Battle of Sutjeska: Report of the 369th Legionary Division of June 13, 1943.

The report of the Operational Department of the 369th Infantry Division of 15 June 1943 the commander of German troops in the Independent State of Croatia about the breakthrough of Partisan forces (NOVJ) from the encirclement to Zelengora and the causes of defeat.
The abbreviations:

GR = Gebirgsregiment (mountain regiment)
A. A. = Aufklärung Abteilung (Scout Battalion)
Ia = Operational Division
JD= Jager division


369 (CRO.) Infantry DIV. Leave. Ia, Az. 9 Br. 846/43. Conn.
Subject: Combat Report III / GR 369. III / GR 370 and II / 724. Jager Regiment.

Commander of German troops in Croatia

The division was from 7.6. 1943 with the Fighting Group " Wertmüller " (A.A. 369, III / GR 369 and 369. Anti-tank regiment) at Mrčin Klb. and Ljubina (8 km south and south-east of Jelacica). At 22.30 hours, the division has received the following task:
1)      The right wing of the 118th Jager Division was engaged in fierce battles with the enemy in Milinkladi (1001) and Ozren (1405).

2)       It is necessary for the division to close the space between Milinklad and Boščija's glava. In this sense, it is necessary that the division from the Vrbnica River passes by the direction of the position 1089, outbreaks in the area Hrčava and prevent any breakthrough of partisans in the west.

At 22.30 hours the commander of German troops in Croatia called division commander and showed him again the urgency and importance of the task. Fighting group Wertmüller dismissed 8.6. a rugged enemy from the 1km northwest and 1km west of Vrbnik). In the afternoon again clashed with the enemy, but failed to take the ridge.

The division evaluates the situation in the following way:

Strong partisan parts have managed to break through from the encirclement to the west. Penetration with the Group " Wertmüller " over position 1529 seems to no longer possible, since the enemy on the ridge 1 km wide has a very strong position. Thus, the attack on position 1529 without artillery support has no purpose. This artillery can not be brought to this position. There is only the possibility of keeping the enemy in position 1529 in order to prevent its penetration through Vrbnica in the direction of the north.

The division decided to block the line towards the north with the " Wertmüller " group. From Group "Wertmüller" two battalions, formed a fighting group Höhne and followed the direction north of Vrbnica - Lipovac - Balinovac - Sremaška Luka in order to take the attack to the position in 1622, and with a part of the 369th regiment, which will be directed by Kalinovik - position 1441 (12 km southeast of Kalinovik), attacking Videž and position 1914.

On June 9th. at 11.00, the head of the headquarters said that the commander of the South East did not allow the separation of forces to attack the enemy parts that had broken through, but he wanted the 'sooner' closure to ring. Therefore Combat Group "Fischer" should start attacking the Sremska Luka towards the southeast to close the ring.

Throughout the day 9.6. there were observed movements of the enemy from M. Kosut to position 1529. With the Group "Höhne" all day do not have a radio link. Therefore combat group Fischer reinforces the position of the combat group Höhne.  At 19.00 hours a radiogram was obtained from the Höhne Group, which states that the group "Höhne", after the bitter struggle against a strong enemy, managed to reach the position of 1642 at about 17.00.

At 22.00 hours the 369 reports that come wounded NCO III / 369th with the report that around 17.00 o'clock they took the hill 1642, but after which it was attacked by strong enemy forces and had to be withdrawn.

At 23.00 hours the commander of the 369th GR (Lieutenant Colonel Fischer) occurs:
"III / 369th in 16.42 hours in the fight against a strong enemy took hill 1642". The enemy opened a powerful concentration fire on all sides from heavy mortars and machine guns on III / 369 and then attacked the battalion with very strong forces. The battalion was forced to retreat to Balinovac. Commanders and officers of the III / 369th and III / 370. managed that in the region of Balinovca again regroup units and to take positions.

Subsequent information gathering has enabled the following conclusions:

Group "Höhne" in the course of their attacks met with the fierce enemy counterattack. Moral combat group, due to the previous strong fire from mortar and machine gun, was very agile and could no longer withstand severe pressure. At the same time, information was obtained that the combat group was threatened on one side by an enemy force of 300 to 500 and on the other by 1000 to 1200 partisan.

The final insight into the situation of the division is acquired when the major Hena, at 16.00 hours came to the forward command post of the division. Around 18.00 hours it was found that the strong parts for Battle group " Grupi " Höhne " " located south of the Jeleč on positions. Units have submitted reports that they will not be able to hold positions against the enemy, whose attack is increasingly intense.

On 11.6. The battle group "Höhne" was given the task of crossing with the left wing east of Siljevce to attack south in order to break the enemy. The aim of the attack: the establishment of a relationship with the broken group "Wertmüller". Scouts and Officer Scout patrol did not succeed on Vis to establish a contact with the Wertmüller group, because they were constantly conducting an ongoing struggle with smaller Partisan groups that break through to the north. There was no success even in setting up a telephone line to Visa. Major Hene, therefore, did not know whether the group Wertmüller had been ordered to attack or not, as some scouting patrol did not return. Before the battle group Höhne went on the attack, the partisans attacked the Siljevac and back down engaged forces. Major Höhne gave up attacks without informing the division, and  300 to 500 Partisans advanced of Siljevca towards the north.

The following day at 14.00 hours, the Fight Group "Höhne" passed, contrary to the divisional order, with strong forces on its right wing, into an attack between the Vis and Siljevac. In a forcible attack, the group took over and extended an attack on the south. When Siljevac was almost captured, the fighting group was attacked by Partisan forces in its eastern flank. The group is covered by the enemy to the north. The group has managed to get out of the circle, pulling its forces into defensive positions in the Gvozd - Jeleč area.

At 12.6. at 4:00 the first individual fighters appeared, followed by the whole class II / 724. The Jager Regiment is in complete disarray, moving east of Jeleč. Commanding officers said their battalion was broken and the partisans broke through. They got the order to retreat in the direction of Sarajevo.
At 12.6. Battle group "Höhne", due to the strong side-attack the direction of the southwest, southeast, and east, withdrew without the approval of the division in the area Jelec and heights south of communications Kalinovik - Jeleč.

The battle group "Höhne" was received in the afternoon by the divisional commander, ordering to take hill 836 (1 km southwest of Jeleč). At 4.00 pm The heavily exhausted and weakened battalion went to the attack and won the hill, despite a very strong side with the fire surrounding the dominating heights. The battalion is in a short time had a fairly large loss.
13. June. was used for reorganization III / 369. regiment III / 370. regiment. III / 370th regiment is due to losses incurred in the fight was completely broken.

On June 13th, the Division was given the task of advancing by communication with Foča to Nozdre, with reinforced parts and with the support of tanks, in order to capture the links with parts 118. Jager division.

At 09.00 on June 14 The Division returned to the starting position without performing the task beside the tank support. Around noon, the Division again approached the execution of the previous task. However, they failed to stop the Partisan breakthrough.



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