V Ustasha Brigade (V. Stajači Djelatni Sdrug)
by H.L. deZeng IV

Formed approximately August 1942 with HQ in Bugojno/80 km WNW of Sarajevo. No definitive date has been found, but it is believed that the order to form 5 active Ustasha brigades dates from May 1942 and then gradually carried out over the course of the summer. In any event, all 5 were formed by 26 August. (1)


Operational History

(Also see the individual Ustasha battalions for additional details.)


1942

1 Dec 42: Brigade elements took part in the retaking of Jajce which had fallen to the Partisans earlier.
5-15 Dec 42: I and VII Ust. Bns. Were engaged in 10 days of heavy fighting around Livno, which was captured by the Partisan 2d Proletarian Assault Division on 15 December.
19 Dec 42: several companies defended Duvno, which was captured by the Partisan 2d Proletarian Assault Division on this date.
28-29 Dec 42: sent relief forces from Bugojno to help lift the siege of Kupres, which had been holding out against repeated enemy attacks.


1943

Feb – Mar 43: Operation “Weiss” - Brigade attached to German 717. Inf.Div. and operated in the Bugojno - Gornji Vakuf – Prozor – Jablanica – Konjić area during the Operation which, in terms of numbers, duration and territory covered, was the largest anti-partisan operation carried out in Yugoslavia during the war. More than 90,000 Axis troops were deployed full-time with another 60,000 employed part of the time against Tito’s main Partisan forces in Croatia and Bosnia and Hercegovina. It was brilliantly fought by the Partisans and despite horrendous losses, Tito managed to extricate much of his cadre along with thousands of sick and wounded from the enemy net and escape into the mountains of Montenegro. The casualty figures for the operation are inaccurate, but the German final report claimed 11,915 Partisans KIA, 616 executed upon capture and 2,506 captured. German/Croatian losses were said to be 514/126 KIA, 1,214/258 WIA and 158/218 MIA.
12 Apr 43: Brigade HQ still in Bugojno with its four battalions deployed in Konjić/44 km SW of Sarajevo and in Kupres/16 km SW of Bugojno.
10 May 43: the Croatian General Staff in Zagreb directed the Brigade to immediately transfer all of its units (3 battalions) in Konjić to the Kupres-Livno area due to the possibly of an attack there.
22-23 Aug 43: Bugojno attacked and taken by two Partisan divisions, forcing the Brigade to withdraw to Livno.
1 Sep 43: tactically under German V. SS-Gebirgskorps.
2 Oct 43: under strong pressure from 1st Proletarian Assault Div. NOVJ and 4th Assault Div. NOVJ, Brigade abandoned Livno and Duvno and withdrew the defending garrisons to Posušje/12 km NE of Imotski. Posušje was attacked by elements of 9th Division NOVJ on 11 and 12 October and held for a few hours, but V Ustasha Brigade rallied and drove the Partisans out of the town the next day.
4-23 Dec 43: together with German 114. Jäger-Div., one battalion from the Brigade took part in Operation “Ziethen” in the Livno-Duvno-Šujica against elements of 9th Division NOVJ. Casualties were moderate on both sides and the results were inconclusive.


1944

Jan – Feb 44: as a result of intensive recruiting in central Dalmatia, around 800 recruits were raised for V Ustasha Brigade.
6 Feb 44: Brigade HQ with I and VII Ustasha Bns. transferred from the Livno-Sinj-Imotski area to Koprivnica/NE of Zagreb to take part in Operation “Dubrovnik 2” in the Kalnik mountains to the north of Križevci. Unlike most large-scale anti-partisan operations in the wartime Croatian state, this was purely an Ustasha endeavor run by the PTS and without German participation. The plan was to encircle and destroy two Partisan brigades: “Matija Gubec” and the Kalnik Brigade “Braća Radić”. The operation began 7 February and the Partisans quickly withdrew, leaving many Pravoslavni villages to the mercy of the Ustasha which, according to Partisan and German accounts, promptly looted them, massacred the civilian inhabitants and burned then to the ground. Of course, the Partisans are equally to blame for running away and leaving these villages unprotected or failing to evacuate the population to a safe area.
25 Feb 44: three Ustasha companies attacked 2d Brigade “Matija Gubec”/32d Division NOVJ in the village of Subotica near Koprivnica, but broke off the action after heavy losses.
4-6 Mar 44: one battalion participated in Operation “Fuchsjagd III” under the tactical command of German 330. Gebirgsdivision. The objective was to surround and destroy Partisans supply bases and strongpoints in the eastern part of the Kalnik mountains to the west of Koprivnica. Contact was made with “Matija Gubec” but casualties were light and most of the enemy got away.
14 Mar 44: now tactically under German 1. Kosaken-Kav.Div. By each March XX Ustasha Bn. had joined the Brigade in Koprivnica.
24-25 Apr 44: together with other Croatian and German units, the Brigade’s I Ustasha Bn. attacked strong Partisan concentrations southwest of Varaždin. In two days of fighting, the Croatians claimed 300 Partisans killed, 402 wounded and 11 captured, but the Partisans only admit to 2 KIA and 16 WIA.
15-17 May 44: Operation “Sarajevo” - the Brigade’s II Ustasha Bn., elements of the PTS and some small German units attacked the 32d and 33d Division NOVJ concentrated in the mountains along the Sesvete-Varaždin road. The fighting was intense, and by 17 May the Partisans had been driven back into the center of the Kalnik mountains around the town of Apatovac. The German LXIX. Armeekorps z.b.V. placed enemy losses 552 counted dead, a further 700-800 estimated dead plus 61 captured. A brigade commander of the 32d Division was killed and the deputy to the commander of Partisan X Corps was severely wounded. Combined German/Croatian losses amounted to 4 KIA and 15 WIA. During the operation, 64 Croatian and German military prisoners were freed from Partisan captivity.
1 Jun 44: Brigade strength return reported a total of 53 officers and 2,621 NCOs and men. This figure included 200 recruits assigned to the Brigade’s Recruit Bn. which was then in formation.
24-28 Jun 44: elements took part in Operation “Bienenhaus” in the area southwest of Bjelovar under 1. Kos.Kav.Div. The Germans claimed 271 Partisans killed for German/Croatian losses of 20 dead, 65 wounded and 8 missing.
2-16 Jul 44: nearly the entire Brigade participated in a large anti-partisan operation named “Rouen I” in the Kalnik mountains in the vicinity of Ludbreg. Run by German LXIX. Armeekorps z.b.V., it included a large force of German, Ustasha and German-Croatian police units that were brought in to decisively crush Partisan X Corps (mainly 32d Division), which the Germans believed was being led by British officers. Considered a resounding success, the final report claimed 1,017 counted enemy killed, a further 50 estimated KIA and 13 captured. German/Croatian losses, which were almost all Croatian, came to 158 KIA, 112 WIA and 23 MIA.
11-15 Oct 44: the battle for Koprivnica - in preliminary action on 11 and 12 October, Brigade elements and PTS troops attempted to take the Partisan-held village of Ferdinandovac/31 km SE of Koprivnica but the defenders repelled the attack and drove the Ustasha back with heavy losses. Encouraged and sensing an opportunity, Partisan X Corps launched a three-division assault on Koprivnica that opened with an artillery barrage at 2200 hours on the 13th. The fighting was intense through 16 October and even the Partisans admitted that the Ustasha defenders (nearly all of V Ustasha Brig. and the 1st Regiment/PTS) fought well. The Croatians sent in a relief force on the 15th and this forced the Partisans to break off the siege. According to their account, the Partisans lost 108 KIA, 474 WIA and 62 MIA, all from 7th, 32d and 40th Divisions NOVJ. Croatian losses were 104 KIA and 200 WIA. The battle for Koprivnica was an embarrassment for the Partisans because they deployed numerically superior forces and were able to bring to bear Corps artillery.
1 Dec 44: Brigade HQ in Koprivnica - became a component of 5th Croatian Assault Division this date, and evaluated by the Partisans and Germans as being “well armed and equipped, and of excellent fighting quality.”
2 Dec 44: elements dispatched from Koprivnica to help break up an attack on Bjelovar by strong Partisan forces.
26 Dec 44: Brigade partially redeployed this date with HQ transferred to Djurdjevac/23 km SE of Koprivnica, I Bn. to Djurdjevac, II Bn. to Podravske Sesvete/12 km ESE of Djurdjevac, III Bn. remained in Djurdjevac, IV Bn. remained in Koprivnica and V Bn. remained in Kloštar Podravski/10 km SSE of Djurdjevac. Responsible for securing the front along the Drava between Novigrad Podravski and Kloštar Podravski, as well as the area immediately to the rear of this line.


1945

Jan – May 45: Brigade’s activity intrinsically that of 5th Croatian Assault Division (see there).

Commanders

Ust. Pukovnik Rafael Boban (Aug 1942 - 30 Nov 1944?)

Subordination

III Domobran Corps (III Territorial Corps) (Aug 1942 - Feb 1944)
I Domobran Corps (I Territorial Corps) (Feb 1944 - Nov 1944)

Order of battle (Aug 1942)

Brigade HQ and headquarters elements in Bugojno
I Ustasha Bn. (1st – 3d Co.) in Bugojno and Kupres
XVII Ustasha Bn. (1st, 2d, 4th and 6th Co.) in and around Jajce
XX Ustasha Bn. (1st – 2d Co.) in Bugojno
XXVI Ustasha Bn. (1st – 4th Co.) in Imotski
Ustasha Border Bn. (1st – 4th Co. plus support Cos.) in Imotski (later numbered XIV Ustasha Bn.?)


Order of battle (1 Sep 1943)

Brigade HQ and headquarters elements in Livno (16 officers and 50 men)
HQ Co. in Livno (1 officer and 52 men)
Tank Co. (2 x L3 tankettes) in Livno (1 officer and 77 men)
I Artillery Battery (2 x 7.5cm guns) in Livno (1 officer and 32 men)
I Ustasha Bn. (HQ Co. and 1st – 3d Co.) in Livno (14 officers and 578 men)
VII Ustasha Bn. (HQ Co. and 1st – 4th Co.) in Livno (10 officers and 644 men)
XX Ustasha Bn. (HQ Co. and 1st – 3d Co.) in Ivanić-Grad (13 officers and 475 men)
Total Brigade strength: 56 officers and 1,908 men.


Order of battle (1 Oct 1944)

Brigade HQ and headquarters elements in Koprivnica
I Bn. (ex-I Ustasha Bn.) in Pitomača
II Bn. (ex-VII Ustasha Bn.?) in Djurdjevac
III Bn. (ex-XX Ustasha Bn.?) in Djurdjevac
IV Bn. (ex-Koprivnica Ustasha Garrison Bn.) in Koprivnica
V Bn. (ex-XXXVII Ustasha Bn.?) in Kloštar Podravski


Footnotes

1. [Vojnoistorijski institute] - Hronologija oslobodilačke borbe naroda jugoslavije 1941-1945, pp.386-88, 526, 570-71, 683, 951-52; [Vojnoistorijski institute] - Zbornik dokumenata I podataka o narodnooslobodilačkom ratu jugoslovenskih naroda. Tom V/24, p.488; [Vojnoistorijski institute] - Oslobodilački rat naroda Juooslavije 1941-1945, vol. 2, p.160, 465; NARA Microfilm Publication M893 (Record of the United States Nuernber War Crimes Trials - United States of America v. Wilhelm List et al. (Case VII or Southeast Case); Bulat, Rade - Deseti korpus “Zagrebački” NOV i POJ, - p.38, 59, 163-84; NARA WashDC: RG 242 (T-311 roll 195/034; T-314 roll 1545/772, 776, 834-38, 926-33; roll 1546/264; roll 1547/888; roll 1548/690-1092).


Reference material on this unit

- None known at this time -

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