I Ustasha Defense Brigade (I. Ustaška Obrabena Zdrug)
by H.L. deZeng IV

The term obrana or obrabena loosely translates as defense or protective or even guard. It is best viewed as a complex apparatus that grew from small beginnings in October 1941 to a division-sized organization by 1945. The Obrana was a component of the UNS (Ustasha Surveillance Service - Ustaška Nadzorna Služba), the NDH’s equivalent of the German SD and RSHA, i.e., the political police and security organs of the regime. The Obrana Brigade was mainly concerned with guarding and running the NDH’s concentration camp system, but it also secured a large area around the Jasenovac-Novska area, carried out razzias (cleansing operation, punitive raids) on enemy villages and engaged in heavy fighting as an elite unit in the final weeks of the war. The entire Obrana organization was commanded from the beginning to the end by Ust. Pukovnik Vjekoslav “Max” Luburić, one of the most powerful, feared and influential individuals in the regime. The analogy is often made that the Obrana was Luburić’s “private army.” (1)

The Brigade itself was formed at the beginning of 1942, with HQ in Lipik/22 km NE of Novska, by consolidating and organizing a number of independent Ustasha companies being used to guard the concentration camps. During the first half of 1942 most of the Brigade was engaged as a cleansing and blocking force in the Psunj Mountains region to prevent the possibility of any Partisans coming down from the mountains and liberating the concentration camp at Jasenovac, while the rest were employed as camp guards.

Operational History


Jun 42: OB - Brig. HQ in Lipik; HQ Co. Lipik; Motor Transport Co. Lipik; I Bn. (1st – 4th Co.) Jasenovac; II Bn. (5th – 8th Co.) Lipik – Pakrac; III Bn. (9th – 12th Co.) Stara Gradiška; IV Bn. (13th – 16th Co.) Lipik – Pakrac.
Jul 42: the Brigade was dissolved in the summer of 1942 and its components were used in the formation of the II Ustasha Defense Brigade and the I Domobran Volunteer Regiment (a cover name for what was a virtually all-Ustasha unit), while the remaining components continued to guard the camps.


Jan – Feb 43: I Ustasha Defense Brigade re-established with HQ at Jasenovac and gradually expanded to the large formation given below in August 1944.
8-15 Feb 43: the I Bn. from the Brigade under Ust. Satnik Mato Primorac was engaged in a cleansing operation in the Posušje-Imotski area and in the Kočerin area/WSW of Mostar as part of a mixed Domobran-Ustasha expeditionary force from the I Domobran Volunteer Regiment and other units operating under the overall command of Ust. Pukovnik Franjo Šimić.


At the end of 1943 or early 1944, a part-time auxiliary regiment called the I Popular-Ustasha Regiment (I. Pučko-Ustaška Pukovnija) was formed in the Jasenovac area from local volunteers in the older age groups. These part-timers performed guard duties at the camps in the area when called upon and also assisted the I Ustasha Defense Brigade in other ways. Its commander was Ust. Bojnik Nikola Vidaković, a local Ustasha political official.
Sep 44: II Bn. in action against enemy forces in and around Banja Luka.
Oct 44: OB - Brig. HQ in Jasenovac with its 4 primary battalions at Bos. Dubica, Jasenovac, Banova Jaruga and Kutina, Mobile Group at Jasenovac, Artillery Group at Jasenovac. Estimated strength around 10,000. Additionally, using its own assets, the Brigade formed I Bn./20th Regiment of the I Croatian Assault Division which later fought in the area southeast of Zagreb. The Battalion was commanded by Ust. Bojnik Križe Ostojić.


18 Jan 45: Brig. in action in the vicinity of Sunja and claimed 63 Partisans killed and 32 captured.
Mar 45: OB: - Brig. HQ in Jasenovac; I Bn. in Sunja; II Bn. Bos. Novi; III Bn. Lepoglava; IV Bn. Jasenovac. Toward the end of March, the Brigade formed a Reconnaissance Bn. (HQ and 1st to 4th Co.) under Ust. Bojnik Bruno Divić, formerly the commander of the Brigade’s I Recruit Bn.
15 Apr 45: reorganized and renamed 30th Assault Infantry Regiment (30. udarna pješačka pukovnija)/18th Croatian Assault Division on or about this date with HQ in Sisak under Ust. Dopukovnik Alarih Desković. Reportedly had a strength of around 4,000.
May 45: Brigade remnants withdrew through the Zagreb area toward Austria in the final days of the war. Vjekoslav “Max” Luburić and perhaps around 200 Obrana veterans survived the fighting withdrawal and the massive Partisan liquidations that followed the end of hostilities. Luburić lived in Spain during the 1950’s until he was eventually assassinated.


General Slavko Skoliber (c. Jan 1942 - Mar 1942)
Ust. Dopukovnik Frane Primorac (Mar 1942 - c. Jul 1942)
Ust. Pukovnik Marko Pavlović (c. Jan 1943 - ?) Dec 1943, Apr 1944


UNS (c. Jan 1942 - Mar 1945)
II Ustasha Corps (Mar 1945 - May 1945)

Order of battle (Aug 1944)

Brigade HQ at Jasenovac (160)
HQ Co. (244), Jasenovac, Ust. Satnik Josip Sudar (84); MP Platoon (84); Assault Detachment (66); Armored Train (85); Railway Security Service (84); Command School (18); NCO Course (150); Signal Co. (126); Support Co. (254); Band Platoon (42); Medical Co. (20); Veterinary Co. (138);
Garrison Bn. Novska, Novska, Ust. Bojnik Nikola Vidaković;
Guard Bn., Jasenovac, Ust. Nadporučnik Leo Lončarić;
I Bn. (HQ Co. and 1st – 4th Co.), Novska, Ust. Bojnik Krešimir Majić (1,142);
II Bn. (HQ Co. and 5th – 8th Co.), in the field, Ust. Bojnik Miroslav Matijević (1,215);
III Bn. (HQ Co. and 9th to 12th Co.), Stara Gradiška, Ust. Bojnik Tvrtko Krešić (997);
IV Bn. (HQ Co. and 13th to 16th Co.), Bos. Dubica, Ust. Satnik Miroslav Kopjar (1,023);
Mobile Group (HQ armored detachment and Engineer Co., Antitank Co., Grenadier Co., Bicycle Co.), Jesenovac, Ust. Bojnik Josip Mataja (1,120);
Artillery Group (HQ, HQ Battery, 1st – 6th Battery, AA-Battery with 18 x 100mm and 4 x 75mm guns), Jasenovac, Ust. Bojnik Ilija Grbacac (967);
I Recruit Bn. (HQ and 1st to 4th Co.), Ust. Bojnik Bruno Divić (1,008);
II Recruit Bn. (HQ and 5th – 8th Co.), Ust. Satnik Ivan Fridel (888);
III Recruit Bn. (HQ and 9th to 13th Co.), Ust. Nadporučnik Marijan Štajduhar (1,142).
Total strength: 11,057 plus an estimated 1,000 each for the Garrison Bn. Novska and the Guard Bn. = c. 13,057.


1. AVII Beograd, kut. 134a, reg.br. 3/1; NARA WashDC: RG 226 OSS intelligence report 165-126034; NARA WashDC: RG 242 (T-311 roll 189/859; T-314 roll 563/1308); [Vojnoistorijski institute] - Zbornik VII Beograd (IV/10, pp.624-27, 640, 649, 664; V/37, p.705; Colić 1976, p.1050; Colić 1979, p.160; Drina 6-9/1954, p.142; God. 1954, br. 10-12, p.149; God. 1963, br. 1, pp.134-35; Lazić, Dusan. “Organizacija policijsko-obaveštajne službe ‘Nezavisne Države Hrvatske’”; in: Zbornik za istoriju (Matica Srpska, 1972-75); Miletić, A. Jasenovac, in: Vojnoistorijski Glasnik, Apr 1980, p.214.

Reference material on this unit

- None known at this time -