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Battle of Sutjeska

 

Battle of Sutjeska

"Battle of Sutjeska" redirects here. For the film, see Battle of Sutjeska (film).
Case Black
Part of the Yugoslav Front of World War II

Map of Case Black, superimposed on modern-day borders
Date May 15–June 16, 1943
Location Vicinity of the Sutjeska river, southeastern Bosnia, occupied Yugoslavia
Result Axis tactical victory, but failure in achieving mission goals; heavy Partisan casualties
Belligerents
Axis:
 Germany

 Italy
 Independent State of Croatia
 Bulgaria[1][2][3]

Allies:
Democratic Federal Yugoslavia Partisans
Commanders and leaders
Nazi Germany Alexander Löhr
Nazi Germany Rudolf Lüters
Democratic Federal Yugoslavia Josip Broz Tito
Strength
127,000 men
300+ aircraft
22,148 men
Casualties and losses
2.768 German and 411 NDH soldiers KIA, WIA, or MIA,[4] unspecified number of Italian casualties 7,543

Case Black (German: Fall Schwarz), also known as the Fifth Enemy Offensive () in Yugoslav historiography and often identified with its final phase, the Battle of the Sutjeska ( pronounced [bîtka na sûtjɛst͡si]) was a joint attack by the Axis taking place from 15 May to 16 June 1943, which aimed to destroy the main Yugoslav Partisan force, near the Sutjeska river in south-eastern Bosnia. The failure of the offensive marked a turning point for Yugoslavia during World War II.

The operation immediately followed Case White which had failed in accomplishing the same objectives: to eliminate the central Partisan formations and capture their commander, Marshal Josip Broz Tito.

Operation

The Axis rallied 127,000 land troops for the offensive, including German, Italian, NDH, Bulgarian, Greek forces under Georgios Poulos (officially SS) and Cossack (in ex-Yugoslav sources also called "Čerkezi", Cherkes) units, and over 300 airplanes. The Yugoslav National Liberation Army had 22,148 soldiers in 16 brigades.[5] After a period of troop concentration, the offensive started on 15 May 1943. The Axis troops used the advantage of better starting positions to encircle and isolate the partisans on the Durmitor mountain area, located between the Tara and Piva rivers in the mountainous areas of northern Montenegro and forced them to engage in a fierce month-long battle on waste territory.

On June 9, Tito was nearly killed, as a bomb fell near the leading group and wounded him in the arm. The popular post-war report of the event credited Tito's German shepherd dog Luks, for sacrificing his life to save Tito's.[6] Captain William F. Stuart, a Special Operations Executive operative who was parachuted into Tito's headquarters alongside Captain William Deakin during May,[7] was killed by the explosion, as well.[8]

Facing almost exclusively German troops, the Yugoslav National Liberation Army (YNLA) finally succeeded in breaking out across the Sutjeska river through the lines of the German 118th and 104th Jäger and 369th (Croatian) Infantry divisions in the northwestern direction, towards eastern Bosnia. Three brigades and the central hospital with over 2000 wounded were surrounded. Following Hitler's instructions, German commander in chief Generaloberst Alexander Löhr ordered their annihilation, including the wounded and the unarmed medical personnel. In addition, YNLA troops suffered from severe lack of food and medical supplies, and many were struck down by typhoid.

In total there were 7,543 partisan casualties, more than a third of the initial force.[5] The German field commander, General Rudolf Lüters in his final report described the so-called "communist rebels" as "well organized, skillfully led and with combat morale unbelievably high".

The successful Partisan breakout helped their reputation as a viable fighting force with the local populace. Consequently they were able to replenish their losses with new recruits, regroup, and mount a series of counterattacks in eastern Bosnia, clearing Axis garrisons of Vlasenica, Srebrenica, Olovo, Kladanj and Zvornik in the following 20 days.

The battle marked a turning point toward Partisan control of Yugoslavia, and became an integral part of the Yugoslav post-war mythology, celebrating the self-sacrifice, extreme suffering and moral firmness of the partisans.

Order of battle

Allied order of battle

Democratic Federal Yugoslavia Yugoslav Partisans (Partisans Main Operational Group)[9]

  • 1st Proletarian Division
  • 2nd Proletarian Division
  • 3rd Assault Division
  • 7th Banija Division
  • 6th Proletarian Brigade
  • 15th Majevica Brigade

Axis order of battle

 Germany[10]

 Italy

  • 1 Alpine Division Taurinense
  • 19 Infantry (Mountain) Division Venezia
  • 23 Infantry Division Ferrara
  • 32 Infantry Division Marche
  • 151 Infantry Division Perugia
  • 154 Infantry Division Murge
  • forces of Sector Podgorica

 Independent State of Croatia

  • 4th Home Guard Jäger Brigade

 Bulgaria

  • 63rd Infantry Regiment
  • 61st Infantry Regiment also in the area
    (both units under the command of the 369th (Croatian) Infantry Division)

In Film

Battle of Sutjeska was made into a movie in 1973, Sutjeska, with Richard Burton playing the lead as Josip Broz Tito, leader of the partisan forces.

In song

There are several songs about the Battle of Sutjeska. One of the more popular is called Sivi Sokole which translates to Peregrine Falcon. It mentions the death of Commander Sava Kovačević.

Serbo-Croatian English

Sivi sokole, prijatelju stari,
Daj mi krila, sokole da preletim planine.

Visoka je planina, nebo iznad nje,
A na nebu sivi soko, gleda na mene.

Duboka je Sutjeska, kanjon iznad nje
Na kanjonu Tito stoji, gleda ranjene

Na kanjonu Tito stoji i poručuje
Sutjeska se mora proći, da spasimo ranjene
Sivi sokole...

Sutjeska je probijena, ranjeni su spašeni
A naš stari heroj Sava osta mrtav da leži
Sivi sokole...

Radili smo, radimo, radit ćemo još
Druže Tito, kunemo se, pobijedit ćemo

Peregrine Falcon, old friend of mine,
Give me wings, Falcon, that I may fly over the mountains.

The mountain is high, the sky above it,
And in the sky the peregrine falcon, looking down upon me.

The Sutjeska is deep, the canyon above it
Above the canyon stands Tito, watches over the wounded

Above the canyon stands Tito and commands,
The Sutjeska must be crossed to save the wounded,
Peregrine falcon...

The Sutjeska is breached, the wounded are saved
But our old hero Sava remains and lies dead
Peregrine falcon...

We have toiled, we toil, we will toil still
Comrade Tito, we pledge, we will triumph.

Memorial complex

Sculptor Miodrag Živković designed the memorial complex, dedicating to the Battle of the Sutjeska in the 1970s.[11] The complex contains frescos by the Croatian artist Krsto Hegedušić.[12]

See also

References

External links

  • A History of Yugoslavian Resistance in World War II

Coordinates: 43°20′46″N 18°41′16″E / 43.34611°N 18.68778°E / 43.34611; 18.68778

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