Introduction to the Mountain Brigades (Croatia)
- Published: 16 February 2013 16 February 2013
- Last Updated: 16 February 2013 16 February 2013
by H.L. deZeng IV
The Croatian general staff and the German Plenipotentiary General in Croatia (Gen. Edmund Glaise von Horstenau) formulated a plan to set up, equip and train 10 modern mountain brigades between the beginning of 1942 and the end of 1943, with 5 to complete formation in 1942 and 5 more in 1943. Each was to have four battalions equipped with a full complement of German weapons and equipment, including mountain artillery, mortars, heavy and light machine guns, etc., and personnel were to come from a general call-up of the birth years 1920, 1921 and 1922. However, a shortage of weapons and other material only allowed for the initial formation of four of these brigades during 1942, the first of these being established on 21 March 1942, with a fifth (the Petrinja Brigade, later V Mountain Brigade) being cobbled together a little later by using a few thousand replacement personnel equipped with obsolete weapons intended for the Croatian Gendarmerie (police) battalions.
On 30 January 1943, the Wehrmacht Command Staff (Wehrmacht Führungsstab) in Berlin issued orders on the basis of instructions from the Führer, Adolf Hitler, for the rebuilding (reorganization) of the four existing mountain brigades as part of the Croatian armed forces, although these were to have a small number of German instructor personnel and were to be operationally subordinated to the German armed forces on a case-by-case basis. The rebuilding was to commence on 15 June 1943 using the following guidelines: (1) the brigades were to include only personnel of class year 1910 and younger; (2) all shortages in weapons, equipment and uniforms were to be made good; and, (3) training was to be carried out in the Croatian language using German service regulations. In a report dated 15 August, the outfitting of the rebuilt mountain brigades had only reached the halfway point and the completion date had been pushed back to 1 January 1944.
The mountain brigades proved during the war to be a cut above most of the other Croatian military formations, although one would be hard pressed to call them elite. But they were a little bit better trained, better led and generally had somewhat better morale than the rest. (1)
Mountain Brigade - Organization and Equipment (Dec 1943)
Brigade HQ: 20/16/50
2 x Mountain Regiments each with: 83/387/2643
Armored Troop or Section: 1/12/62, 3 medium tanks and 2 light tanks
2 x Artillery Groups each with: 23/101/624, 8 x 7.5cm mountain guns and 3 x 10cm howitzers
Engineer Co.: 4/21/191
Signal Co.: 5/32/200
Supply Columns: 3/18/283
Rations Co.: 6/19/107
Medical Co.: 6/14/108, 10 ambulances
Veterinary Co.: 3/8/92
Military Police Platoon: 1/5/41
Totals: 261 officers, 1,121 NCOs, 7,668 men (9,050 in all), 2,604 horses, 333 heavy and light machine guns, 93 medium and light mortars, 8 light infantry guns, 8 light antitank guns and 3 flamethrowers.
1. Schramm, Percy E. (ed.) - Kriegstagebuch des Oberkommandos der Wehrmacht, 1940-1945, 4 vols, v.III, Teil 1, p.85 (OKW/WFSt. Op. Nr. 00538/43 gkdos, 30.1.43); NARA WashDC: RG 242 (T-78 roll 450/6426574); (T-314 roll 558/1049); (T-315 roll 1296/49; roll 2171/190; roll 2196/51); Schraml, Franz - Kriegsschauplatz Kroatien, p.24; Fricke, Gert - Kroatien 1941-1944, pp.88-90.