elevation 914”. They managed to push through to Vitez. Later it was reported that German losses were 3 wounded while the “enemy wasn’t counted”.
  • Chetniks attacked a scout group from the 1st Jaeger Regiment, moving from Pale to the south. “One of our men was killed by enemy fire from a grenade launcher”, says the German report.
  • In order to responds to artillery attacks on the 1st Ustasha Brigade, the Germans redeployed to Sokolac a battery of howitzers from the 9th Domobrani Artillery Regiment that was previously in Mokro. The Croatian III Corps informed the 369th Division that this battery was “only partially capable of action”, asking that “this circumstance be considered.” Namely, the “1st Squad of mentioned battery fell into enemy hands during the march from Rogatica to Pale,” while the remaining 2nd Squad lacked “draft animals and pack saddles,” so the redeployment was possible “only with cargo trucks” (which had limited value because of the rugged terrain).
  • Chetniks overpowered the Domobrani in Sjetlina. “According to reports of routed Domobrani, there are 200-300 Chetniks in Sjetlina” says the operations log.
  • “On October 21 at night the base at Pračko Vrelo came under attack and was torched. Additionally, machinegun and mortar fire was heard,” says the report of the 1st Jaeger Regiment. At the source of Prača River were 58 Domobrani, who “ran away in every direction”. The base was destroyed. The Domobrani “arrived individually” to the German battalion in Bistrica the following day.
  • “300-400 Chetniks captured Podbukovica,” reported the Croatian III Corps. Podbukovica had been held by parts of the 1st Ustasha Brigade.
  • A group of 15 or so Chetniks was observed in Šahbegovići.
  • Northeast of Sokolac, near Košutica, a skirmish took place between Chetniks and Ustasha. “Own loses: 1 Ustasha wounded. Enemy loses: 3 dead, 1 Chetnik wounded” says the Ustasha report.
  • At 1900 hours, 100 Chetniks attack parts of the 1st [Ustasha] Brigade in Pohovac. “After a two-hour fight the enemy was repelled without own loses toward the north. The enemy had two dead (counted) and 10 wounded (an estimate)” says the Ustasha report.
  • Chetink artillery struck positions of the 1st Ustasha Brigade at Sokolac from the direction of south – southeast.
  • Around 2200, the Chetniks attacked the railroad stations Ilijaš and Vogošća, northwest of Sarajevo.
  • Chetniks attack Semizovac. Croatian Colonel Stefotić reported to 369th Division that the was directed by Colonel Borota.
  • Two Wehrmacht vehicles attacked 500 meters north of Semizovac. Three Germans were wounded.
  • “3 Croats wounded during the capture of a cargo hauler by Chetniks on October 21 at 2115 hours, 500 meters from Semizovac”, said the XV Corps report.
  • Between Semizovac and Ilijaš (6 km away), the Chetniks demolished the railroad tracks in several places. Workers were sent to repair the railroad, but returned “because the section came under fire.” Protection was urgently requested. The Germans thought that these attacks had “aimed to reach Breza”, some 20 km northwest of Sarajevo. About noon on October 22, the 92nd Motorized Regiment reported that fire was extinguished at the bridge over Bosna River near Semizovac and that it was again passable for cargo vehicles.

This was the review of events of October 21, 1943, according to the operations log of the 369th Division. One Chetnik-American document about these events also survived: the statement of Major Aleksa Drašković to the U.S. Military Mission.

Drašković first noted the capture of Prača, on October 20: “The enemy managed to withdraw with negligible loses”, said Drašković, while on the other side his Drina Corps had no casualties. The Chetniks had previously liberated this town, but elements of the 1st Jaeger Regiment recaptured it. Drašković then said that the Chetniks had captured Stambolići on October 21. “We had 3 killed, 7 wounded, while the enemy had many killed and wounded. We captured 5 German soldiers”, he said in his statement. (257)

All of these activities during October 21were undertaken to conceal the main objective of the attack: the destruction of the 1st Ustasha Brigade in Sokolac. The attack on Sokolac was to take place in the night between October 21 and 22. However, before the attack could begin, the Chetniks’ front near Sarajevo was thrown into disarray. The Germans had no clue about this, not on October 22 nor on the following day. Before they could launch their attack on the Ustasha, the Chetniks were attacked from behind by the Partisans, with all the mobile units at their disposal.

 

18. Siege of Sarajevo Ends

 

Since 1942, German reports from the Balkans have considered the possibility of Chetniks and Partisans uniting against the Wehrmacht. Once Italy surrendered, the Germans became convinced such a union had taken place. “The Chetniks ought to have made an understanding with the Communists,” said a report of the 369th Division from October 10, 1943. (258)

The uniting factor was held to be the British, whose envoys were in both camps. The Germans also considered that the British managed to create a unified resistance in Greece, to some extent anyway. They did not take into account a key difference, however:  Greece was homogenous, while entire communities such as the Croats and Muslims backed the German occupation in Yugoslavia. Nor did the Germans realize that the Yugoslav Communist Party was playing the ethnic card, promising the most to communities allied with the Reich (i.e. Croats, Muslims, Albanians).

The 369th thus kept logging all the skirmishes with the partisans in its western sector, but didn’t give them much attention. German officers saw increased partisan activity only when Croatian (NDH) units were deployed by themselves, and noted the reluctance to engage the Wehrmacht units. For example, the reports of danger to Travnik stopped once a battalion of the 92nd Motorized Regiment reinforced the town. Once the regiment was transferred to the Sarajevo theater and deployed against the Chetniks, reports of danger to Travnik started anew.

To the Germans, this was due to mass defections from the NDH side, both military and civilians, to the partisans. “On October 12, Deputy Governor Sudžuka and his wife, her brother Oberleutnant Sihrovaški, his fiancee and another man defected from Travnik to the partisans,” notes the war diary of the 369th Division on October 15, 1943. (259)

On the other hand, since the largest enemy concentration was around Sarajevo, and since this was the only theater in the entire country where the resistance was successfully on the offensive, the Germans thought it logical that the Chetnik siege would be joined by the Partisans. “The Fifth bandit division marches southward, north and south of the Sarajevo-Konjic road, likely to blockade Sarajevo from the south”, noted German officers on October 14. (260)

The following day, a brigade from the 5th Krajina Division captured 36 Chetniks at the village of Mojčevići near Trnovo, but the Germans still thought these forces were “moving east, probably intending to link up to the Chetniks near Rogatica.” (261)

Several days later, on October 19, the war diary of the 369th notes: “Partisans made contact with the Chetniks, for the purpose of free passage or ceasefire.” (262)

So when on October 22, the 1st Ustasha brigade reported “clashes between Chetniks and a Partisan brigade” near Sokolović – which had taken place the night before at 2300 hours – the German officers paid it no heed. (263) Moreover, the XV Mountain Corps Command used the phrase “alleged fighting between the Chetniks and Bandits near Sokolović” in the daily communiqué of October 23. (264)

Another note in the war diary, testifying to the prevailing misconception is dated October 23, late in the evening: ”2200: Sergeant Rick reports: at 1600 more than 100 Communists and Chetniks retreated together through Srednje towards Vučja Luka” (265)

Similar misinformation is found in the letter from General Rudolf Litters to the XV Mountain Corps Command, also dated October 23: “East of Sokolac Chetniks and Communists allegedly fighting. Enemy concentrations spotted near Lašva and Kiran. Chetniks and Communists there have an alliance.” (266)

The only eyewitness accounts came from the 1st Ustasha Brigade, which told a different story. “2nd Majevica Brigade clashing with Chetniks along the line Martići-Sijevići-Kusače line. Fighting ongoing,” said the Ustasha report from the morning of October 24, logged in the diary. (267)

Eventually, the Germans realized that they were given an unexpected gift in the night between October 21 and 22: the Chetniks, amidst their largest offensive against the Wehrmacht, were attacked from behind by the Partisans.

How did that happen?

The Communists #1 enemy from the very beginning was the Royal Yugoslav government, and by extension the Chetniks as its legitimate armed force. While still allied with the Germans – prior to June 22, 1941 – the Communists reacted to the news of Chetniks gathering at Ravna Gora with a proclamation against the “agents of London”. Having enumerated them – “various cliques of capitalists, Chetniks and gendarmes, some pathetic officers and others” – the proclamation concluded: “We must decisively fight against these bandits right away.” (268)

Having acquired weapons from the surrendering Italians and shipments from the Western Allies, the Partisans immediately made plans to use them against the Chetniks. Plans to fight the Germans simply didn’t exist. “We plan to send to your sector one or two additional divisions, as soon as they become available. Keep this in strict secrecy. Do everything to prevent Chetnik mobilization,” wrote Josip Broz to his 2nd Strike Corps on October 1, 1943. (269)

At the time, the Corps existed only on paper. Its creation was entrusted to the 2nd Proletarian Division, which had been transferred to Montenegro in September, after engaging the Ozren Chetnik Corps. Having lost three quarters of its 4,000 men during Operation “Schwartz,” the division could not do much more than harass the Chetnik rear with limited effect.

Similarly, the 3rd Strike Corps in the area of Tuzla was not available to Broz quite yet. The Partisans found themselves with a substantial number of troops there – the former Ustasha legion “Hajji Efendić” had 3,500 men – but integrating the murderers of Serb civilians with mostly Serb partisans was a slow process.

Thus the first unit that Broz managed to send against the Chetnik investment of Sarajevo came from Western Bosnia. The 5th Krajina Division was raised from areas alongside the Croat death camps of Jasenovac and Stara Gradiška. Letting the camps murder their family members unopposed, some 3,000 men of the 5th set out from Gornji Vakuf on October 10, headed for Kalinovik. (270)

A day earlier, the 2nd Strike Corps was promised the 1st Proletarian Division. That missive once again emphasized the foremost priority: “Finish off the Chetniks.” (271)

Broz also noted the principal strategic goal of the Communists, which they’d attempted several times already: “My plan is to concentrate the 1st Corps and your 2nd Corps in Sandžak and Metohija, and when the time is right, advance into Serbia and Macedonia.” (272)

On October 21, Broz notified the 2nd Strike Corps: “Chetniks under Račić captured Višegrad and Rogatica. 5th Division arrived at Foča, and we ordered it to immediately advance on Goražde and Rogatica, seize Višegrad and wait for further orders. Send two brigades immediately towards Priboj and Rudo and secure them.” (273)

However, the Partisan HQ soon received the unwelcome news that the 2nd Strike Corps was fighting Albanians. Broz sent criticism right away: “You should not have touched the Albanians, but rather advanced into Serbia. This is the most important strategic and political objective now, to thwart Draža. We must urgently work to this end for external political reasons.” (274)

2nd Strike Corps Commander, Peko Dapčević responded: “We did not attack the Albanians, but they and the Germans struck at us from Andrijevica. We even tried to neutralize them through negotiations.” (275)

In a letter from October 21, Broz announced a major operation: “The 5th Division is on the Drina already. I am coming with two more divisions soon. You must work with urgency till then. I will order the Vojvodina [Division] to cross into Serbia, and Kosta to support you at Višegrad. Report your activities in that direction.” (276)

The formations thus involved would be the 1st Proletarian and 6th Lika Division (i.e. the 1st Proletarian Corps) from the environs of Drvar, then the 16th Vojvodina Division from Majevica, along with the 3rd Strike Corps commanded by Kosta Nаđ, from the region of Tuzla. In other words, the Communists planned to deploy all three of mobile corps – the 1st Proletarian, and the 2nd and 3rd Strike – against the Chetniks between Višegrad and Sarajevo. Everything they had!

An hour before midnight on October 21, right before the decisive attack against the Ustasha forces in Sokolac, the Chetniks were attacked – from the north by the 27th Division of the 3rd Corps, and from the south by the 5th Krajina Division. In a memo to all units dated November 14, Mihailović explained what happened:

“The attack on Sokolac was scheduled for October 22 at night. That evening, the Communists treacherously deployed behind our forces that had crossed from Serbia, and attacked them from behind. At the same time, the Ustasha and the Germans struck from the front. This should be proof to everyone that the Communists are working together with the Ustasha and the Germans, and have taken into their ranks all the scum that hates Yugoslavia and the Serbs… Because of this Communist attack, we had to abandon the siege of Sokolac. Tell everyone about this, as the best proof that Communists lie about fighting the occupiers.” (277)

At dawn on October 22, instead of pushing Germans and Ustasha forces out of Sokolac, the Chetniks were themselves besieged by attackers from all sides at the village of Stenice. (278) They executed a fighting withdrawal to Višegrad.

How did the Communists report on these events?

Ahmet Đonlagić, member of the 27th Division, wrote that its HQ had found out about “Chetnik units of the Cer Corps approaching Sokolac,” that “parts of the Drina Corps” were deployed around Prača, and that “the Romanija Corps was gathering north of Mt. Romanija, at the village of Knežine near Sokolac.” The division commander decided not to wait for all his units, but take one brigade and the local Romanija partisans and attack. Most of the brigade was sent against the Chetniks in Rogatica, and the rest, with the Romanija detachment, against the Chetniks in Sijerci. “The Chetnik Azbukovac Brigade was at the village of Sijerci. Infiltrating their deployment, the 2nd Battalion and the Romanija Detachment surprised the Chetniks and scattered them after a three-hour fight. The Romanija Detachment and their command, well-acquainted with the local terrain, contributed greatly to our victory,” wrote Đonlagić. (279)

Đonlagić noted that the Romanija Detachment had several dozen partisans. The Romanija Chetniks had thousands of men. However, the partisans knew the local terrain very well, and could easily navigate in the darkness. They also knew that the Azbukovac Brigade was in the rear, while the majority of Račić’s units were investing the Ustasha lines at Sokolac. Thus the impact of the Romanija partisans was far greater than their numbers might suggest. Nor did it bother them that most of the Romanija Serbs, desiring above all the destruction of the Ustasha, considered them traitors.

Đonlagić further wrote that the Partisans continued their attacks on the Chetniks for several days. By October 25th, the main body of the 17th Division of the 3rd Strike Corps – altogether some 6,000 Partisans – had arrived, thwarting the “ambitious but unrealistic plans” of the Chetniks, Đonlagić noted, adding: “This was a significant military and political success of the People’s Liberation Movement in that part of Eastern Bosnia, with positive echoes in Western Serbia.” (280)

Like other Communist historians, Đonlagić labels the 369th Division – a Croatian legionnaire unit – as Germans, as doing otherwise would undermine the Communist claim of Croat participation in the “People’s Liberation Movement.” Writing of the 369th, he noted that it had retreated from the area between Višegrad and Sarajevo, and that the only opposition to the Chetniks had been the Croatian regulars’ (Domobrani) 3rd Battalion of the 6th Mountain Regiment. Though he calls the Ustasha “steeped in atrocities,” Đonlagić writes that their “combat effectiveness was on par with German units,” unlike the Chetniks.

After their defeat of the Chetniks, both divisions of the 3rd Corps allegedly tried to attack the Axis forces along the line Sokolac-Mokro. There are records of a failed attack on Sokolac in the night of October 27-28, where one Partisan was killed. Another attack took place the following night, when six Partisans were wounded.

These casualty figures indicate that the attacks were symbolic at best. Further confirming that conclusion is the fact that Ustasha bunkers were not attacked by artillery, but by grenadiers. This despite the fact that the Partisans had seized Chetnik artillery already perfectly positioned to bombard Sokolac – which it had been doing, prior to the Partisan attack. Nor were the Partisans themselves short of artillery by that point, with a recent defection of many NDH crews and their weapons in Tuzla.

Đonlagić noted that only on the third night did the Partisans use artillery against the Ustasha positions in Sokolac – but the Ustasha had already withdrawn, supposedly unnoticed. Thus was Sokolac “liberated” without a fight. (281)

By then, the 3rd Corps had already ordered the Partisans to “attack the enemy in Višegrad.” Đonlagić did not bother to note that the “enemy” was Chetniks.

To explain events diametrically opposed to their own propaganda, the Communists resorted to outright falsehoods, even in internal reports. The 2nd Proletarian Division reported to the 2nd Strike Corps HQ on October 15 that the Chetniks had not really liberated Višegrad, and that there were no Germans in the town, but rather the Ustasha. Supposedly, what happened was that the “Chetniks attacked Višegrad and had advanced to the town center, but the Ustasha threw them out. We heard that 200 dead Chetniks were left behind, while many wounded were sent to Priboj.” (282)

After the war, Communist historians offered several versions of these events. Here is one:

“In early October 1943, Dragoslav Račić and his Cer Chetnik Corps moved into Eastern Bosnia. As the Ustasha retreated, he took Višegrad without a fight on October 6, and soon thereafter entered Rogatica, Goražde and Olovo. Advancing on Romanija, with the help of Chetniks from Eastern Bosnia, Račić forcibly conscripted the Serb population, while looting and mass-murdering the Muslims.” (283)

Here is another:

“The Chetniks attacked the regulars and Germans in Višegrad  on October 5. The purpose of the attack was to demonstrate to the British and American military envoys, who observed the attack, that the Chetniks supposedly fought the occupiers.” (284)

A more recent Communist account first noted that prior to the Chetnik siege of Sokolac, the Ustasha had perpetrated the worst massacres of Serbs in that area. “Many Chetnik units had liberated Rogatica, Goražde and Višegrad, and had surrounded Sokolac to liberate it,“ the account scandalously reported. But then it continued:

“The Partisan command received a report that the Chetniks could massacre many Muslims in Sokolac… Informed of the Chetnik intent, the Partisan command orders the 2nd Krajina and Romanija detachments to attack the Chetniks. Advancing quickly, the partisans attacked Capt. Račić’s Azbukovac Brigade at the village of Sijerci, and scattered the Chetniks who fled towards Serbia, while the Romanija Chetniks fled home. Račić’s deputy Capt. Pavlović was killed in that battle, and 97 of his Chetniks were later captured at a place called Chetnik Grave near Sijerci.” (285)

How were the events of those days described in German documents?

The Operations section of the 369th Division’s HQ informed the 1st Jaeger Regiment on October 22 (at 1250 hours) that the SS battalion transports were “directed to Pale and would march immediately to Mokro.” Five minutes later, the same section ordered: “Chetnik hostages to be hanged, in reprisal for the attack of our transport units on the tracks and the Semizovac rail station.”

Further, it reported that the HQ of the 1st Bosnian Chetnik Corps was located in Šapanci, and that the Chetniks’ munitions depot was in Nišići. (286)

A report sent at 2055 that day described the activities of the 1st Jaeger Regiment on October 22. The entire regiment, supported by the division artillery of the 369th, deployed against the Chetniks at dawn. One column set out from Podvitez, the other from Vitez, and they joined in Bjelovac. Chetnik losses were 7 dead, houses where Greek, Italiand and French ammunition and “other weaponry” had been found were torched, Chetnik bunkers were mined and “bivouac set up.” Civilians were evacuated. The artillery had “scattered small Chetnik groups” south of Buda, Stajna and on Hill 988. At the same time, an armored train between Stambolići and Podgrab “scattered” small Chetnik groups. (287)

That day, the Croatian air force bombed the “HQ of the 1st Bosnian Chetnik Corps in Šapanci, and the munitions depot in Nišići.” The 369th’s war diary further noted: “27 Chetnik hostages will be hanged on October 23, as retribution for the attack on vehicles along the Ilijaš-Semizovac road and the attack on the Vogošća-Ilijaš railway.” (288)

General Rudolf Litters described the events of October 22 thus:

“East of Sarajevo, the 1st Reserve Jaeger Regiment attacked and forced the Chetnik retreat, torching fortified houses and many munitions hideaways. Seven enemy dead were counted.

The enemy’s weak night attack smashed the 1st Company of the 6th Croatian Mountain Regiment, which did not offer much resistance. Thus almost the entire regiment was disbanded….

Northwest of Sarajevo, there were ambushes of vehicles, the railway line and the station. As retribution, 27 Chetnik hostages were shot.” (289)

At noon of October 23, the 1st Ustasha Brigade reported “scattering a Partisan scouting party” near Sokolac. In the evening of the same day, the Brigade attacked the Chetniks at Bogovići and Kopito. Four Chetniks were wounded. (290)

At 2130, the 3rd Croatian Corps sent the following report:

“Chetnik attacking Semizovac from all sides. Armored train from Podlugovi deployed. Captives report 2nd Majevica Brigade in Žljebovi. Enemy took big casualties from air attack.” (291)

The following day, October 24, the 92nd Motorized Regiment reported that what happened in Semizovac had been a minor skirmish “involving Chetniks.” Elements of the Regiment were deployed, but “had no contact with the enemy.” (292)

The XV Corps’ Command announced that the 1st Jaeger Regimen “destroyed Chetnik houses in Sjetlina” on October 23. (293)

In the evening of October 24, Standartenfuehrer (Colonel) Kramer of the Waffen-SS Division “Prinz Eugen” reported that a Chetnik attack on the railway towards Podlugovi had been was thwarted. (294)

According to the reports of 1st Ustasha Brigade, contained in the daily communiqué of the XV Corps Command for October 25, 1943, in the area of Sokolac (villages Margetići, Sijerci and Kusače) Chetniks fought the Partisans’ 2nd Majevica Brigade, estimated at 600 strong. At the same time, the 1st Jaeger Regiment attacked the Chetniks from Podvitez again. Houses in Jelovići where rifles and ammunition had been found were torched, while “11 men and 7 women with children” were detained. (295)

A note in the war diary of the 369th Division, dated October 25, 0905, reads: “Report from Trebević: south of Sarajevo, bandits recently arrived from Živinice allegedly pushed Chetniks back from earlier positions.”’

West of Hill 1096, the Germans “suppressed 500 mounted men.” (296)

In the late afternoon of October 25, the war diary noted that civilians who fled from Vučja Luka to Hreša confirmed “with certainty” the Partisan victory over Savo Derikonja’s Chetniks. (297) Vučja Luka is a Serb village, birthplace of Savo Derikonja, indicating that Serb civilians fled the Partisan advance.

Meanwhile, stragglers from the Croatian 6th Mountain Regiment, which had been scattered by the Chetniks, were reassembling in Hadžići.

The German 1st Jaeger Regiment sent reinforcements to the Butmir Airport and its surroundings. 150 civilians were rounded up from the villages around Kasindo. Six “serious suspects” were detained after questioning, and sent to Sarajevo with the Special Police. One of them was identified as Neđo, who had worked as a janitor and cook for “bandit leader” Blagoje Hristanović, from the village of Jašići near Pale. Hristanović commanded a company of 80 rifles, 3 light and 4 heavy machine guns. It belonged to a “strong group” deployed around Jašići, under the command of Stefan Lušić. Battalion A of the 1st Jaegers was assigned to pursue these Chetniks. (298)

Battalion B’s report was logged at 2030 hours:

“Combing and clearing the locations of Vrhprača, Luke, Maruše and other locations in the upper Prača valley went as planned. At dawn of October 25 the battalion exited the preparation area and immediately encountered Chetnik fire. Fire came from houses. Chetniks tried to flee, losing 11 men. Other 8 were dead or injured, but removed from the field. Houses from which we took fire, or where we found ammunition, were torched. The remaining civilians evacuated. According to civilians, a large group of Chetniks (some 300 men) led by former Yugoslav officers retreated east.” (299)

In a previous report, the Battalion noted that 50 civilians had been evacuated, and that the Chetniks encountered were “probably the rearguard of regular Chetnik units”.

In any case, German reports become more perfunctory after October 21. The threat to Axis forces in Sarajevo was over, and the reports focused on Partisan attacks against the Chetniks towards Višegrad.

Another thing to be noted about the war diary of the 369th is that it contradicts the myth of German discipline. The diary contains several instances of the 369th commanders refusing to obey the orders of the XV Mountain Corps’ commander, even when threatened. In every case, those orders were unreasonable, e.g. demanded a certain position held or taken, even though it was impossible due to the drastic disparity of forces in favor of the Chetniks.

One clue might be found in the memoirs of Col. Vladimir Vauhnik, who had served as the Royal Yugoslav military attaché in Berlin prior to the war and was well acquainted with the Third Reich. It appears that the XV Corps’ commander was one of the many promoted solely because of membership in the National-Socialist Party. Regular Heer officers held these men in contempt, but generally dared not stand up to them, because of harsh consequences.

 

DOCUMENTS

One of the pages from the operations log of the 369th Division for October 5, 1934: “0940: 3rd Battalion of 370th Grenadier Regiment reporting by radio: Strong attack since 0400, supported by heavy armament. Attack became stronger since 0700 hours. Chetniks took NE of Višegrad. Requesting reinforcements from Rogatica. Requesting air support… 1010: Operations Section for 3rd Battalion, 370th Grenadier Regiment by radio: Requested Luftwaffe support, but currently the weather is bad.”

One of the pages from the operations log of the 369th Division for October 5, 1934: “0940: 3rd Battalion of 370th Grenadier Regiment reporting by radio: Strong attack since 0400, supported by heavy armament. Attack became stronger since 0700 hours. Chetniks took NE of Višegrad. Requesting reinforcements from Rogatica. Requesting air support… 1010: Operations Section for 3rd Battalion, 370th Grenadier Regiment by radio: Requested Luftwaffe support, but currently the weather is bad.”

October 5, 1943, 1045 hours: “Chief of Staff of the XV Mountain Army Corps orders that Višegrad and the Lim Bridge must be held at all cost...“

October 5, 1943, 1045 hours: “Chief of Staff of the XV Mountain Army Corps orders that Višegrad and the Lim Bridge must be held at all cost…“

October 5, 1943, 1430 hours: “Operations Section of XV Mountain Army Corps informs: Commanding General agrees to deploy the Battalion in support of personnel at the Lim Bridge. Operations Section thinks that it is not possible for the Battalion to reach the Lim Bridge…”

October 5, 1943, 1430 hours: “Operations Section of XV Mountain Army Corps informs: Commanding General agrees to deploy the Battalion in support of personnel at the Lim Bridge. Operations Section thinks that it is not possible for the Battalion to reach the Lim Bridge…”

October 8, 1235 hours: “The General thinks that the Bridge was surrendered without a fight. He orders the 3rd Battalion, 370th Regiment to retake the Bridge. Division Command warns that the Bridge is in a gorge and that elevations around it are held by strong Chetnik forces, The Battalion is unable to execute the order. The General insists on it… The General orders: Attack the Lim Bridge …”

October 8, 1235 hours: “The General thinks that the Bridge was surrendered without a fight. He orders the 3rd Battalion, 370th Regiment to retake the Bridge. Division Command warns that the Bridge is in a gorge and that elevations around it are held by strong Chetnik forces, The Battalion is unable to execute the order. The General insists on it… The General orders: Attack the Lim Bridge …”

October 8, 1405 hours: “Armored train brought many wounded to Ustipracha.”

October 8, 1405 hours: “Armored train brought many wounded to Ustipracha.”

October 10, 1215 hours: “Operations Section of the 369th Division to XV Mountain Corps Command: Need urgent deployment of additional forces east of Sarajevo. Impossible to pull out Battalion B of Special Regiment 1, as well as certain units, from Sarajevo, as a rebellion can erupt in this area and in Sarajevo at any moment.”

October 10, 1215 hours: “Operations Section of the 369th Division to XV Mountain Corps Command: Need urgent deployment of additional forces east of Sarajevo. Impossible to pull out Battalion B of Special Regiment 1, as well as certain units, from Sarajevo, as a rebellion can erupt in this area and in Sarajevo at any moment.”

“Command of 3rd Battalion, 370th Regiment reports by radio: Mesići attacked and hit by mortars. Rogatica attacked at the same time. Attacks coming from of Borac, on both sides of the railroad. Artillery fire from Orlov Kamen.  Operations Section asks how this is possible. Battalion had reported that not a single Chetnik was seen in Ustiprača, and now there is an attack on Mesići. How was it possible for artillery to be deployed on the road to Mesići? Division can only accept that reconnaissance was extremely deficient.  Command of 3rd Battalion, 370th Regiment replies that there was plenty of scouting in the direction east, but this cannot explain the sudden appearance of artillery.”

“Command of 3rd Battalion, 370th Regiment reports by radio: Mesići attacked and hit by mortars. Rogatica attacked at the same time. Attacks coming from of Borac, on both sides of the railroad. Artillery fire from Orlov Kamen.
Operations Section asks how this is possible. Battalion had reported that not a single Chetnik was seen in Ustiprača, and now there is an attack on Mesići. How was it possible for artillery to be deployed on the road to Mesići? Division can only accept that reconnaissance was extremely deficient.
Command of 3rd Battalion, 370th Regiment replies that there was plenty of scouting in the direction east, but this cannot explain the sudden appearance of artillery.”

October 13,  1720 hours: “Operations Section informs Command of XV Mountain Corps: Stronger Chetnik attack by mortars and 105mm guns at Jabuka Pass, Mesići and Rogatica. Rogatica attacked from all sides. The Division is redeploying along the line Pale-Mokro-Sokolac. 3rd Battalion withdrawing toward Renovica, Prača. Garrison in Rogatica ordered to break out towards Sokolac, Mokro.”

October 13, 1720 hours: “Operations Section informs Command of XV Mountain Corps: Stronger Chetnik attack by mortars and 105mm guns at Jabuka Pass, Mesići and Rogatica. Rogatica attacked from all sides. The Division is redeploying along the line Pale-Mokro-Sokolac. 3rd Battalion withdrawing toward Renovica, Prača. Garrison in Rogatica ordered to break out towards Sokolac, Mokro.”

October 15, 1130 hours:  “Commandant of the Division and Operational Section are of principled opinion that it is impossible to withdraw emergency forces from Sarajevo, as they need to be available to suppress the rebellion likely to flare if Sarajevo comes under attack. It is urgently needed to reinforce the line east of Sarajevu, as the enemy is gradually breaking through the line Pale – Mokro – Sokolac. Therefore, in order to ease the situation, the Operations Section proposes to the Commandant: a)Deploy the 1st Jaeger Regiment east of Sarajevo, while leaving some security elements in Sarajevo itself.  b)	Reinforce the outer defenses by with an Ustasha battalion and local reserves of the Croatian 3rd Corps. c)	Sentry points of the 1st Jaeger to be relieved by emergency forces and police.  d)	Set an  earlier curfew for the civilian population e)	Eventually declare a state of siege.  Commandant is in agreement with the proposals. Proclamation of siege will depend on discussions with commanders of territorial police and military command.”

October 15, 1130 hours:
“Commandant of the Division and Operational Section are of principled opinion that it is impossible to withdraw emergency forces from Sarajevo, as they need to be available to suppress the rebellion likely to flare if Sarajevo comes under attack.
It is urgently needed to reinforce the line east of Sarajevu, as the enemy is gradually breaking through the line Pale – Mokro – Sokolac. Therefore, in order to ease the situation, the Operations Section proposes to the Commandant:
a) Deploy the 1st Jaeger Regiment east of Sarajevo, while leaving some security elements in Sarajevo itself.
b) Reinforce the outer defenses by with an Ustasha battalion and local reserves of the Croatian 3rd Corps.
c) Sentry points of the 1st Jaeger to be relieved by emergency forces and police.
d) Set an earlier curfew for the civilian population
e) Eventually declare a state of siege.
Commandant is in agreement with the proposals. Proclamation of siege will depend on discussions with commanders of territorial police and military command.”

“October 17, 1445 hours: Commandant of XV Corps to Operations Section of 369th Division: “Line Rogatica – Goražde must be held, take the Jabuka Pass”. Operations Section to Commandant of Corps: “…This line can be seized, but it cannot be held with what the Division has available.”

“October 17, 1445 hours: Commandant of XV Corps to Operations Section of 369th Division: “Line Rogatica – Goražde must be held, take the Jabuka Pass”.
Operations Section to Commandant of Corps: “…This line can be seized, but it cannot be held with what the Division has available.”

ENDNOTES:
200. Bundes Archiv, Military Archives, RH 26-369-11, page 1073.
206. Same, page 1091.
207. Same, page 1092.
208. Same, page 1093.
209. Same, page 1128g.
210. B. Todorović, Poslednji raport, 287-288.
211. Bundes Archiv, Vojni arhiv, RH 26-369/61.
212. Copy of the original writing in possession of the author.
213. Bundes Archiv, Military Archives, RH 26-369-11, page 1129.
214. Same, page 1130.
215. Same, page 1130.
217. Same, page 1137.
218. Same, page 1139-1142.
219. Same, page 1139-1142.
220. Same, page 1146.
221. Same, page 1148.
222. Same, page 1149.
223. Same, page 1149.
224. Same, page 1149.
225. Same, page 1153.
226. Same, page 1155.
227. Same, page 1155.
228. Same, page 1156.
229. Same, page 1156.
230. Same, page 1157.
231. Same, page 1158.
232. Same, page 1160.
233. Same, page 1162.
234. Same, page 1166.
235. Same, page 1158-1159.
236. Same, page 1161.
237. Same, page 1162.
238. Same, page 1163.
239. Same, page 1174.
240. Same, page 1163.
241. Same, page 1163.
242. Same, page 1164.
243. Same, page 1164.
244. Same, page 1164.
245. Same, page 1164.
246. Same, page 1165.
247. Same, page 1165-1166.
248. Same, page 1167.
249. Same, page 1169.
250. Same, page 1170.
251. Same, page 1170.
252. Same, page 1170.
253. Same, page 1170-1171.
254. Same, page 1173-1174.
255. Same, page 1175.
256. Same, page 1178-1193.
257. NAW, Archive of General Donovan (head of OSS-CIA), Microfilm 1642, Roll 84, DECLASIFIED NND 877190, microfilm pages 183-185.
258. Bundes Archiv, Military Archives, RH 26-369/61.
259. Bundes Archiv, Military Archives, RH 26-369-11, page 1132.
260. Same, page 1128g.
261. Same, page 1140.
262. Same, page 1163.
263. Same, page 1188.
264. Same, page 1193.
265. Same, page 1198.
266. A. Stamatović, Istina o četnicima, 183. Prema: Zbornik dokumenata, tom 4, knjiga 18, strana 438.
267. Bundes Archiv, Military Archives, RH 26-369-11, page 1201.
268. Zbornik dokumenata, tom 1, knjiga 2, 13-14.
269. Zbornik dokumenata, tom 2, knjiga 10, 330.
270, 271, 272, 273. Same, pages 370, 376, 368, 399.
274, 275, 276. Same, pages 397-398.
277. AVII, ČA, K-275, reg. br. 21/1.
278. D. Trbojević, Cersko-мajevička grupa korpusa, 101.
279. A. Đonlagić, ’’27. istočnobosanska divizija’’, 24-25.
280. Same, page 26.
281. Same, page 26.
282. Zbornik dokumenata, tom 1, knjiga 16, 124.
283. Zbornik dokumenata, tom 2, knjiga 10, 399.
284. Zbornik dokumenata, tom 14, knjiga 3, 27.
285. J. I. Krsmanović, Sokolac (putevi Romanije i istorije), 190-191.
286. Bundes Archiv, Military Archives, RH 26-369-11, s page 1188.
287. Same, page 1188.
288. Same, page 1193.
289. A. Stamatović, Istina o četnicima, 183.
290. Bundes Archiv, Military Archives, RH 26-369-11, page 1196.
291. Same, page 1198.
292. Same, page 1201.
293. Same, page 1200.
294. Same, page 1201.
295. Same, page 1205.
296. Same, page 1206.
297. Same, page 1207.
298. Same, page 1209.
299. Same, page 1210.
SOURCES
Archival Material
– Archive of Military Historic Institute (AVII), Belgrade, collection Chetniks’Archive (ČA). New name is Military Archive of Serbia.
– Archive of Military Historic Institute, National Archive Washington Belgrade, (AVII, NAV) there are German documents passed from Washington, which kept American markings.
– NAV, Archive of General Donovan (documents passed from Wahsington).
– Archive of National Museum Kragujevac (ANMK).
– Bundesarchiv, Military Archive, Feiburg im Briesgau, FR Germany.
– Historical Archive Niš (IAN).
– Historical Archive of Toplica Prokuplje, (IAT).
– Historical Archive of Belgrade, Collection ’’Banjica’’.
Books
– Avakumović Ivan, Mihailović prema nemačkim dokumentima, Naše delo, London, 1969.
– Drugi svetski rat, knjiga 1, Vojnoistorijski institut, JNA, Beograd, 1957.
– Đonlagić Ahmet, 27. Istočnobosanska divizija, Vojnoizdavački zavod, Beograd, 1983.
– Živanović Mladen, Zbornik dokumenata, Vols 3-4, Interklima-grafika, Vrnjačka Banja, 2004.
– Zbornik dokumenata i podataka o narodnooslobodilačkom ratu naroda Jugoslavije, Vols 1, 2 (Communist documents), Vojnoistorijski institut, Beograd.
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– Zbornik dokumenata i podataka o narodnooslobodilačkom ratu naroda Jugoslavije, Vol 14 (Chetnik dokuments), Vojnoistorijski institut, Beograd.
– S. Iliev, Spomen na porečieto (С. Илиев, Спомен на поречието.)
– Jevđević Dobroslav, U službi srpskom narodu (memoarski i drugi zapisi), Novi pogledi, Kragujevac, 2005.
– Knežević L. Radoje i Živan, Sloboda ili smrt, self-published, Seattle, USA, 1981.
– Krsmanović I. Jovo, Sokolac – putevi Romanije i istorije, self-published, Novi Sad, 2002.
– Maksimović Milenko, Sinovi Ozrena, NIIP Glas komuna, Doboj, 1996.
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– Marković Milisav, Sa Dražom u pobedu ili smrt – putevima Avalskog korpusa, self-published, Toronto – Beograd, 2001.
– Nikolić Kosta, Istorija Ravnogorskog pokreta, Srpska reč, Beograd, 1999.
– Nikolić Kosta, Nemački ratni plakat u Srbiji, Bonart, Nova Pazova, 2001.
– Rodoljub ili izdajnik: slučaj đenerala Draže Mihailovića (documents of the Hoover Institute), IP Čiča, Beograd, 1990.
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– Samardžić Miloslav, Borbe četnika protiv Nemaca i ustaša, Vol 1, Novi pogledi, Kragujevac 2006.
– Samardžić Miloslav, General Draža Mihailović i opšta istorija četničkog pokreta, Vols 1-5, Pogledi, Kragujevac, 2004-2010.
– Spomenica Draži 1946-1996, edited by Radovan Kalabić MA and Aleksandar Čotrić, Beograd, 1996.
– Srbi u Ratnom dnevniku Vermahta, Službeni list, Beograd, 2004.
– Stamenković Đorđe, Železničari Niša u radničkom pokretu i revoluciji 1918-1945., Gradina, Niš, 1970
– Todorović Borislav, Poslednji raport, Novi pogledi, Kragujevac, 2002.
– Tomašević Jozo, Četnici u Drugom svetskom ratu, Liber, Zagreb, 1979.
– Trbojević Dušan, Cersko-majevička grupa korpusa pukovnika Dragoslava Račića, Novi pogledi, Kragujevac, 2001.

 

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