The Croatian Home Guard Part I

 

Croatian Trefoil, a symbol of the Home Guard

The Croatian Home Guard (since November 1942 the Home Guard) was the name for the regular armed forces of the Independent State of Croatia. The task of the Home Guard was to defend the new state from domestic and foreign enemies. It was divided into the Army, Navy, and Air Force. The National Protection and the State Labor Service also operated under the command of the Ministry of Home Guard.

The Home Guard failed to play a significant role during the war due to several factors - poor motivation, frequent desertion, sympathy for the partisans, rivalry with the Ustashas, incompetent, mostly older officers, and lack of heavy, especially armored weapons. The ground army with a classical organization could not adequately respond to the guerrilla, partisan mode of warfare. In November 1944, after the open division of entire Home Guard units to the partisan side, the Home Guard and Ustasha units were merged into a single Croatian Armed Forces.

Croatian Home Guard Corps divisions


The Communists infiltrated the ranks of the Home Guard to some extent, succeeding in carrying out various diversions and obtaining intelligence. Part of the home guards responded to calls to join the partisans.

 

After the capitulation of Italy, the officers of the Home Guard largely showed their readiness to support the transition of the NDH to the side of the Western allies, and many of them cooperated in the Lorković-Vokić conspiracy.

At its peak, in 1943, the Home Guard's army consisted of more than 130,000 members, and during the war, a total of about 180-200,000 people served in the Home Guard. During the war and post-war period, about 125,000 members of the Home Guard, the Ustasha Army, and the HOS were killed.

 

1st Minister of Armed Forces of the Independent State of Croatia

Nominally, the Home Guard ceased to exist with the incorporation of the Croatian Armed Forces at the end of 1944. In practice, it was still known which units were Home Guard and which Ustasha, even if they were united in the same divisions.

Immediately after the proclamation of the founding of the Independent State of Croatia, on April 10, 1941, Slavko Kvaternik, a former colonel of the Austro-Hungarian army (and, from 1918 to 1921, the army of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes), signed the Law on the Establishment of the Army and Navy of Croatia, which was published in the Official Gazette two days later.

Uniforms of Croatian Home Guard. From left to right: Army proper, Navy, Air Force.


Together with the infantry colonel Slavko Štancer, a war invalid without a right arm, he began the formal organization of the armed forces of the Independent State of Croatia. The first official name of the army was the Army of the State of Croatia, but at the first session of the Government after the arrival of Ante Pavelić in Zagreb, held on April 16, the name was changed to the Croatian Home Guard. The regular army of the new state was to reflect by name the continuation of the military tradition of the Royal Croatian Home Guard, the first modern national armed force.

With the establishment of the filling commands, the Home Guard gained an initial about 45,000 members. Of that number, the air force had about 5,000 members, the navy 2,000, the armed forces about 7,500, while the rest were ground units.

Slavko Štancer, the first commander of the Home Guard Army


As commander of the Home Guard, Commander Kvaternik was dissatisfied with the arbitrary Ustasha actions and demanded that Ustasha units be subordinated to him. In contrast, Pavelic had less and less confidence in the Home Guard and always relied on a group of high-ranking Ustasha officials and officers with whom he had emigrated before the proclamation of the Independent State of Croatia. As a result, in October 1942, they broke up, Kvaternik resigned and went to Slovakia. After that, none of the Home Guard officers could stop the Ustashas, which would lead to the complete domination of the Ustashas and the Ustasha army over the Home Guard by the end of the war.

During the proclamation of the Independent State of Croatia, Slavko Kvaternik became the commander of the entire armed forces and, as a sign of his title, received a marshal's staff in the shape of an ax. After his break-up with Pavelić in the autumn of 1942, the title was held by Minister Navratil, briefly Colonel-General Čanić, and after the collapse of the Lorković-Vokić conspiracy in 1944, it was taken over by Chief Ante Pavelić until the end of the war.

 

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