Ground Forces of the Independent State of Croatia
|Home Guard on St. Mark's Square, October 1942|
The Army (initially the Land Forces) was a land component of the armed forces of the NDH (Home Guard) from 1941 to 1945. The Home Guard also included the Navy and the Air Force.
At the beginning of the creation of the Independent State of Croatia, various names appeared - Croatian Army, Land Forces, Croatian Land Army. However, with the establishment of the Ministry of Home Guard and the General Staff, the name Ground Forces began to be used. With the establishment of the Ministry of the Armed Forces (MINORS) in January 1943, the name Home Guard was increasingly used for the Army, while only members of the Army were called Home Guard, initially unofficially and later more and more officially. That is why even today the name home guard is often misused only for the army.
|Panzer I tank of the Croatian Home Guard|
In the first months of the Independent State of Croatia, the headquarters and then the command of the land forces were established. On April 16, 1941, the first commander of the ground forces became Infantry General Slavko Štancer, and he was soon replaced by Lieutenant General Vladimir Laxa.
The Home Guard's ground army was initially limited by the Germans to 16 infantry battalions and two cavalry squadrons - a total of 16,000 men. between May and June 1941. It was organized into 5 divisional areas (a structure inherited from the Yugoslav army) with a total of about 55,000 soldiers.
|Company of cadets of the Lower Home Guard School, October 1943|
By October, other units included 35 light tanks (formerly Yugoslav but committed to the Home Guard by Italian forces), four engineering battalions, 10 artillery units (battalions) equipped with former Yugoslav 105mm Czech guns, a cavalry regiment in Zagreb, and an independent cavalry battalion in Sarajevo. Two independent motorized infantry battalions were stationed in Zagreb and Sarajevo.
On November 1, 1941, the reorganization of the Ground Army began. It is divided into 3 assembly areas with headquarters in Sisak, Banja Luka, and Sarajevo. Each choir consisted of two divisions with associated armored, engineering, pioneer (reconnaissance), and other battalions and companies.
|Home Guard tank with a column of infantry in the background|
Conventional infantry divisions were too cumbersome for the partisan mode of combat, so in September 1942 four special mountain brigades (1-4) were formed, each with two regiments with four battalions of 1,000 soldiers, a mountain and machine-gun company,
The most common weapon of the home guards was the Mauser M.24 rifle, a regular rifle of the army of the former Kingdom of Yugoslavia. They were used to it. Sometimes obsolete rifles such as the Steyr-Mannlicher M95 / 30, Lebel Mle 1886 M93, etc. were also used. Almost all artillery weapons were taken from the army of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia.
|Uniforms of Croatian Home Guard. From left to right: Army proper, Navy, Air Force.|
The NDH Army mostly used only light and obsolete armored vehicles. Somewhat more powerful, though still obsolete, weapons would be introduced a few months after the capitulation of Italy, and more modern weapons were introduced in very small numbers, and only in late 1944 and early 1945. However, their main partisan opponents themselves had no better equipment. at least until the arrival of the First Tank Brigade of the NOVJ on the battlefield in the fall of 1944.
There was chaos in the land army of the Home Guard as far as uniforms were concerned because old Yugoslav uniforms were worn, slightly modified, then new, Home Guard uniforms, and more and more German uniforms sent as material aid. It is interesting that home defense uniforms were produced in occupied Serbia. Members of the armored and tank units wore black uniforms and black caps, modeled on the German uniforms of the armored units at the Wehrmacht.
Members of the Army wore various helmets - those leftovers from the Yugoslav Army with a distinctive groove in the middle, made in France, then Italian and mostly German helmets.