Rafael Boban

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Rafael Boban
Rafael Boban.JPG
Birth nameRafael Boban
Born(1907-12-22)22 December 1907
Sovići, Grude, Condominium of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Austria-Hungary
AllegianceKingdom of Yugoslavia Yugoslavia (–1932)
Ustaše symbol.svg Ustaše (1932–1945)
 Independent State of Croatia (1941–1945)
Service/branchUstaše Militia
Croatian Armed Forces
RankGeneral (Croatian Armed Forces)
Colonel (Ustaše Militia)
Commands heldBlack Legion
Battles/warsVelebit uprising
World War II in Yugoslavia

Rafael Ranko Boban (born 22 December 1907 - disappearance in 1945) was a Croatian military commander who served in the Ustaše Militia and Croatian Armed Forces during World War II. Having participated in the Velebit uprising in 1932, he joined the Royal Italian Army and returned to Croatia following the Axis invasion of Yugoslavia in April 1941. He fought with the Ustaše until the end of the war, when he is reported to have evaded the Yugoslav Partisans and reached the Austrian town of Bleiburg. Nothing is known of what happened to him afterwards, and it was rumoured that he was either killed in Podravina in 1945, died fighting with the Crusaders in Herzegovina in 1947, or, less likely, emigrated to the United States via Argentina, joined the United States Army and fought Communist forces in the Korean War. In 1951, he was named the Croatian Minister of Defence in-exile by Ustaše leader Ante Pavelić.

Early life[edit]

Rafael Boban was born on 22 December 1907 in the village of Sovići, near the town of Grude, Austria-Hungary.[1] He was a Roman Catholic Bosnian Croat.[2][3] He served as an officer in the Royal Yugoslav Army prior to joining Ustaše units based in Italy in the summer of 1932. In September 1932, he returned to Croatia and participated in the Ustaše-led Velebit uprising against Yugoslav rule. Afterwards, he traveled to Italian-controlled Zadar to request Italian citizenship and protection. In May 1934, Ustaše leader Ante Pavelić promoted Boban to the rank of sergeant in the Ustaše and he became a member of Pavelić's inner circle. The following year, Boban became a deputy commander of a Royal Italian Army company based in Lipari before being transferred to Calabria. At the beginning of December 1937, Italian authorities arrested him and other members of the Ustaše on suspicion that they were planning to assassinate Yugoslav Prime Minister Milan Stojadinović. They were all quickly released.[1]

World War II[edit]

With the creation of the Independent State of Croatia (Croatian: Nezavisna Država Hrvatska, NDH) in April 1941, Boban returned to Croatia and joined the Ustaše Militia. He was promoted to the rank of captain in November[1] and later became commander of the Black Legion alongside Jure Francetić. Boban assumed full command of the legion following Francetić's capture and execution by the Yugoslav Partisans in December 1942.[4] Ustaše propaganda declared him Francetić's natural successor.[5] The legion operated in various parts of the NDH under his command.[4]

Boban was promoted to the rank of general in December 1944 and became the head of the Podravina-based Fifth Ustaše Active Brigade of the Croatian Armed Forces that month.[6] That autumn, he was responsible for guarding the imprisoned politicians Mladen Lorković and Ante Vokić in the town of Koprivnica. He held the rank of colonel within the Ustaše Militia by April 1945. In May, he withdrew with the Ustaše towards Austria and is reported to have successfully reached the town of Bleiburg,[1] alongside Pavelić and Vjekoslav Luburić.[7]

Many theories exist about what happened to him. One theory states that he was killed in Podravina in 1945, while another states that he either died fighting with the Crusaders in Herzegovina in 1947 or that he emigrated to the United States via Argentina, joined the United States Army and fought Communist forces in the Korean War.[1]


In 1951, Boban was named the Croatian Minister of Defence in-exile by Pavelić.[1] During the Bosnian War, a brigade of the Croatian Defence Council (HVO) was named after him.[8] The Roman Catholic church in the Herzegovinian village of Bobani is decorated with his pictures.[9]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Dizdar et al. 1997, p. 42.
  2. ^ Tomasevich 2001, pp. 378–379.
  3. ^ Pinson 1996, p. 142.
  4. ^ a b Tomasevich 2001, p. 422.
  5. ^ Yeomans 2011, p. 202.
  6. ^ See:
  7. ^ Dorril 2002, p. 336.
  8. ^ Žanić 2007, p. 489.
  9. ^ Sells 1998, p. 106.


  • Banac, Ivo (1996). "From Religious Community to Socialist Nationhood and Post-Communist Statehood, 1918–1992". In Pinson, Mark (ed.). The Muslims of Bosnia-Herzegovina: Their Historic Development from the Middle Ages to the Dissolution of Yugoslavia (2nd ed.). Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. pp. 129–154. ISBN 978-0-932885-12-8.
  • Dizdar, Zdravko (1997). "Boban, Rafael". In Dizdar, Zdravko; Grčić, Marko; Ravlić, Slaven; Stuparić, Darko (eds.). Tko je tko u NDH (in Croatian). Zagreb, Croatia: Minerva. ISBN 978-953-6377-03-9.
  • Dorril, Stephen (2002). MI6: Inside the Covert World of Her Majesty's Secret Intelligence Service. New York City: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-7432-0379-8.
  • Sells, Michael A. (1998). The Bridge Betrayed: Religion and Genocide in Bosnia. Berkeley, California: University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-92209-9.
  • Tomasevich, Jozo (2001). War and Revolution in Yugoslavia, 1941–1945: Occupation and Collaboration. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press. ISBN 978-0-8047-3615-2.
  • Yeomans, Rory (2011). "'For us, beloved commander, you will never die!': Mourning Jure Francetić, Ustasha Death Squad Leader". In Haynes, Rebecca; Rady, Martyn (eds.). In the Shadow of Hitler: Personalities of the Right in Central and Eastern Europe. London, England: I.B. Tauris. pp. 188–205. ISBN 978-1-84511-697-2.
  • Žanić, Ivo (2007). Flag on the Mountain: A Political Anthropology of War in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, 1990–1995. London, England: Saqi. ISBN 978-0-86356-815-2.