Sergej Mašera

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Sergej Mašera
Born (1912-05-11)May 11, 1912
Gorizia, Austria-Hungary
Died April 17, 1941(1941-04-17) (aged 28)
Bay of Kotor, Kingdom of Yugoslavia
Allegiance Yugoslav Royal Navy
Years of service 1932–1941
Rank Naval Lieutenant
Unit Destroyer Zagreb
Battles/wars Invasion of Yugoslavia (World War II)
Awards People's Hero of Yugoslavia

Sergej Mašera (May 11, 1912 – April 17, 1941) was a naval Lieutenant of the Yugoslav Royal Navy. At the end of the April War, Mašera, along with his fellow Lieutenant Milan Spasić, scuttled the destroyer Zagreb in the Bay of Kotor near Tivat to prevent it from being captured by the Italian Royal Navy (Regia Marina Italiana). They both died in the explosion and subsequently are regarded as Yugoslav heroes of the Second World War.

Biography[edit]

Before World War II[edit]

Sergej Mašera was born in 1912 to a Slovene family in Gorizia and part of the Austro-Hungarian County of Gorizia and Gradisca (now in Italy). After the end of World War I, his family fled from the Italian-administered Julian March to the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (Yugoslavia), in order to escape the violent policies of Fascist Italianization. They first settled in Slovenian Carinthia and then in Ljubljana. In Ljubljana, Masera attended primary and secondary education before enrolling in the Naval Military Academy (VII class) in Dubrovnik, which lasted three years. Upon completion of his education at the Academy in 1932, he gained the rank of Corvette Lieutenant.

April War and Death[edit]

At the time of the outbreak of the short April War in 1941, Sergej Mašera was a lieutenant on Destroyer Zagreb stationed in Dobrota on the Bay of Kotor. He was the First Officer in charge of the ship's artillery.

Destroyer Zagreb together with the destroyers Belgrade and Dubrovnik was at that time one of the most recent Yugoslav Navy ships, and therefore became the target of an air attack of five Regia Aeronautica bombers on the 6th of April. However the attack was carried out from a great height, and no damage was suffered. Italian aircraft bombed the Bay once again on the 13th of April, but even then did not damage the "Zagreb". But on the 15th of April, demoralised and smashed, the Yugoslav Royal Army asked for a truce, and the crews of ships stationed in the Bay of Kotor were instructed to not open fire on the Axis forces and to surrender peacefully. Indeed they were ordered to not destroy anything. Most of the sailors landed on the mainland, and on the 17th of April Italian forces began to arrive in the Bay of Kotor. Then the remaining crew members of Destroyer Zagreb (approximately 14 of them) were ordered to abandon ship.

Sergej Mašera and his schoolmate Lieutenant Spasić decided that the ship should not be delivered to the Italians. They refused to follow the order of his commander Captain Nikola Krizomalija to abandon the ship. The ship was subsequently destroyed in an explosion, but both Sergej Mašera and Spasić were killed in the process.

After two explosions, the Destroyer Zagreb was badly damaged and sank. The body of Milan Spasić was immediately recovered. The body of Sergej Mašera was not immediately recovered.

Milan Spasić was buried on the 19th of April 1941, in the naval cemetery at the village of Savini near Herceg Novi. Many people attended the funeral (which also commemorated the death of Sergej Mašera, despite his body not being found at that time). A detachment of the Italian army also attended and were so impressed by the heroism of both Sergej Mašera and Milan Spasic, that they afforded them full military honors.

On the 24th of April, seven days after the explosion, fishermen found just the torso of Sergej Mašera. in the sea. [1]

Legacy of Spasić & Mašera[edit]

Soon afterwards their feat and their sacrifice were reported in the British newspaper, the (Daily Mirror). The British Army in 1942 within their barracks in Malta erected a Commemorative plaque dedicated to Masić & Spasić.[1] and the British journalist David Divine, in his book "Navies in Exile" (London: John Murray, 1944.) particularly stressed the feat of Spasic and Mašera. In the FPR Yugoslavia during the initial postwar years nothing was said or written about Spasić & Mašera. Few people even knew about them. They probably did not fit the ideology that only the communists would have enough patriotism to resist the occupiers. Spasic and Mašera probably do not fit into that framework. In those war years, King Peter II, was accused of collaborating with the Axis powers through the Chetniks. Indirectly these charges were related to all royal officers, and therefore it could not be explained how these two young Lieutenants were able to perform such a heroic act. People were too timid to write or speak about them until the 1960s, following the democratization of Yugoslavia (Economic reform 1964 /1965). The French made a film Flammes sur l'Adriatique (Flames on Adriatic) [2][3] in 1968, dedicated to this event, Meša Selimović directed by Alexandre Astruc and Stjepan Čikeš.

As a result of these events these two heroes were declared to be People's Hero of Yugoslavia by the decree of President Tito on the 10th of September 1973, on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of Yugoslav War Navy.[4]

After that, some streets in Yugoslav cities were named after them, such as Mašerin prilaz in the Siget settlement in Novi Zagreb. In the Montenegrin town Tivat they have a monument in the city park. Since 1967 the Maritime Museum in Piran has carried the name Sergej Mašera. The Youth Hostel near the town of Kotor, also carries the name „Spasić - Mašera”.[5] Many towns in Slovenia also have streets named after Mašera and Spasič, including Ljubljana, Nova Gorica, and Koper. In Nova Gorica, there is a monument to Sergej Mašera.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Bibliography[edit]

  • Narodni heroji Jugoslavije, Mladost Beograd, 1975. godina (Serbo-Croatian)
  • Tomislav Grgurević: Podvig Spasića i Mašere, 1983. Centar za kulturu, informisanje i dokumentaciju, Tivat (Serbo-Croatian)

External links[edit]