Introduction to the Croatian Gendarmerie
- Published: 07 February 2013 07 February 2013
- Last Updated: 07 February 2013 07 February 2013
by H.L. deZeng IV
The Croatian Supreme Gendarmerie Command (Vrhovno oružničko zapovjedništvo) was officially established on 30 April 1941, although the intention to do so dates from 13 April. Following the collapse of' the Royal Yugoslav armed forces in mid-April, many of the men belonging to the Croatian Gendarmerie Brigade, which had been formed in 1939 in the Banovina (Province) of Croatia, agreed to continue performing police services in their locality. Reorganized on 30 April, the four regiments of the Brigade became the 1st – 4th Regiments of the new Croatian Gendarmerie with a total of approximately 6,000 officers and men. (1)
Beginning as early as June 1941, the Croatian Gendarmerie was instrumental in organizing and arming a comprehensive militia force in Bosnia and Hercegovina to help with the defense of the towns and villages threatened by both Chetniks and Partisans. One militia formation was to be under the command of each Gendarmerie station. During the course of the war dozens of these units were formed, although their total peak strength probably never exceeded 7,500 (see under Domobran Volunteer Militia for information on this units).
In the month of January 1942, the Gendarmerie received men drafted in 1941, who were given military training and then assigned as reinforcements for the Gendarmerie stations. After a short period of reorganization, two new regiments were formed so that by late spring 1942 there were 6 with a total of 11,600 officers and men.
The Gendarmerie headquarters in Zagreb in mid-February 1942 had the following offices and positions: Commandant (General Milan Mizler, who was replaced by General Vilko Pečnikar in July 1942), Deputy Commandant (Pukovnik Mate Rupčić), Inspector General (Pukovnik Konstantin Pavić), Inspector of the Gendarmerie School (Pukovnik Viktor Bek or Šek), Chief of the Organizations Branch (Pukovnik Viktor Mohr), Chief of the Personnel Branch (Pukovnik Zlatko Obertynski), Chief of the Administrative Branch (Pukovnik Ivan Oljača), Chief of the Transportation Security Branch (Pukovnik Simun Blažević), and Chief of the Services Branch (Pukovnik Stjepan Toma).
On 26 June 1942 the Gendarmerie was taken away from the Ministry of Defense (MINDOM) and placed directly under the Ustasha Militia. The primary objective of this reorganization was to make the Gendarmerie Command independent through legal decree. Administratively and financially it was integrated into the Ministry of the Interior. Consequently, the use of the Gendarmerie as an operational military force was forbidden, and it was thus employed exclusively in its traditional roll.
Due to a shortage of professionally trained Gendarmes, a central Gendamerie school was founded in Bjelovar, which started to function on 1 Novmber 1942. The purpose of the school was to prepare new Gendarmerie NCOs and leaders of mobile patrols. The length of the course was two years. At the end of 1944, the school graduated its first class of 800 NCOs and 400 patrol leaders. The second course, which started in 1943, had 1,600 men.
All of the Gendarmes from the first course were placed in the 1st Gendarmerie Regiment, so that each Gendarmerie station under its command now had 50 men assigned. Excluding rifles, station garrisons had six submachine guns, two machine guns, two light, and at some stations one or two heavy mortars. While half of the garrison remained in the station, the other half would be out patrolling a circuit which would eventually intersect with patrols from adjacent stations. The intention was to complete all of the regiments in the same manner, and thereby establish the same sort of service throughout the country.
By decree of 18 January 1943. the Gendarmerie ceased being a component of the Ustasha Militia and now came under the newly reorganized and renamed Ministry of the Armed Forces (MINORS).
In February 1944, the Gendarmerie was removed from the Ministry of the Armed Forces (MINORS) and placed under the Ministry of the Interior. As part of this new arrangement, the Gendarmerie Wing (Krilna) Commands were re-designated District (Župska) Gendarmerie Commands with one for each of 22 Župa plus the City of Zagreb. Under these 23 District Gendarmerie Commands were a total of 78 Gendarmerie Detachments (company-size) with 92 County (Kotarska) Gendarmerie Sub-Commands (down from 116 a year earlier) that in turn subordinated 906 Gendarmerie Posts (Stations) (down from 987 a year earlier).
Throughout their existence, the Gendarmerie regiments were mainly responsible for carrying out standing patrols in the countryside, countering Partisan and Chetnik propaganda against the NDH, and to make the local population aware that law and order exists in the nation. The Gendarmerie stations or posts were fortified strong points and in the event of an attack they were to be held until relief arrived. The Gendarmerie suffered relatively severe casualties due to the isolated nature of these rural stations or posts. For example, in the first 53 weeks of the existence of the Croatian State (to 17 April 1942), 283 Gendarmerie officers and men were killed, 245 reported missing and 192 wounded, which together is approximately 10% of the total.
After reaching a peak wartime strength of approximately 17,500, which included the Central Gendarmerie School, at the end of the war the Croatian Gendarmerie had 10,000 officers, NCOs and men in five regiments (1st – 5th), the other two having been disbanded when Dalmatia and Hercegovina were overrun by the Partisans.
The Croatian Gendarmerie is not to be confused with the German-Croatian Police set up under German SS-Gruppenführer Konstantin Kammehofer, which was established in the late spring of 1943. These were two entirely separate organizations. The former garrisoned permanent stations in the town and villages, while the latter were mobile anti-partisan battalions. Although Kammerhofer’s German-Croatian police utilized some 15,000 Croatian personnel and reached a peak strength or approximately 30 battalions, it was totally under German control at all times.
1. Arhiv VII Beograd, kut. 114b, reg.br. 1/2; kut. 134a, reg.br. f.3/1-96; Colić, Mladen - Takozvana Nezavisna Država Hrvatska 1941 (Belgrade: Delta-pres, 1973), pp.284-94; Colić, Mladen - Oružane formacije Nezavisne Države Hrvatske u sjeverozapadnoj Hrvatskoj, Slavoniji i Srijemu 1941-1945, in: Vojnoistorijski Glasnik, br. 3/XXX (Sep – Dec 1979), pp.151-84; Vrančić, Vjekoslav - Postrojenje i Brojčano Stanje Hrvatskih Oružanih Snaga u Godinama 1941-1945, in: Godišnjak hrvatsko domobrana 1953 (Buenos Aires: 1953), pp.27-29; Gaisser, Karl - Partisan Warfare in Croatia, Foreign Military Study Manuscript P-055b (Karlsruhe: Historical Div., U.S. Army European Command); [ - ] - Gradja za povijest narodnooslobodilačke borbe u sjeverozapadnoj Hrvatsko 1941-1945, 5 volumes (Zagreb, 1982-87), Vol. II, p.214; NARA WashDC: RG 242 (T-314 roll 560/220); (T-315 roll 1294/153; roll 1535/050); (T-821 roll 278/468; roll 448/627, 640 and 670).