Part of the Anti-Partisan Operations in Croatia series by H.L. deZeng IV

Dates: 25 May – 6 June 1944. (1)

Objective: To attack and destroy the Partisan high command and general staff located at Drvar and Bos. Petrovac/30 km north of Drvar, while capturing or killing as many of the senior officers as possible, including Marshal Tito.

Enemy Forces: 1st Proletarian Corps NOVJ (with 1st and 6th Divisions), 5th Assault Corps NOVJ (with 4th and 39th Divisions), 9th Division (from 8th Corps NOVJ), High Command Escort Battalion, Officers School of the NOV and POJ High Command. Strength estimated at 17,000 combatants.

Axis Forces:
A total force of approximately 20,000 German and Croatian troops.

German
7. SS-Freiwillige-Gebirgs-Div. “Prinz Eugen”
373. Infanterie-Div. (kroat.)
Grenadier-Rgt. (mot.) 92
1. Regiment “Brandenburg”
SS-Fallschirmjäger-Btl. 500
Pz.Gren.Sturm-Btl. Pz.AOK 2
SS-Aufklärungs-Abt. 105 (from V. SS-Gebirgskorps)
3./Panzer-Abt. 202
Fliegerführer Kroatien (with some 65 fighters, 85 ground-attack aircraft, 35 night ground-attack aircraft, 12 reconnaissance aircraft, 40 Ju 52 transports, and 45 glider tugs towing 60 gliders)
Croatian
2d Jäger Brigade
4th Jäger Brigade

Conduct of Operations and Results
: Perhaps the most written about anti-Partisan operation to take place during World War II, “Rösselsprung” was distinctive in its use of paratroops (314 men) and glider-borne infantry (340 men). At 0700 hours on 25 May and immediately following a short but intense dive-bombing attack on Drvar, the operation began with the paratroops dropping into the town and the glider troops landing on flat fields just outside of Drvar while the ground forces began closing on the area from all sides. The town was secured by 0900 but heavy, fanatical fighting continued with heavy casualties on both sides. A second wave of paratroops was dropped at noon along with supply canisters and close air support was provided by ground-attack aircraft. During the afternoon and evening, the Partisans brought up reinforcements (6th Lika Division) and the fighting grew even more intense. The German airborne troops were forced out of much of Drvar and back into a cemetery area situated on high ground that they defended throughout the night. The first column of motorized ground troops did not fight their way into Drvar until noon of 26 May, by which time the men from SS-Fallschirmjäger-Btl. 500 were down to less than half strength and nearly out of ammunition.

Tito and his general staff had managed to escape from their headquarters building and the town and for the next 10 days the German and Croatian forces combed the ever-narrowing area in search of their prey, but without success. Details of the pursuit are rather mundane, but for those interested they can be found in the literature cited in the footnote. By 3 June Tito, his key staff officers and the Allied military mission assigned to his headquarters had reached Kupreško Polje/c.67 km SE of Drvar and that night they were flown out to Bari in Italy. Several days later they moved to Vis, an island in Adriatic when Tito set up his new headquarters.

Losses and Booty (from German records)
Germans: 213 killed, 881 wounded and 57 missing.
Croatians: a few and these are included in the German total.
Partisans: 1,916 counted dead, a further 1,402 estimated dead, 161 captures, 35 deserters and 33 arrested.

Booty: 4 x tanks, 2 x 3.7 cm anti-tank guns, 7 x 2 cm anti-aircraft guns, 3 x mortars, 62 x machine guns, 14 x sub-machine guns, and 251 rifles.

Footnotes
1. [Vojnoistorijski institute] - Hronologija oslobodilačke borbe naroda jugoslavije 1941-1945 (Belgrade, 1964), p.754-57; [Vojnoistorijski institute] - Oslobodilački rat naroda Juooslavije 1941-1945, 2 Vols (Belgrade: 1965), pp.93-108; Colić, Mladenko - Pregled Operacija na Jugoslovenskom Ratištu 1941-1945 (Belgrade: Vojnoistorijski Institut, 1988), pp.186-95; Brajović-Djuro, Petar V. - Yugoslavia in the Second World War (Belgrade: Borba, 1977), pp.150-52; Schraml, Franz - Kriegsschauplatz Kroatien (Neckargemünd: Kurt Vowinckel Verlag , 1962), pp.189-98; Kumm, Otto - ‘Vorwärts Prinz Eugen!’ (Osnabrück: Munin-Verlag GmbH, 1978), pp.178-224; Schlaug, Georg – “Der Luftwaffen-Einsatz beim ‘Unternehmen Rösselsprung’” in Luftwaffe im Focus, Edition 2/2003, pp.37-43; NARA WashDC: RG 242 (T-314 roll 563/354-60, 370-74, 409-10, 484-85 (losses and booty), 666-71, 686, 690-92, 696-702 and 880).

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