Introduction to the Ustasha Preparatory Battalions
- Published: 07 February 2013 07 February 2013
- Last Updated: 07 February 2013 07 February 2013
by H.L. deZeng IV
The Ustasha Preparatory Battalions began forming in November 1941 and by the end of 1942 some 37 or 38 of them had been brought into existence. The battalions were recruited and raised by the Ustasha Staff (stožer - perhaps in this context better translated as Headquarters) within each of the principal districts (Velika Župa) in the Independent State of Croatia (NDH), and the recruiting was vigorously proactive. Often, colorful festive ceremonies were organized in the large and small towns within a Župa for the purpose of attracting new recruits. Sometimes the methods of recruitment were more direct. For example, in December 1942 in the town of Posušje near Imotski in Hercegovina, Ustasha officials enrolled en masse all of the men physically capable of bearing arms for the Ustasha preparatory and volunteer formations. Many of the local peasants fled from this area to avoid enrollment. (1)
The individual companies that made up the battalions were usually scattered about in different towns throughout the Župa, which means that most of their activities were at the company-level rather than at the battalion-level. In addition to limited training as part of their “preparatory” function, the companies were used to guard the Ustasha stožer, other lesser Ustasha headquarters (logor and tabor), factories, mines, railways and railway stations, as well as other guard duties that might be assigned to them. A large Župa in 1942 that was predominately Roman Catholic or Moslem might have had as many as 2,000 men serving in its preparatory battalions.
On 16 December 1942 the Headquarters of the Ustasha Militia in Zagreb issued orders that certain preparatory battalions were to be activated while all of the others were to be disbanded. In practice, only the first part of this order was put into effect. Over the next 6 to 8 months, the preparatory battalions were used to replenish or reestablish the active battalions of the Ustasha Militia that were originally raised in the same Župa during 1941 and early 1942 and that had become depleted due to losses. Those preparatory battalions that had not been used for this purpose by fall 1943 or early 1944 were transformed into Ustasha Garrison Battalions and Companies.
1. Colić – 1976, p.1046; Colić – 1979, p.159; NARA WashDC: RG 242 (T-821 roll 448); various issues of Hrvatski narod and Narodne novine.