Operation "Rübezahl" (1944-08-03)
- Published: 25 January 2011 25 January 2011
- Last Updated: 07 April 2012 07 April 2012
Dates: 3 – 26 August 1944. (1)
Objective: to seal off elements of the Partisan main force 1st Proletarian, 2d Assault and 12th Assault Corps NOVJ on the plateau between the rivers Piva and Tara in Montenegro and prevent them from moving into southwestern Serbia, and to cut off and force the 3d Assault Corps NOVJ and elements of 12th Assault Corps NOVJ in a westerly direction away from the Drina River in Bosnia and prevent their entry into Serbia and their linkup with the main force units.
Enemy Forces: 1st Proletarian Corps NOVJ (1st Proletarian Div. and 6th Div.), 2d Assault Corps NOVJ (3d, 29th and 37th Div.), 12th Assault Corps NOVJ (16th and 36th Div.), 3d Assault Corps NOVJ (27th and 38th Div.). Total Partisan strength c. 20,000.
Approximately 45,000 troops.
7. SS-Freiwillige-Gebirgs-Div. “Prinz Eugen”
13. Waffen-Grenadier-Div. der SS “Handschar” (elements)
181. Infanterie-Div. (elements)
369. Infanterie-Div. (kroat.) (elements)
2. Regiment “Brandenburg”
SS-Polizei-Rgt. 5 (elements)
Muslimanische Legion Krempler (elements)
1. Rgt/Montenegrinisches Freiwillige Korps
3. Rgt/Montenegrinisches Freiwillige Korps
Two (2) brigades of Chetnik auxiliaries plus 2,000 more operating under 181. Inf.Div.
61st Rgt./24th Infantry Div.
I Ustasha Brigade
XI Ustasha Brigade
8th Garrison Brigade
9th Garrison Brigade
Conduct of Operations and Results: Under the overall tactical command of V. SS-Gebirgskorps, the Axis forces first attacked Partisan 36th and 38th Divisions in eastern Bosnia beginning 3 August in an effort to drive them together and cut them off around Foča on the Drina. They then surrounded and closed on the Partisan main body in the Mt. Durmitor area in Montenegro beginning on 12 August, which was the main phase of the operation. In the intense fighting that ensued, the Partisans suffered heavy losses, even though they had been ordered by Marshal Tito to avoid contact with the enemy and move to the southeast. By the last week of August the weakened, but still intact, divisions of Partisan 1st Corps broke out of Montenegro and pushed into southwestern Serbia. An eventual large scale linkup with the on-coming Soviet forces advancing into Romania was now inevitable.
In an interesting footnote to “Rübezahl”, on 22 August 36 Allied transports escorted by 50 fighters evacuated to Bari in Italy 1,059 Partisans (mostly wounded), 16 Allied air crew who had been shot down earlier over Yugoslavia and 3 members of the Allied military mission. The transports flew in to a small strip near the tiny village of Gronja Brezna about 20 km south of Mt. Durmitor in full view of nearby German patrols. This is a good example of just how weak and ineffective the Luftwaffe had become in the Balkans.
Losses (from German records)
Germans, Bulgarians and Croatians: unknown.
Partisans: 2,052 counted dead, plus a further 3,370 estimated dead and wounded, and 242 captured.
1. [Vojnoistorijski institute] - Hronologija oslobodilačke borbe naroda jugoslavije 1941-1945 (Belgrade, 1964), pp.844-47; [Vojnoistorijski institute] - Oslobodilački rat naroda Juooslavije 1941-1945, 2 Vols (Belgrade: 1965), pp.266-72; Colić, Mladenko - Pregled Operacija na Jugoslovenskom Ratištu 1941-1945 (Belgrade: Vojnoistorijski Institut, 1988), pp.221-24; Kumm, Otto - ‘Vorwärts Prinz Eugen!’ (Osnabrück: Munin-Verlag GmbH, 1978), pp.241-55; Tomasevich, Jozo - The Chetniks (Stanford: Stanford Univ. Press, 1975), p.410; Brajović-Djuro, Petar V - Yugoslavia in the Second World War (Belgrade: Borba, 1977), p.153; NARA WashDC: RG 242 (T-311 roll 193/864).