|Native name||Петар Баћовић|
Kalinovik, Bosnia Vilayet, Ottoman Empire
Independent State of Croatia
|Commands held||Chetniks in eastern Bosnia and Herzegovina|
Petar Baćović (Serbian Cyrillic: Петар Баћовић; 1898 – April 1945) was a Bosnian Serb reserve officer, lawyer, and Chetnik commander of eastern Bosnia and Herzegovina within occupied Yugoslavia during the Second World War.
Beginning in the summer of 1941 until April 1942, he headed the Cabinet of the Ministry of Internal Affairs for Milan Nedić's puppet Government of National Salvation in Belgrade. In July 1942, Baćović was appointed by Chetnik movement leader Draža Mihailović and his Supreme Command as the commander of the "Chetnik Operational Units in eastern Bosnia and Herzegovina" during which Baćović collaborated with the Italians and Germans in actions against the Yugoslav Partisans.
He and other Chetnik commanders carried out numerous massacres against the Bosnian Muslim and Catholic civilian population and those sympathetic to the Partisan movement. He was captured near Banja Luka by elements of the Armed Forces of the Independent State of Croatia (HOS) along with Chetnik leaders Pavle Đurišić and Zaharije Ostojić, and Chetnik ideologue Dragiša Vasić after an apparent trap was set. According to some sources, Baćović and the others were taken to the Jasenovac concentration camp, where they were killed.
Petar Baćović was born in 1898 in Kalinovik, a village of the Bosnia Vilayet, a province of the Ottoman Empire that was occupied by the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1878. His father Maksim was a Chetnik commander (Serbo-Croatian: vojvoda, вoјвода). Baćović was a major in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia's reserves. He studied law, dealt with legal work, and was a governor's notary prior to the outbreak of the Second World War.
World War II
Ministry of Internal Affairs and Chetnik appointment
Beginning in the summer of 1941 until April 1942, he headed the Cabinet of the Ministry of Internal Affairs for Milan Nedić's puppet Government of National Salvation in Belgrade. In April 1942, after an agreement between Chetnik movement leader Draža Mihailović and Nedić, he left with a Chetnik detachment to the eastern Bosnia part of the Independent State of Croatia (NDH). In April and May 1942, Baćović along with Pavle Đurišić and Rade Korda took part in the German-launched Operation Trio against the Partisans.
On 13 July 1942, Baćović was appointed by Mihailović and his Supreme Command as Boško Todorović's successor as the commander of the "Chetnik Operational Units in eastern Bosnia and Herzegovina" at a conference held at Zimonjić Kula, at which Baćović openly announced his plans to destroy entire Muslim villages.
Italian contact and extermination efforts
In the summer of 1942, when order had been established in significant parts of the Italian occupation zone, Chetnik detachment leaders including Petar Samardžić, Momčilo Đujić, Uroš Drenović, Dobroslav Jevđević, Ilija Trifunović-Birčanin, and their principal political spokesmen with Italian Second Army headquarters were recognized as auxiliaries by the Italians and early in the summer Italian commander Mario Roatta allowed for the delivery of arms, munitions, and supplies to the Chetniks. By July 1942, Baćović, acting as one of Jevđević's military organizers, informed Mihailović that the vast majority of the 7,000 Chetniks in Herzegovina were well-equipped with light weapons and had been "legalized" by the Italians. Combined with Đujić's group, the Chetnik detachments legalized in the Italian zone stood at 10,000 or more troops.
On 6 August 1942, in a continued Chetnik effort to purge their ranks and outsiders of those they thought could interfere with their work, Baćović ordered subordinate commanders of all corps and brigades to submit lists and data on such individuals with suggestions on how to deal with them. Brigade commanders were required to send three assassins to kill any person who they labelled with the letter "Z" within 24 hours of receiving the name. Baćović demanded that "the killing has to be done exclusively through the use of slaughtering knife". In the same month, Baćović's Chetniks carried out massacres in Foča and in the villages of Bukovica, killing about 1,000 Bosniaks, including about 300 women, children, and elderly. In the field near Ustikolina and Jahorina in eastern Bosnia, Chetniks of Baćović and Zaharije Ostojić massacred some 2,500 Bosniaks and burned villages. Baćović also killed a number of sympathizers of the Partisans elsewhere.
In September 1942, Baćović completed a tour of Chetnik units in Herzegovina and reported that the morale of the population was excellent, and that the actions of the Ustaše and Partisans was drawing the populace to the Chetnik movement. He also reported that following the recent capture of Foča from the Ustaše, his men had killed 1,200 Ustaše in uniform and about 1,000 "compromised Muslims" at a cost of only four Chetniks killed and five wounded. In the Croatian town of Makarska, his Chetniks killed 900 Croats. His reports made it evident that his forces were partaking in a systematic effort to exterminate the Muslim and Catholic population of Herzegovina. One of these reports stated that during reprisal attacks against the towns of Ljubuški and Imotski his Chetniks had skinned alive three Catholic priests, killed all men aged fifteen years or above, and burned 17 villages, with the express purpose of removing all Muslims from Herzegovina.
In October 1942, Trifunović-Birčanin arranged with Roatta for Chetniks under the command of Baćović and Jevđević to take part in Operation Alfa with the Italians against the Partisans in Prozor. While in progress the Chetniks, acting on their own, burned villages and massacred between 500 and 2,500 Muslims and Catholics in the Prozor area. Baćović reported to Mihailović that over 2,000 had been killed. Roatta objected to these "massive slaughters" of noncombatant civilians and threatened to halt Italian aid to the Chetniks if they did not end.
In the same month, Baćović's Chetniks, together with the Italians, killed 100 Croats sympathetic to the Partisan movement in the Dalmatian villages of Gata, Niklica and Čislo. Baćović issued an appeal to Partisan Serbs which blamed the establishment of the Partisan movement on Jews and "the scum of the earth". He blamed the Partisans for the destruction of traditional Serb society, religion and morals, claiming that they were corrupting women and the young, and promoting incest and immorality. He further deplored to Serb Partisans that they were being led by "Jews, Muslims, Croats, Magyars, Bulgarians". He claimed that the Serb Chetniks controlled all of Serbia, Montenegro, Sandžak, Herzegovina and most of Bosnia, and that his "duped brothers" the Serb Partisans were to be found only in a few places in Bosnia. He urged them to defect to the Chetniks so that they could return to being "good Serbs" and contribute to the creation of a "free and Great Serb state".
Relocation to northern Dalmatia and Lika
In February 1943, Chetniks under the command of Baćović, Đurišić, Ostojić, and Vuk Kalaitović massacred 9,200 Muslims, including approximately 1,200 Muslim men and about 8,000 women, children, and the elderly in the Pljevlja district in Sandžak, and Čajniče and Foča districts in Bosnia. They looted and burned down about 2,000 houses in the process.
On 10 February 1943, a proclamation signed by Baćović, Đujić, Ilija Mihić, and Radovan Ivanišević, the Chetnik commanders of east Bosnia, Herzegovina, Dalmatia, and Lika, was issued. It declared to the people of those regions that the Chetniks had cleansed Serbia, Montenegro, and Herzegovina of the Partisans, and were about to do the same in their areas. The declaration denounced the Partisans as "criminals" and "paid Jews". The declaration called upon the Partisan rank and file to kill their political commissars and join the Chetniks, and claimed that hundreds of their comrades were surrendering to the Chetniks every day because they realised that they had been "betrayed and swindled by the Communist Jews".
Cairo and return
In mid-February 1944, he left with British Special Operations Executive Colonel S.W. "Bill" Bailey for Cairo, where he was arrested and briefly detained in a British prison. Upon returning in late May he helped organize a Chetnik "Independent Group of National Resistance" and wanted to contact British forces who they expected to land in the southern Adriatic coast.
On 11 September 1944, Baćović and Ostojić warned Chetnik headquarters that Muslims and Croats were joining the Partisans in large numbers and that Chetniks in Bosnia and Herzegovina lacked food and ammunition; they suggested Mihailović request Allied occupation of Yugoslavia or suffer losing the war both politically and militarily. They assessed that the population had sensed that the Partisans were now supported by the three major Allied Powers, but that the Chetniks had now been abandoned by them. On 20 October 1944, the Partisan and Soviet Red Army troops took Belgrade from the Germans. Soon after the Chetniks lost Serbia, the center of their movement. After the breakdown of the Chetnik movement in early 1945, Baćović was no longer loyal to Mihailović.
Withdrawal and death
Baćović joined Đurišić's forces in their trek towards Slovenia, alongside Chetnik ideologue Dragiša Vasić, detachments commanded by Ostojić, and a large number of refugees, totaling around 10,000. This force was formed into the Chetnik 8th Montenegrin Army, consisting of the 1st, 5th, 8th and 9th (Herzegovina) divisions. Earlier Đurišić and Mihailović had argued over the best course of action. Đurišić had wanted to withdraw through Albania to Greece, but Mihailović had told him to prepare for an Allied landing, the return of the king and the establishment of a national government. From the time Đurišić joined Mihailović in northeastern Bosnia, he was very critical of Mihailović's leadership and argued strongly for all remaining Chetnik troops to move to Slovenia. When Mihailović remained unconvinced, Đurišić decided to move to Slovenia independently of Mihailović, and arranged for Dimitrije Ljotić's Serbian Volunteer Corps already in Slovenia to meet him near Bihać in western Bosnia to assist his movement.
In order to get to Bihać, Đurišić made a safe-conduct agreement with elements of the Armed Forces of the NDH and with the Montenegrin separatist Sekula Drljević. The details of the agreement are not known, but it appears that he and his troops were meant to cross the Sava river into Slavonia where they would be aligned with Drljević as the "Montenegrin National Army" with Đurišić retaining operational command. Đurišić apparently tried to outsmart them and sent only his sick and wounded across the river, keeping his fit troops south of the river. He began moving his command westwards and, harassed by both the NDH troops and Partisans, reached the Vrbas river. In the Battle of Lijevče Field, north of Banja Luka, the combined Chetnik force was defeated by a strong NDH force which was armed with German-supplied tanks.
Following this defeat and the defection of one of his sub-units to Drljević, Đurišić was induced to negotiate directly with the leaders of the NDH forces about the further movement of his Chetniks towards Slovenia. However, this appears to have been a trap, as he was attacked and captured by them on his way to the meeting. According to the historian Professor Jozo Tomasevich, exactly what occurred after his capture is not clear, but Baćović, Đurišić, Vasić, Ostojić were subsequently killed, along with some Serbian Orthodox priests and others. According to some sources, on 20 April, Đurišić, Baćović, Vasić and Ostojić were taken to the Stara Gradiška prison, near Jasenovac. The Ustaše gathered them in a field alongside 5,000 other Chetnik prisoners and arranged for Drljević and his followers to select 150 Chetnik officers and non-combatant intellectuals for execution. Đurišić, Baćović, Vasić and Ostojić were amongst those selected. They and the others were loaded onto boats by the Ustaše and taken across the Sava River, never to be seen again. It is reported that they were killed either in the Jasenovac concentration camp itself, or in a marsh in its vicinity. The website of the Jasenovac Memorial Site lists Baćović as having been killed at the camp by the Ustaše in 1945. Both the NDH forces and Drljević had reasons for ensnaring Đurišić. The NDH forces were motivated by the mass terror committed by Đurišić on the Muslim population in Sandžak and southeastern Bosnia while Drljević was opposed to Đurišić's support of a union of Serbia and Montenegro which ran counter to Drljević's separatism.
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