2nd Army (Kingdom of Yugoslavia)

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2nd Army
a colour photograph looking across a river at old buildings
The 30th Infantry Division Osiječka was deployed astride the Drava river at Osijek
Country Kingdom of Yugoslavia Kingdom of Yugoslavia
Branch Royal Yugoslav Army
Type Infantry
Size Corps[a]
Part of 2nd Army Group
Engagements Invasion of Yugoslavia (1941)
Commanders
Notable
commanders
Dragoslav Miljković

The 2nd Army (Serbo-Croatian: 2. armija) was a Royal Yugoslav Army formation commanded by Armijski đeneral Dragoslav Miljković that opposed the German-led Axis invasion of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia in April 1941 during World War II. It consisted of three infantry divisions and one horsed cavalry regiment. It formed part of the 2nd Army Group, and was responsible for the defence of the Yugoslav–Hungarian border along the Drava river from Slatina to the Danube.

The 2nd Army was not directly attacked during the first few days after the invasion commenced, but attacks on its flanks from 10 April resulted in successive orders to withdraw to the lines of the Danube and then the Sava. On 11 April, the Hungarians crossed the border in the sector for which the 2nd Army had been responsible, but the Yugoslavs were already withdrawing and the Hungarians faced almost no resistance. On the same day, the German 8th Panzer Division, driving on Belgrade into the flank of the 2nd Army, had effectively routed the entire 2nd Army Group. The disintegration of the 2nd Army as a combat force was accelerated by fifth column activities and desertion by many of its Croat soldiers. The Germans captured Belgrade on 12 April. Remnants of the 2nd Army continued to resist along the line of the Sava on 14 April, and the headquarters of the 2nd Army was rebuffed when it contacted the Germans in an attempt to negotiate a separate ceasefire. On 14–15 April, tens of thousands of Yugoslav soldiers were captured. The Germans closed on Sarajevo, capturing it on 15 April, and accepted the unconditional surrender of the Royal Yugoslav Army on 17 April, which came into effect at 12:00 the following day.

Composition[edit]

The 2nd Army was commanded by Armijski đeneral[b] Dragoslav Miljković, and his chief of staff was Brigadni đeneral[c] Bogdan Maglić.[3] It was organised and mobilised on a geographic basis from the 2nd Army District, which was divided into divisional districts, each of which was subdivided into regimental regions.[4] The 2nd Army consisted of:[3]

Its support units included the 76th Artillery Regiment, the 2nd Anti-Aircraft Battalion, the 2nd Army Anti-Aircraft Company, and a border guard battalion at Subotica. The 3rd Air Reconnaissance Group comprising sixteen Breguet 19s was attached from the Royal Yugoslav Air Force and was based at Staro Topolje just east of Brod.[3]

Deployment[edit]

Main deployment areas of the 2nd Army, with the locations of Brod and Doboj highlighted.

The 2nd Army was part of the 2nd Army Group, which was responsible for the eastern section of the Yugoslav–Hungarian border, with the 2nd Army in the Baranya and Slavonia regions between Slatina and the Danube, and the 1st Army in the Bačka region between the Danube and the Tisza.[5] On the left flank of the 2nd Army was the 4th Army of the 1st Army Group, which was responsible for the defence of the Yugoslav–Hungarian border west of Slatina. The boundary with the 4th Army ran from just east of Slatina through Požega towards Banja Luka. The Yugoslav defence plan saw the 2nd Army deployed from the boundary with the 4th Army to the Danube, with two divisions along the line of the Drava and one division in depth.[6] Of the formations of the 2nd Army, the 10th Infantry Division Bosanska and the 17th Infantry Division Vrbaska were partly mobilised, and the 30th Infantry Division Osiječka had only commenced mobilisation.[7] The deployment of the 2nd Army from west to east was:[6]

  • 17th Infantry Division Vrbaska south of the Drava from just east of Slatina to Valpovo
  • 30th Infantry Division Osiječka astride the Drava from Valpovo to the confluence with the Danube, centred on Osijek
  • 10th Infantry Division Bosanska in depth on the right flank, behind the Vuka river, centred on Vinkovci

The 33rd Infantry Division Lička, which was under the direct command of the General Headquarters of the VKJ,[8] was deployed further south behind the Sava river, centred on Doboj.[6]

Operations[edit]

The 2nd Army faced the Hungarian 3rd Army, and during the first few days after the commencement of the invasion, there were exchanges of fire with Hungarian border guards, but the 2nd Army faced no direct attacks. Neither the 2nd Army nor the Hungarians were ready for full-scale fighting, as they were still mobilising and deploying their forces.[5] On 9 April, due to events in other parts of Yugoslavia, the 6th Army on the right flank of the 2nd Army Group was ordered to withdraw south of the Danube and deploy on a line facing east to defend against an attack from the direction of Sofia, Bulgaria. The headquarters of the 2nd Army issued orders to evacuate Baranja and reinforce the left flank.[9]

The following day, the situation deteriorated significantly when the German XLI Motorised Corps crossed the Yugoslav–Romanian border into the Yugoslav Banat and struck the 6th Army, halting its withdrawal and disrupting its ability to organise a coherent defence behind the Danube.[10] Also on 10 April, the main thrust of the XLVI Motorised Corps of the 2nd Army, consisting of the 8th Panzer Division leading the 16th Motorised Infantry Division crossed the Drava at Barcs in the 4th Army sector on the left of the 2nd Army. The 8th Panzer Division turned southeast between the Drava and Sava rivers, and meeting almost no resistance and with strong air support, had reached the left flank of the 2nd Army at Slatina by evening, despite poor roads and bad weather.[11]

Later that day, as the situation was becoming increasingly desperate throughout the country, Dušan Simović, who was both the Prime Minister and Yugoslav Chief of the General Staff, broadcast the following message:[11]

All troops must engage the enemy wherever encountered and with every means at their disposal. Don't wait for direct orders from above, but act on your own and be guided by your judgement, initiative, and conscience.

— Dušan Simović

The 2nd Army was able to evacuate Baranja and organised a defence of the left flank of the 2nd Army Group, now threatened by the 8th Panzer Division, but Croat reservists began to desert their units due to the fifth column activities of the fascist Ustaše and their sympathisers. This significantly reducing the combat power of the 2nd Army. By the evening of 10 April, the 2nd Army Group was ordered to withdraw from this line and form a defensive line behind the Sava, from Debrc to the confluence with the Vrbas river, for which one or two days would be needed. On the night of 10/11 April, the whole 2nd Army Group continued its withdrawal, but units of the 2nd Army that included significant numbers of Croats began to dissolve.[12]

a black and white photograph of a twin-engined monoplane
Messerschmitt Bf 110s of Zerstörergeschwader 26 destroyed the air reconnaissance assets of the 2nd Army at Bijeljina on 12 April

At dawn on 11 April, Hungarian forces,[13] consisting of the Mobile, IV and V Corps of Altábornagy (Lieutenant General) Elemér Gorondy-Novák's 3rd Army,[14] crossed the Yugoslav border north of Osijek and near Subotica,[15] overcame Yugoslav border guards and advanced on Subotica and Palić.[16] The XLVI Motorised Corps continued to push east south of the Drava, with the 8th Panzer Division capturing Našice, Osijek on the Drava, and Vukovar on the Danube, followed by the 16th Motorised Infantry Division which advanced east of Našice, despite bridge demolitions and poor roads.[13][11] The 8th Panzer Division had effectively routed the 2nd Army Group by 11 April.[17] On the same day, the 3rd Air Reconnaissance Group Breguet 19s were flown from Staro Topolje to Bijeljina. The following day, Messerschmitt Bf 110s of I Group of the 26th Heavy Fighter Wing (German: Zerstörergeschwader 26, ZG 26) destroyed the 3rd Air Reconnaissance Group aircraft when they swept over the airfield in one of the most effective attacks of the campaign.[18] On the night of 11/12 April, the 8th Panzer Division captured Sremska Mitrovica on the Sava at 02:30, after two important bridges over the Sava were captured intact.[11] The 8th Panzer Division then destroyed a bridge over the Danube at Bogojevo,[19] and advanced on Lazarevac about 32 kilometres (20 mi) south of Belgrade.[11] These advances delayed the withdrawal of the 2nd Army Group south of the Sava.[16]

Fate[edit]

By 12 April, the withdrawal of the 2nd Army Group was being threatened from the left flank, with 2nd Army being described by the Polish historian Andrzej Krzak as having "no combat importance at all". On the far right flank, 6th Army attempted to regroup while being pressed by the 11th Panzer Division as it drove towards Belgrade.[19] West of Belgrade, remnants of the 2nd Army Group tried to establish a line along the Sava, but XLVI Motorised Corps had already captured the bridges. Elements of the 8th Panzer Division captured Zemun without a fight. On 12 April, the 1st Army's 3rd Cavalry Division counter-attacked on the right flank of the 2nd Army at Šabac and pushed the Germans back across the Sava. The Ustaše had captured Brod without German assistance, but 2nd Army units recaptured the town and destroyed the bridge over the Sava.[16] The Hungarians occupied Baranja without facing resistance.[20]

a black and white photograph of a half-tracked prime mover pulling heavy trucks along a muddy road
The 8th Panzer Division and 16th Motorised Infantry Division struggled along poor roads during their drive into the left flank of the 2nd Army on their way to Belgrade

On the evening of 12 April, elements of the SS Motorised Infantry Division Reich, under command of XLI Motorised Corps crossed the Danube in pneumatic boats and captured Belgrade without resistance. About the same time, most of the elements of XLVI Motorised Corps that were approaching Belgrade from the west were redirected away from the capital, but part of the 8th Panzer Division continued their thrust to capture the Sava bridges to the west of Belgrade, and entered the city during the night. The rest of the 8th Panzer Division turned southeast and drove towards Valjevo to link up with the left flank of the First Panzer Group southwest of Belgrade. The 16th Motorised Infantry Division was redirected south across the Sava, and advanced toward Zvornik.[21]

On 13 and 14 April, the 8th Panzer Division led a southward thrust towards Sarajevo, where both the Yugoslav Supreme Command and the headquarters of the 2nd Army were located, and during that day the 2nd Army asked the Germans for a separate ceasefire agreement, but were rebuffed, as by this stage only the unconditional surrender of the whole Yugoslav Army would be considered by the Germans. On 14 and 15 April, tens of thousands of Yugoslav soldiers were taken prisoner by the Germans during their drive on Sarajevo in the centre of the country, including 30,000 around Zvornik and 6,000 around Doboj. On 15 April, the 8th Panzer Division approached Sarajevo from the east as the 14th Panzer Division entered it from the west, and the 2nd Army surrendered. After a delay in locating appropriate signatories for the surrender document, the Yugoslav Supreme Command unconditionally surrendered in Belgrade effective at 12:00 on 18 April.[22]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ The Royal Yugoslav Army did not field corps, but their armies consisted of several divisions, and were therefore corps-sized.[1]
  2. ^ Armijski đeneral was equivalent to a United States lieutenant general.[2]
  3. ^ Brigadni đeneral was equivalent to a United States brigadier general.[2]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ Niehorster 2013e.
  2. ^ a b Niehorster 2013a.
  3. ^ a b c Niehorster 2013b.
  4. ^ Krzak 2006, p. 567.
  5. ^ a b Krzak 2006, p. 588.
  6. ^ a b c Geografski institut JNA 1952, p. 1.
  7. ^ Barefield 1993, p. 53.
  8. ^ Niehorster 2013d.
  9. ^ Krzak 2006, pp. 588–589.
  10. ^ Krzak 2006, p. 589.
  11. ^ a b c d e U.S. Army 1986, p. 53.
  12. ^ Krzak 2006, pp. 589–591.
  13. ^ a b Krzak 2006, p. 591.
  14. ^ Niehorster 2013c.
  15. ^ U.S. Army 1986, p. 61.
  16. ^ a b c Krzak 2006, p. 592.
  17. ^ Van Creveld 1973, p. 127.
  18. ^ Shores, Cull & Malizia 1987, pp. 222–223.
  19. ^ a b Krzak 2006, p. 590.
  20. ^ Krzak 2006, p. 593.
  21. ^ U.S. Army 1986, p. 54.
  22. ^ U.S. Army 1986, pp. 63–64.

References[edit]

Books[edit]

Journals and papers[edit]

Web[edit]