World War 2 History: Chronicle Of The Defeat Of Yugoslavia

A detailed account of the 12 day invasion of Yugoslavia in April, 1941. Information concerning what battles that preceeded.

On March 25th, 1941 Prince Paul, Regent of Yugoslavia, along with the Prime Minister Dragisa Cvetkovic signed Tripartite Pact, by which their nation was officially allied with Germany and Italy. Two days later their regime was overthrown by a military faction. The country was now ruled by Military General Simovic. History reveals that the British were instrumental in accomplishing this overthrow and, therefore, attempting to keep Yugoslavia from joining the enemy. When news that Prince Paul was about to sign the Tripartite Pact reached 10 Downing Street, the following message was sent to British Ambassador Sir Ronald Campbell:

You are authorized now to proceed at your discretion by any means at your disposal to move leaders and public opinion to understanding of realities and to take action to meet the situation. You have full authority for any measures that you may think it right to take to further change of Government or regime, even by coup de tat.

Having accomplished the changed in helmsmanship, however, Britain was still unable to divert catastrophe. The new master of Yugoslavia, the Army High command, showed a marked lack of determination and resolve. Rather than denouncing the Tripartite Pact, Simovic hedged and hoped that the crisis could be resolved without recourse to warfare. Of course, this gave Adolf Hitler time to seize the initiative, which he soon did.

A day after the revolt in Yugoslavia Hitler signed 13 copies of his Directive No.25.The first paragraph of this document stated:

The military revolt in Yugoslavia has changed the political position in the Balkans. Yugoslavia, even if it makes initial professions of loyalty, must be regarded as an enemy and beaten down as soon as possible.

Having made the situation clear, Hitler then went on in the document to spell out just how the "˜beating down' of Yugoslavia was to be accomplished. Two strategic groups would converge on Belgrade and wipe out the Yugoslav army. A third group would attack Serbian Macedonia. This would have the dual purpose of securing a base for the simultaneous attack on Greece. Germany would intensify internal strife within Yugoslavia by giving the Croats assurances of self determination.

To accomplish such a quick mobilization Hitler had to pull men from the preparations for project "˜Barbarossa' - the attack on the Soviet Union. This was done and the German High Command soon had ten corps - four of which were armored - 32 divisions, including 10 armored and four motorized. Mussolini sent the 2nd Army under a General Ambrosio with four corps and the 11th Army to attack from Albania. Hungary joined in as an aggressor, on the promise from Hitler that Hungarian claims on Yugoslavia would be met. This despite a non-aggression pact signed with Yugoslavia just a few weeks previously. This betrayal of trust was what caused Hungarian Foreign Minister Count Teleki to commit suicide.

With such awesome forces amassed against her, it was only a matter of time before Yugoslavia, with an army of 28,000 men, succumbed. In fact, it took just 12 days for that to occur. On the 6th of April, units of Luftflotte IV began an unremitting air assault on Belgrade.

Simultaneously, the ground strike forces moved in. The XIV Motorized Corps began to advance from Bulgaria towards Belgrade. In 7 days they had advanced 312 miles along the Morava Valley. On April 13th, the XIV Motorized met up in Belgrade with the XLI Panzer Corps, which had advanced from the Timisoara region.

The Italians in the form of the 2nd Army had concentrated in Carinthia and southern Hungary. It engaged the Yugoslav Army at Barcs, on the border, captured a bridge over the Drava River and then opened up the way for a full scale rush into the heart of Yugoslavia. On April 15th, both Zagreb and Sarajevo were under enemy occupation. Meanwhile, the combined forces that had taken Belgrade moved to Krusevac to block the escape route of any Yugoslav remnants attempting to get from Bosnia to Macedonia.

The crushing of the Yugoslav Army was as much the result of their obsolete weaponry as it was the tactics of the enemy. Also, the Italians had for years attempted to undermine the morale of Croatians and now it was beginning to pay off. This can be seen by the following note from Colonel-General Halder of the German Winer-Neustadt division:

April 11, Good Friday . . . Information gathered during the course of the day gives the impression that in the north of Yugoslavia the front was breaking up with increasing rapidity. Units are laying down their arms or taking the road to captivity, according to our airmen. One cycle company captures a whole brigade with it's staff. An enemy divisional commander radios his superior officer that his men are throwing down their arms and going home.

On April 17, 1941, the Yugoslav Foreign Minister, Aleksander Cincar-Markovic along with General Jankovic, the deputy Chief of Staff, went to Belgrade to sign the instrument of surrender drawn up by the by the conquerors. At the moment of signing King Peter II was aboard a Sunderland flying boat on his way to Egypt.

As a result of the surrender 6,028 Yugoslav officers along with 337,684 non commissioned officers and men became prisoners of war. However, nearly 300,000 men of the conquered army evaded capture. These formed a resistance force and were organized under a Colonel Draza Mihailovic - a key player in the March 27th overthrow. Official German casualty figures for the war on Yugoslavia are as follows:

Killed - 151

Missing - 15

Wounded - 392

If the above figures are to be relied upon, then the carrying out of the Fuhrer's Directive No.25 was accomplished at an incredibly low cost. The surprisingly quick overthrow of the Yugoslavs also spelt doom for the Greeks - it meant that now the full force of the Tripartite Armies might could be unleashed on her forces - with predictable results.

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