Italian units in Yugoslavia in the Second World War
The Yugoslav battlefield was one of the largest battlefields in the Kingdom of Italy in World War II. In 1943, there were at least 17 Italian divisions in the Italian occupation zone of Yugoslavia, which stretched along the wide Adriatic belt from Istria to Montenegro.
|The movement of the Italian bicycle column towards Sinj in 1941.|
The main and only opponent of fascist Italy was the People's Liberation Army of Yugoslavia. The main local helpers of fascist Italy were the Chetniks, organized in Volunteer anti-communist militia (Milizia Volontaria Anti Comunista MVAC ) formations, of which there were about 30,000 at the peak.
|MVAC unit emblem. It consists of a cockade in the colors of the Italian flag with a corpse's head and a knife between its teeth. The emblem was worn on the cap.|
The following Italian units, among others, took part in the attack on Yugoslavia:
Second Italian Army: 3rd Mountain Infantry Division Ravenna, 52nd Motorized Division Turin and 133rd Armored Division Litorio
The following divisions took part in the suppression of the uprising in Montenegro in 1941:
5th Alpine Division Pusteria
18th Infantry Division of Messina
19th Infantry Division Venice
38th Puglia Infantry Division
48th Taro Infantry Division
In May 1942, the Second Italian Army on the Yugoslav battlefield was renamed the High Command of the Armed Forces of Slovenia-Dalmatia Supersloda (Comando Superiore FF. AA. 'Slovenia-Dalmazia' - Supersloda). In February 1942, Supersloda had the following units
5th ARMY CORPS (3 divisions)
6th ARMY CORPS (6th Division)
9th Corps in Slovenia and Istria (5 divisions)
14th Corps in Montenegro (3 divisions)
Volunteer Anti-Communist Militia (Italian: Milizia Volontaria Anti Comunista, abbreviated MVAC)
The MVAC consisted mainly of Chetniks and some anti-communist units in Slovenia.
|Italian armored column in the Balkans in 1942.|
In the area of occupied Yugoslavia, fascist Italy found associates primarily in the ranks of the Chetniks, and in Kosovo in the ranks of Ballisti.
The Ustasha government opposed the Italian use of the Chetniks but nevertheless agreed to their use. On June 19, 1942, a Roata-Pavelić agreement was concluded in Zagreb concerning the withdrawal of about half of the Italian forces from Zones II and III. With this agreement, the Italian command reorganized the Chetniks into the Anti-Communist Volunteer Militia (it. Milizia Volontaria Anti Comunista) to fight the partisans and their supporters. Pavelic's government had to take on the burden of maintaining the Chetnik anti-communist militia in the areas covered by the agreement, with the Chetniks recognizing the sovereignty of the Independent State of Croatia.
|Chetnik commander Momcilo Djujic with an Italian officer.|
Djujic's Dinaric Chetnik Division was one of the most numerous units in the Italian occupation troops. According to Đujić himself, in the middle of the summer of 1942, he had 12,240 "anti-communist volunteers", namely: in Strmica 2400 (Đujić's direct command), in Bosanski Grahovo 2000 (Brane Bogunović), on Uilica and Dinara there were 500 Bosnian Chetniks (Mane Rokvić ), in Otrić 1500 (Mirko Marić), in Padjeni 940 (Vlade Novaković), in Kosovo 4000 (Milan Miljević), in Topolje 100 (Nikola Berić), in Krupa 400 (Obrad Bijanko) and in Gračac 600 (Dane Stanisavljević).
|Mario Roatta (* 1886, † 1968) was an Italian general and commander of Italian forces during World War II in occupied Yugoslavia.|
The MVAC had two types of formations: armed units and armed peasants. The Chetnik was paid 200 lire, the department commander 400, and the group leader 800 lire. Their families received 7 kilograms of flour, 15 kilograms of vegetables, 3 kilograms of greens, 0.3 liters of oil, and 0.6 kilograms of sugar from the Italians every month.
On July 16, 1942, Chetnik Major Petar Baćović, in a report to Draža Mihailović, stated the details of cooperation with the Italian occupier:
"All Chetnik detachments on the territory of Herzegovina are legalized by the Italians, they receive food, weapons, and ammunition. They are not paid, they are only given smaller sums of money in the form of help.
|Italians and Chetniks on the eve of the Battle of the Neretva.|
One of the most active associates in Montenegro was the Chetnik duke Pavle Đurišić, who gave a court speech in the honor of the occupying governor Pirzio Biroli, calling him a "great friend of the Serbian people", who will seduce "order and peace in Montenegro".
Operation Alpha was a joint offensive of fascist Italy and Chetnik forces on the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia, in the first half of October 1942.
|Italians and Chetniks on the eve of the Battle of the Neretva.|
It was carried out as part of the offensive plans of the Italian 2nd Army. With this operation, the weaker forces of the NOVJ west of the Neretva, which offered only symbolic resistance, were repulsed, and Prozor was re-occupied.
During the offensive, Chetniks looted destroyed villages and massacred the population in the Prozor area. During this Axis operation, 1,019 civilians were killed by Chetniks. [
Operation Weiss in early 1943, known as the Fourth Enemy Offensive, was the largest operation undertaken by the Italians in cooperation with the Wehrmacht on the Yugoslav battlefield. Italian General Roata, commander of the Italian forces in this operation also had 19,000 Chetniks under his command:
|In February 1943, the Herzegovinian Duke Dobroslav Jevđević, in the presence of Italian officers, called on the Chetniks to fight the partisans.|
The offensive lasted from January 20 to the end of March 1943. The great German-Italian operation was launched to encircle and destroy the Republic of Bihać and the majority of the insurgent forces in Yugoslavia. The Axis forces gathered nine divisions, six German, three Italian, and two Croatian divisions and a large number of Chetnik and Ustasha formations. It is estimated that over 150,000 Axis soldiers attacked a much smaller partisan force, along with the wounded. The main axis directions of the attack were directed at Lika, Kordun, Banija, and Bosnian Krajina.
The most famous battle of the fourth enemy offensive is the Battle of the Neretva, by which the partisans completely reversed the course of this operation. During February, they inflicted heavy losses on the Italians in the Neretva Valley, after which they made a breakthrough from the Axis ring in early March, dispersing the Chetnik forces.
General Alessandro Pirzio Biroli, commander of the Italian 9th Army and occupation governor of Montenegro, after the outbreak of the July 13 uprising in 1941, ordered reprisals against the entire population:
Destroy the hotbeds of the uprising both concerning individuals and - if necessary - and concerning populated places. Take hostages from settlements in the area where operations are being developed and change them frequently so that the entire population is exposed to the dangers of possible reprisals.
- Army General Pirzio Biroli (July 15, 1941)
|The mass shooting of people in Montenegro by the Italian occupiers.|
In January 1942, Pirzio Biroli issued a proclamation ordering the execution of 50 hostages for each killed and 10 hostages for each wounded Italian soldier.
Italian General Mario Roata often issued orders to destroy the population in the occupied territories. The order for "winter operations" of January 16, 1943, which orders members of the Italian army to kill every inhabitant they find in the area of operations, regardless of whether they have weapons or not ("kill every citizen"), is particularly harsh. Roata further orders that all men who find themselves outside the area of operations, from the age of fifteen onwards, be sent to concentration camps, and that all houses that seem suspicious because of their connection with the partisans be destroyed. As a result of this order of General Roata, many settlements were destroyed and thousands of innocent inhabitants of Dalmatia, Lika, Kordun, and Gorski Kotar were slaughtered.
|General Roata observes the hostages shot by his soldiers in Slovenia in 1942.|