Capture of Banja Koviljača

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Capture of Banja Koviljača
Part of the Uprising in Serbia during World War II in Yugoslavia
Date 1 – 6 September 1941
Location Banja Koviljača, Territory of the Military Commander in Serbia (now in Serbia)
Result Chetnik - Partisan victory
Belligerents
Chetniks
Partisans
Nazi Germany Nazi Germany
Independent State of Croatia Independent State of Croatia
Commanders and leaders
Chetniks
Nikola Radovanović
Bogdan Drljača
Georgija Bojića
Lazar Savić
Dragoslav Račić
Obren Popović
Partisans
Aleksandar Stanković
Mika Mitrović
Independent State of Croatia Mate Rupčić
Independent State of Croatia Grum
Units involved
Chetniks
Jadar Detachment
Cer Detachment
Partisans
4th company
Pocerski Battalion
Podrinski Division
Nazi Germany 9th company

Nazi Germany 12th company of 3rd Battalion
Nazi Germany718th Infantry Division[1][2]

Independent State of Croatia 3rd regiment
Independent State of Croatia 4th regiment

of the Croatian Home Guard battalion from Zvornik and Tuzla[3][4]
Strength
3,000 Chetniks Nazi Germany 300 Germans
Independent State of Croatia 300 Ustaše [5][6]
Casualties and losses
4 killed
4 wounded [7]
unknown

The Capture of Banja Koviljača (1 – 6 September 1941) was a battle fought between allied forces of Chetniks and Partisans on one side and German forces garrisoned in occupied Banja Koviljača (now in western Serbia) and Ustashe relief forces from Bosnia (then in the Independent State of Croatia, or NDH) on the Axis side. The battle took place during the Uprising in Serbia, soon after Chetniks captured Loznica on 31 August 1941. The attack on the German outpost in Banja Koviljača was the first major battle between Serb rebels and German forces during the invasion of Yugoslavia. The action of Chetniks against occupying German forces garrisoned in Loznica and Banja Koviljača was organized in the period of Partisan-Chetnik collaboration.[8] The Battle of Banja Koviljača was the first battle where Chetniks and Partisans were allied against Axis forces.[9] According to the Partisan officer Batanović, the involvement of the Partisans was critical for the capture of Banja Koviljača.[10]

Background[edit]

During August 1941, insurgent activity in the Territory of the Military Commander in Serbia had continued to increase, with a total of 242 attacks on German Army and gendarmerie posts, railroads, telephone wires, mines and industrial facilities during that month, resulting in the deaths of 22 German soldiers and 17 wounded.[11] The mobilization of Chetnik units had been ordered by Draža Mihailović in August 1941.[12]

Prior to the attack on Banja Koviljača Chetniks had captured Loznica on 31 August and Zajača on 1 September.[13] A small village, Zavlaka, was also captured by the Chetniks a day before they attacked Banja Koviljača. The Cer Detachment conducted demonstrative attacks on Šabac in order to counteract the movement of Germans in their surveillance battalion in Banja Koviljača.

Two Chetnik detachments participated in the Battle of Banja Koviljača according to a predetermined plan. Those two detachments were Jadar Detachment and Cer Detachment, which was quickly transported from Prnjavor via Loznica and Trbušnica to Gučevo Mountain above Banja Koviljača when their commander Račić was informed of the intention of Jadar Detachment to attack Banja Koviljača.[14] At that time Jadar Detachment had around 3,000 men.[15] They were supported by two companies of Partisans that belonged to the Pocerski Battalion, Podrinski Partisan Division. The 4th Company was under command of Aleksandar Lala Stanković and the shock company was under command of Mika Mitrović.[16][17] The commander of the operation was Lt. Gen. Nikola Radovanović.

German forces garrisoned in Banja Koviljača were accommodated in Kursalon and hotels Podrinje, Herzegovina and Dalmatia. Between 30 and 40 German soldiers were positioned in a sanatorium on the hill above Banja Koviljača.[18] They all belonged to the 718th Infantry Division (118th Jäger Division), whose headquarters was in Banja Luka and command post in Zvornik. Both towns belonged to the Independent State of Croatia, so it was understandable that the commander of this division first approached its Minister of the Armed Forces, Slavko Kvaternik, for support. Kvaternik ordered Mate Rupčić (commander of the NDH Military Frontier toward Serbia) to support German garrisons in Loznica and Banja Koviljača with units of the Croatian Home Guard from Zvornik and Tuzla (3rd and 4th Regiments from Zvornik and Tuzla, commanded by Colonel Grum)[19][20][21] During the battle of Banja Koviljača, the Germans used aviation against rebels in Serbia for the first time during the war.

The Battle[edit]

The attack on Banja Koviljača began on 1 September, when Chetniks from Jadar Detachment attacked the 3rd German Battalion. When the Chetniks' attack began German soldiers retreated to the city from the sanatorium and built an improvised bunker and dug trenches.[22] The rest of the German forces made a strong defensive fortification with barbed wire and machine gun nests. The first onslaught of the Germans was carried out by forces under the command of Captain Bogdan Drljača and reserve Lieutenant George Bojić. However, the Germans offered fierce resistance and successfully repelled all Chetnik attacks. Their goal was to hold out until reinforcements arrived from the nearest garrison in Croatia and Valjevo, where the Germans held considerable power. On 2 September the 3d Battalion of the 738th Regiment that held a position near Koviljača had to retreat toward the east.[23] On the same day a German reconnaissance aircraft was damaged above Loznica.[24] During the night of 2 September allied forces of 5-6,000 Partisans of Valjevo Detachment and around 1,000 Chetniks under command of Lt. Martinović and the priest Vlado Zečević[25] attacked the neighboring town of Krupanj.[26][27] German reinforcements from Valjevo tried to reach garrisons in Krupanj and Koviljača with support of air forces but could not break through rebel lines.[28]

The Germans in Banja Koviljača received artillery support from the Bosnian side (NDH) on 3 September. In addition the positions of Chetniks were attacked by the German air force. Two Junkers Ju 87s dropped 24 bombs on the Chetnik positions.[29] After this barrage Croatian Home Guard forces of battalion strength crossed the Drina River near Zvornik[30] and attacked the left wing of the Chetnik-held slopes of Gučevo west of Banja Koviljača.[31] On the other hand, the Chetniks under the command of Lieutenant Lazar Savić were suppressed by the Germans and Croats who crossed the Drina at Kozluk. Lieutenant George Bojić returned on the same day with reinforcements to halt the progress of German and NDH forces. Cer Detachment under the command of Dragoslav Račić also arrived with reinforcements, after which the Chetniks went over to the attack. Great battles were fought on the night of 4–5 September. According to Vladimir Dedijer, on 5 September the Chetniks requested help from Partisan forces (Mačva Detachment and Valjevo Detachment),[32] who accepted their request and began marching toward Banja Koviljača. When Partisan units reached Tršić they received the information that Banja Koviljača had been taken from the Germans and Ustaše by two Chetnik and one Partisan detachments.[33]

The Germans then resorted to a stratagem; they set up park wire in front of their position, through which they released high voltage. Sergeant Obren Popović, not knowing this, decided to make his way to the Hotel Hercegovina, from which the Germans showered Chetnik positions with heavy fire. The Chetniks were aware that if the strongest German fortifications fell then the entire spa area would fall. Popović led the Chetnik onslaught with a bomb in his hand. They ran on the high-voltage wire, which killed the whole squad.[citation needed]

Fighting continued during the night of 5-6 September and the Chetniks launched a decisive onslaught, managing to make their way to the Hotel Hercegovina, jumping over live wires and throwing grenades through the windows. There was panic among the Germans, who quickly retreated with their Croatian allies to Zvornik during the night of 6 September.[citation needed]

According to historian Professor Paul N. Hehn, the German garrison was evacuated by air from Banja Koviljača.[34]

Aftermath[edit]

The Chetniks celebrated the birthday of King Peter II of Yugoslavia after their victory in Banja Koviljača. The prison camp for imprisoned German soldiers was opened in the village of Planinica.[35] The Chetniks established their command posts in Loznica and Banja Koviljača and proclaimed general mobilization. Partisans did the same in Loznica.[36] The victories at Loznica, Banja Koviljača, Zavlaka, and Krupanj released most of western Serbia from Axis occupation. The remaining German forces were hemmed in in Šabac and Valjevo, encircled by the rebel forces.[37] By connecting the territories of Loznica, Koviljača and Krupanj the rebels created a "free territory" in occupied Serbia.[38] The Chetnik Cer Detachment commanded by Račić attacked Germans in Šabac and penetrated into the town but could not capture it.[39] Chetniks connected with their forces in Šumadija to prepare the attack on Valjevo. Consolidated Chetnik forces advanced to the valley of the Western Morava and captured Čačak, Kraljevo and Kruševac.

The Battle of Koviljača proved that the uprising in Serbia was skillfully led.[40]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Zone), Germany (Territory under Allied occupation, 1945-1955 : U.S. (1949). Trials of War Criminals Before the Nuernberg Military Tribunals Under Control Council Law No. 10, Nuremberg, October 1946-April, 1949: Case 12 : U.S. v. von Leeb (cont.) Case 7: U.S. v. List (Hostage case). U.S. G.P.O. p. 947. "... 3d Battalion, 738th Regiment, fighting near Koviljaca and Loznica,..." 
  2. ^ Batanović 1964c"U Koviljači su tada bile 9. i 12. četa 3. bataljona nemačkog 738. pešadijskog puka — oko 300 vojnika"
  3. ^ Parmaković 1973, p. 271: "Усташки батаљон из Зворника."
  4. ^ Vojno-istoriski glasnik. 1989. p. 86. ""Svim snagama (ako je potrebno i iz Tuzle i Zvornika) pomoći njemačke opkoljene jedinice u Loznici i Koviljači. Svoju odluku Kvaternik je saopštio ..." 
  5. ^ Mitrović 1975b, p. 181"Немцима је из Босне била упућена у помоћ једна усташка јединица у јачини од неколико стотина људи."
  6. ^ Batanović 1964a"Tako su Nemci u Banji Koviljači dobili pojačanje od oko 300 ustaša."
  7. ^ Parmaković 1973a, p. 273: "У нападу на Бању Ковиљачу 4. чета је имала губитака: 4 партизана је погинуло, а 4 рањено"
  8. ^ Mitrović 1975c, p. 180"Акција четника против непријатељских гарнизона у Лозници и Бањи Ковиљачи била је у условима спровођења партизанско-четничке сарадње."
  9. ^ S. Pajić (4 September 2011). "Decenijama palio sveću zaboravljenom heroju" (in Serbian). Blic. Retrieved 23 January 2014. "u oslobođenju Banje Koviljače prvi put su zajedno delovali četnici i partizani" 
  10. ^ Batanović 1964b"Zajednička akcija partizana i četnika i opredeljivanje novih boraca"
  11. ^ Hehn 1979, p. 28.
  12. ^ Vojno-istoriski glasnik. 1982. p. 237. "Prvo naređenje o mobilizaciji 1 organizaciji četničkih odreda izdao je Draža Mihailović avgusta 1941." 
  13. ^ The Četniks: a survey of Četnik activity in Yugoslavia, April 1941-July 1944. G-2 (pb), A.f.h.q. 1944. p. 9. "The Chetniks under Miseta captured Loznica on 31 August and the mining town of Zajača on the next day." 
  14. ^ Parmaković 1973, p. 267.
  15. ^ Dedijer 1990a, p. 490"... the Jadran Military-Chetnik Detachment with around 3,000 men"
  16. ^ Mitrović 1975a, p. 181"команда Подринског партизанског одреда упутила је у борбу за ослобођење Бање Ковиљаче Четврту чету Поцерског батаљона са командиром Александром — Лалом Станковићем. Чета је одмах по доласку на положај пред Бању Ковиљачу ступила у борбу, а сутрадан по њеном доласку стигао је и Мика Митровић са својом Ударном четом. "
  17. ^ Filipović, Stanoje R. (1982). Podrinsko Kolubarski region. Glas Podrinja. p. 306. "Поред тога, сада је Подрински НОП могао да испуни молбу капетана Рачића и да пошаље своје две чете (чету Лале Станковића и Ударну чету Мике Митровића) у напад на Бању Ковиљачу, из које су се немачке јединице повукле..." 
  18. ^ Parmaković 1973a, p. 267: "...упоришта су била у Курсалону и у хотелима Подриње, Херцеговина и Далмација. Пре напада 30-40 Немаца било је смештено у санаторијуму, изнад Ковиљаче"
  19. ^ Vojno-istoriski glasnik. 1989. p. 86. 
  20. ^ Kongres, Savez komunista Jugoslavije. (1949). Le Cinquiòme Congrès du Parti communiste de Yougoslavie, 21-29 juillet, 1948. Livre yougoslave. p. 85. "Des détachements de notre domobran, du 3e et du 4e régiments, sous le commandement du colonel Grum, ont passé la Drina dans un élan magnifique et, en étroite collaboration avec les troupes allemandes, après avoir détruit les bandes" 
  21. ^ Begić, Miron Krešimir (1998). HOS: 1941. - 1945. ; Hrvatske Oružane Snage u borbi za obranu Nezavisne Države Hrvatske, slobode i obstanka hrvatskog naroda. Laus. pp. 39, 40. ISBN 978-953-190-091-1. 
  22. ^ Parmaković 1973, p. 267b: "Они су се 1. септембра повукли нешто ниже и изградили провизоран бункер и ископали ровове."
  23. ^ Zone), Germany (Territory under Allied occupation, 1945-1955 : U.S. (1949). Trials of War Criminals Before the Nuernberg Military Tribunals Under Control Council Law No. 10, Nuremberg, October 1946-April, 1949: Case 12 : U.S. v. von Leeb (cont.) Case 7: U.S. v. List (Hostage case). U.S. G.P.O. p. 947. "2 September 1941, Valjevo — Higher [Corps] Command communicates — 1305 hours, 3d Battalion, 738th Regiment, fighting near Koviljaca and Loznica, forced to withdraw toward east. Croats are trying to cross the Drina near Koviljaca and Zvornik, succeeding only near Zvornik." 
  24. ^ Avramov, Smilja (1992). Genocid u Jugoslaviji u svetlosti međunarodnog prava. Politika. p. 194. "У оперативном дневнику немачког заповедника у Србији наводи се следеће "2 септембра оштећен је непријатељском ватром извиђачки авион изнад Лознице"." 
  25. ^ Dedijer 1990b, p. 490"the Valjevo Partisan Detachment ... numbered around five to six thousand fighters... our detachment (Martinović-Zečević) with around 1,000 men..."
  26. ^ Serbia), Vojnoistorijski institut (Belgrade, (1949). Zbornik Dokumenta. p. 75. "2 септембра у ноћи снаге Ваљевског партизанског одреда, у сарањи са војно-четничким одредима поручника Мартиновића и проте Зечевића, отпочеле су напад на Крупањ..." 
  27. ^ Kovačević, Milivoje; Jeremić, Milijan (1962). Narodna vlast u Srbiji, 1941-1961. Savremena administracija. p. 17. "Војно-четнички одред попа Владе Зечевића и поручника Мартиновића ... ове снаге су оствариле јединство акција у борби за ослобођење Крупња, са ваљевским народноослободилачким одредом..." 
  28. ^ Dimitrijević & Nikolić 2004, p. 166"Према Крупњу и Ковиљачи упућена су појачања из Ваљева, уз подршку авијације, али нису успела да се пробију."
  29. ^ Parmaković 1973a, p. 271: "По дану 3 септембра два јуришна авиона (штуке) бацили су 24 бомбе на висове поседнуте од стране четника"
  30. ^ Zone), Germany (Territory under Allied occupation, 1945-1955 : U.S. (1949). Trials of War Criminals Before the Nuernberg Military Tribunals Under Control Council Law No. 10, Nuremberg, October 1946-April, 1949: Case 12 : U.S. v. von Leeb (cont.) Case 7: U.S. v. List (Hostage case). U.S. G.P.O. p. 947. "Croats are trying to cross the Drina near Koviljaca and Zvornik, succeeding only near Zvornik." 
  31. ^ Parmaković 1973, p. 272: "..налазила једна четничка јединица, коју су усташе одбациле од Дрине."
  32. ^ Šnuderl, Makso (1994). Dnevnik 1941-1945: V partizanih. Založba Obzorja. p. 152. ISBN 978-86-377-0739-4. "Dalje so zavzeli Banjo Kobiljačo, kjer so vojnim četnikom prišli na pomoć partizani iz Mačvanskega odreda, pa tudi iz Valjevskoga odreda skupina z Zečevićem in Martinovićem" 
  33. ^ Dedijer 1990, p. 489"On September fifth we received an urgent call from the Jadran Military- Cetnik Detachment to help them in taking Banja Koviljaca. The main body of our units began marching with the staff on the Stolac — Moznica — Banja Koviljaca road. We were at Tršić at dawn when we received the news that Banja Koviljača had been taken by Jadran Military Chetnik Detachment with the assistance of Cer Military Chetnik Detachment and the Mačva Partisan Detachment."
  34. ^ Hehn 1979, p. 31.
  35. ^ Dimitrijević & Nikolić 2004, p. 531"Ослобођени Зворник, Бања Ковиљача, и Богатић. Први логор за немачке заробљенике у селу Планиници."
  36. ^ Mitrović 1975c, p. 182"У Лозници и Ковиљачи четници су успоставили своје команде места и прогласили општу мобилизацију. Тада су присталице народноослободилачког покрета у Лозници формирале партизанску команду места."
  37. ^ Sapcu, Istorijski Arhiv u (1966). Godis ̆njak. p. 263. "За неколико дана ослобоћени су Богатић, Лозница, Ковиљача, Крупањ, Столице, Љубовија, читав ваљевски крај и друга места. Немци су остали једино у блокираним градовима Шапцу и Ваљеву." 
  38. ^ Nikoliš, Gojko (1981). Korijen, stablo, pavetina: memoari. Sveučilišna naklada Liber u suradnji s Prosvjetom. p. 315. "... oslobođeni su Loznica, Koviljača i Krupanj, pa je već stvorena i slobodna teritorija" 
  39. ^ The Četniks: a survey of Četnik activity in Yugoslavia, April 1941-July 1944. G-2 (pb), A.f.h.q. 1944. p. 9. "... Racic even managed to penetrate into Sabac without succeeding in establishing control over that town" 
  40. ^ Jončić, Koča (1971). Kraljevački oktobar 1941. Ekonomska politika. p. 42. "Борбе око Ковиљаче показале су да српски устанички покрет располаже добрим вођством" 

Sources[edit]