by H.L. deZeng IV

On 30 January 1943, the Wehrmacht Command Staff (Wehrmacht Führungsstab) in Berlin issued orders on the basis of instructions from the Führer, Adolf Hitler, for the formation of “4 brigades as part of the Croatian armed forces, although incorporated into German divisions.” The weapons, equipment and uniforms for the Jäger brigades, as well as the day-to-day supply requirements (food, ammunition, etc.) were to be provided by the Germans. Training for Jäger brigades was to be in accordance with German regulations, but commands were to be given in the Croatian language. Manpower was to come from 15,000 already trained personnel born in 1910, most of whom were reservists, and after that were assigned to the existing Domobran infantry regiments and a few Ustasha units, and from recruits who were to be trained from August 1943 in the 1st Recruit Regiment and from February 1944 in the replacement brigades. The Jäger (or light) brigades were intended for use as mobile formations to improve the tactical effectiveness of German-Croatian operations against Tito’s army of partisans in Croatia, Bosnia and Hercegovina.
The implementing order was issued at the local level on 11 February 1943 by the Commander of German Troops in Croatia (Befehlshaber der Deutschen Truppen in Kroatien) and stipulated that the 2d and 4th Jäger Brigades were to begin forming immediately with a target completion date of 1 April. The 1st and 3d Jäger Brigades were not to begin forming until 15 June 1943. As conceived, each Brigade was to be attached to a German occupation division in Yugoslavia (704., 714., 717. and 718. Infanterie-Divisions), but the Croatian government would not allow its troops to be transferred across the Drina River into Serbia where the 704. and 717. Inf.Div. were then located. Accordingly, the formation of two of the brigades was delayed until this problem could be resolved.
The Croatian General Staff hindered the plan from the very beginning because it was opposed the ever-increasing German encroachment upon the Croatian armed forces at nearly every level. Other difficulties developed that slowed down the formation of the brigades, including the lack of available German weapons, uniforms and personal equipment. This led to the use of captured Italian weapons and other stocks after Italy capitulated on 8 September 1943. By that date the four brigades were still at only 70% of authorized strength and the completion date had slipped to 31 January 1944.
Compared to the mountain brigades, the military quality of the Jäger brigades was poor. Most of the men assigned to them had been called up for short-term service in the 15 Domobran infantry regiments that were formed at the end of June 1941. At the time these were transformed into Jäger regiments for the Jäger brigades in mid-1943 most of the men had already served for two years, and they viewed this extension of service as an unjust and unlawful act. Consequently, their morale fell and for this and other reasons mass desertions to the Partisans followed. (1)

Jäger Brigade - Organization and Equipment (Dec 1943)
(Officers/Non-Commissioned Officers/Men)
Brigade HQ: 20/16/50
2 x Jäger Regiments each with: 83/386/2451
Armored Troop or Section: 1/12/62, 3 medium tanks and 2 light tanks
2 x Artillery Groups each with: 23/91/453, 12 x field howitzers
Engineer Co.: 4/21/191
Signal Co.: 5/32/200
Supply Columns: 3/18/215
Rations Co.: 6/19/107
Medical Co.: 6/14/108, 10 ambulances
Veterinary Co.: 3/8/92
Military Police Platoon: 1/5/41
Totals: 261 officers, 1,099 NCOs, 6,874 men (8,234 in all), 2,408 horses, 334 heavy and light machine guns, 93 medium and light mortars, 8 light infantry guns, 8 light antitank guns and 3 flamethrowers.


Footnotes

1. Colić 1979, p.157; Schramm, Percy E. (ed.) - Kriegstagebuch des Oberkommandos der Wehrmacht, 1940-1945, 4 vols, v.III, Teil 1, p.85 (OKW/WFSt. Op. Nr. 00538/43 gkdos, 30.1.43); NARA WashDC: RG 242 (T-78 roll 450/6426573); (T-313 roll 192/591; roll 194/224); (T-314 roll 558/1117, 1128); (T-315 roll 2171/190); Fricke, Gert - Kroatien 1941-1944, pp.88-90.

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