Sunday, September 13, 2015

THE CHETNIKS



Chetniks pose with German soldiers




 A German military officer converses with Kosta Pecanac (the pre-war president of the Chetniks) and Dazafer Deva (a collaborator from Kosovo) in Podvjevo.


 Pećanac Chetniks. The Pećanac Chetniks, also known as the Black Chetniks were a Chetnik irregular military force which operated in the Territory of the Military Commander in Serbia under the leadership of vojvoda Kosta Pećanac. They were loyal to the German-backed Serbian puppet government and fought against Yugoslav Partisans and the Chetniks of Draža Mihailović from 1941 to 1943.


From the beginning Tito's claim to lead Yugoslav resistance was challenged by Col. Dragoljub ('Draza') Mihailović, who formed in mid-I941 his mainly Serbian 'Chetnik Detachments of the Yugoslav Army' ('chetnik' is the traditional Serbian name for guerilla) on Ravna Gora Mountain in Western Serbia, although until March 1943 Kosta Pecanać controlled 8,000 rival Chetniks in Macedonia. Mihailović's Chetniks had mobile (active) and territorial companies, formed into battalions and brigades led by civilians styled 'chieftain' (vojvoda) or by Army officers. Some 10,000 Chetniks fought alongside the Partisans in July 1941, and by 1943 there were 30,000 mobile troops. After November 1941 Partisan-Chetnik cooperation deteriorated into armed hostility; for Mihailović, now Minister of War to the Yugoslav government-in-exile, and receiving Allied aid, saw in Tito a deadly rival, and Communism as anathema to his Serbian' nationalism. After January 1943 his troops were re-designated 'Yugoslav Army of the Homeland', fighting Germans, Italians, Croats and Partisans alike.

Throughout 1942 Chetnik fortunes steadily improved. In January 1943 they were re-organised, and based on a three-man 'trojka' cell. Between 15 and 30 Trojke formed a company, three companies a battalion, three battalions a brigade, three to five brigades a 'corps', named after a local river or mountain and often only 2,500 strong. Troops were under ten Area Commands-Serbia (Corps I to 37); Stari Ras (38 and 39); Montenegro-Sandjak (40 to 45); cast Bosnia-Herzegovina (46 to 54); Western Bosnia (55 to 57); Dalmatia & Coast (58 to 63); Slovenia-Istria (64 to 67): Southern Serbia (i.e. Macedonia) (68); Backa-Baranja; Srem. Mobile forces were extracted from these units and designated 'Flying Brigades' and 'Shock Corps'.

With early 1943 came disaster. The Chetniks were badly mauled by Tito at the Neretva River, and retreated from Bosnia and Montenegro into Serbia to defend the Chetnik heartland. Meanwhile Allied aid was switched to the Partisans, whom King Petar now recognised. In March 1944 Mihailović re-formed his corps into 'Groups of Corps' 1 to 12, and 'Groups of Shock Corps'. The elite 4th Group of Shock Corps, with 9,000 men, defended South-West Serbia, but after initial success was forced back. The arrival of Soviet troops compelled a dispirited Mihailović, now totally isolated, to retreat in October with his depleted forces to take refuge in the Bosnian mountains. His hostility to the Partisans had led his movement along a dangerous path, beginning with a simple disagreement over immediate objectives, but leading in many cases to outright collaboration with Axis forces against the Partisans. This had robbed the Chetniks of their credibility, both at home and with the Allies.

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