Dinara Division

Dinara Division
Chetnik flag
inscription reads: "For king and fatherland; freedom or death"
Active 1942–1945
Allegiance  Yugoslav government-in-exile
 Italy (1942–43)
 Germany (1943–45)
Type Infantry
Size c.3,000
Part of Chetniks
Anti-Communist Volunteer Militia (1942–43)
Engagements World War II in Yugoslavia
Commanders
Notable
commanders
Momčilo Đujić

The Dinara Division (Serbian: Динарска дивизија / Dinarska divizija) was a Chetnik division that existed during World War II. Organized in 1942 with assistance from Ilija Trifunović-Birčanin and headed by Momčilo Đujić, the division incorporated commanders in Bosnia and Herzegovina, northern Dalmatia, and the Lika region with the intent of establishing a purely Serb state cleansed of other nationalities. The division was under the control of supreme Chetnik commander Draža Mihailović and received aid from Dimitrije Ljotić, leader of the Serbian Volunteer Corps, and Milan Nedić, head of the Serbian puppet Government of National Salvation.

In late 1944 the division began withdrawing towards Slovenia, killing local Croats along the way. Afterwards, it joined Dobroslav Jevđević's Chetniks, Ljotić's Serbian Volunteer Corps, and the remnants of Nedić's Serbian Shock Corps in forming a single unit that was under the command of Odilo Globocnik of the Higher SS and Police Leader in the Adriatic Littoral. In May 1945 Đujić surrendered the division to Allied forces, who took its members to southern Italy, from where they were taken to displaced persons camps in Germany and then dispersed. Đujić emigrated to the United States in 1949. Many members of the Dinara division are believed to have followed him there, while others emigrated to Canada. Đujić lived in the United States until his death in September 1999.

Background

On 6 April 1941, Axis forces invaded the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. Poorly equipped and poorly trained, the Royal Yugoslav Army was quickly defeated.[1] After the invasion, the country was dismembered. The extreme Croat nationalist and fascist Ante Pavelić, who had been in exile in Benito Mussolini's Italy, was then appointed Poglavnik (leader) of an Ustaše-led Croatian state – the Independent State of Croatia (often called the NDH, from the Croatian: Nezavisna Država Hrvatska). The NDH combined almost all of modern-day Croatia, all of modern-day Bosnia and Herzegovina and parts of modern-day Serbia into an "Italian-German quasi-protectorate."[2] NDH authorities, led by the Ustaše militia,[3] subsequently implemented genocidal policies against the Serb, Jewish and Romani population living within the borders of the new state.[4] Serbs in particular were targeted for incarcerations, massacres, forced emigration, and murder.[5] As a result, two resistance movements emerged – the royalist and Serb Chetniks, led by Colonel Draža Mihailović, and the multi-ethnic, Communist Yugoslav Partisans, led by Josip Broz Tito.[6] Momčilo Đujić, a Serbian Orthodox priest, appointed himself vojvoda (commander) of Chetnik forces in northern Dalmatia.[7]

Formation and objectives

The division was formed in early January 1942 after Đujić was contacted by Mihailović via a courier. Ilija Trifunović-Birčanin played a central role in organizing the units of Chetnik leaders in western Bosnia, Lika, and northern Dalmatia into the Dinara Division and dispatched former Royal Yugoslav Army officers to help. Đujić was designated the commander of the division and its goal was for the "establishment of a Serb national state" in which "an exclusively Orthodox population is to live".[8] According to Đujić: "We were under Draža's command, but we received news and supplies for our struggle from [Dimitrije] Ljotić and [Milan] Nedić. [...] Nedić's couriers reached me in Dinara and mine reached him in Belgrade. He sent me military uniforms for the guardists of the Dinara Chetnik Division; he sent me ten million dinars to obtain for the fighters whatever was needed and whatever could be obtained."[9]

In March 1942 the division prepared a programmatic statement that concerned the "specific conditions of Bosnia and Herzegovina, northern Dalmatia, and southwestern Croatia (Lika)." The statement was accepted by commanders of these areas during a conference at Strmica near Knin a month later. The statement echoed the tone of Mihailović's instructions issued in December 1941 to Chetnik commanders Major Đorđije Lašić and Captain Pavle Đurišić in pursuing a Greater Serbia that was to be inhabited solely by Serbs, the establishment of a corridor through the linkage of the territories Herzegovina, northern Dalmatia, Bosnia, and Lika to Slovenia; the mobilization of all Serb nationalists for the ethnic cleansing of other nationalities that existed in Herzegovina, Dalmatia, Bosnia, and Lika. It also elaborated on the division's wartime strategy: "collaboration with the Italians on a live-and-let-live principle, determined struggle against Ustaša formations and the Domobrans, as well as against the Partisans; decent treatment of the Muslims — for the time being, to keep them from joining the Partisans, though later they can be eliminated; and the formation of separate Croatian Chetnik units for pro-Yugoslav, anti-Partisan Croats."[10]

Decline and retreat to the Adriatic Littoral

During early February 1943, as the Partisans began to prevail over the Chetniks as part of Case White, Đujić and Petar Baćović attempted to mount a counteroffensive around Bosansko Grahovo in western Bosnia preliminary to re-capturing Drvar. This was opposed by the Germans and made no headway.[11] By early August, the Dinara Division was "poorly formed, badly armed and disciplined", lacked accurate rolls of its members, and consisted of no more than 3,000 effectives. Lieutenant Colonel Mladen Žujević, one of Mihailović's few remaining delegates in the area, concluded that the division was "a pure figment of the imagination."[12]

On 21 December 1944, after Đujić requested a written guarantee from Ante Pavelić to afford him and his forces refuge in German-occupied Slovenia, Pavelić ordered the military forces of the Independent State of Croatia to give Đujić's division free passage. However, Đujić went through an alternate route towards the Istrian peninsula, as the routes offered by Pavelić were not secure from Partisan attacks, and killed the Croatian population along the way.[13] When Đujić reached Slovenia, his forces joined Dobroslav Jevđević's Chetniks, Dimitrije Ljotić's Serbian Volunteer Corps, and the remnants of Milan Nedić's Serbian Shock Corps in forming a single unit that was under the command of Odilo Globocnik of the Higher SS and Police Leader in the Adriatic Littoral.[14][15]

Aftermath

In May 1945, Đujić surrendered the Dinara division to Allied forces. Its members were then taken to southern Italy. From there, they were taken to displaced persons camps in Germany and then dispersed. After staying in Paris from 1947 to 1949, Đujić emigrated to the United States,[16] where many members of the Dinara division are believed to have followed him. Other members of the division emigrated to Canada and settled there.[17] Đujić lived in the United States until his death in San Diego, California in September 1999.[16]

Notes

References

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