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Battle of Višegrad

Battle of Višegrad
Part of World War II in Yugoslavia
Date5 October 1943
Location
Result Yugoslav army captured Višegrad and destroyed big railway bridge over river Drina
Belligerents
Axis:

Allies:
 Yugoslavia


 United Kingdom
 United States
Commanders and leaders
Units involved
 Nazi Germany 369th (Croatian) Infantry Division (Wehrmacht)
  • Chetniks
    • Cer-Majevica Corps
    • Romanija Corps
  • United Kingdom British sappers
Strength
1,100 2,500
Casualties and losses
350 dead and 400 wounded 21 dead and 30 wounded
unknown number of civilians

The Battle of Višegrad was the most important battle of the large-scale Chetnik anti-Axis offensive in Eastern Bosnia in Autumn 1943 in Axis occupied Yugoslavia during World War II. The Chetnik forces of 2,500 captured Višegrad, destroyed big railway bridge across river Drina and continued their advances toward Rogatica and Sokolac. The Chetnik forces included members of the British and American missions who participated in the battle and destruction of the bridge. The German and Ustaše garrison in Višegrad and garrison that protected the bridge of total 1,100 soldiers had 350 dead and 400 wounded. The Chetniks had 21 dead and 30 wounded. In subsequent battle for Rogatica waged ten days later, the Chetniks captured Rogatica and killed more than 200 Axis soldiers.

This Chetniks' victories against Axis were attributed by BBC to Tito's Communist Partisan forces, like in many other cases in that period of the war. Despite many protests, the BBC did not make any corrections. When Chetniks attacked Sokolac on 21 October 1943, the Partisans attacked them from rear and Chetniks found themselves under attack of Axis and Communist forces which ended advances of Chetniks into Eastern Bosnia and toward Sarajevo. This was emphasized by Chetnik commander Mihailović as another proof that Communists collaborated with Ustaše and Germans.

Forces

The Battle for Višegrad was part of a Chetnik anti-Axis offensive in Eastern Bosnia. The Chetnik headquarters were in Višegrad and Dobrun during this offensive.[1] The Chetniks mobilized 15-18,000 soldiers in four corps (Romanija, Cer-Majevica, Mačva and Avala Corps). The offensive, also called the Third Chetnik Uprising, was commanded by Zaharije Ostojić while Chetniks from Western Serbia were under command of Dragoslav Račić.[2]

The Chetniks were accompanied by members of British mission headed by Brigadier Charles Armstrong who arrived to Chetnik headquarters at the end of September 1943,[3] and by the ranking American officer attached to the British mission, Lieutenant Colonel Albert Seitz.[4] One of the aims of Chetnik attack on Višegrad was destruction of a railway bridge over River Drina, as instructed by Brigadier Armstrong. Less than a week after Armstrong arrived at Chetnik headquarters he and Seitz and Hudson saw a successful Chetnik attack on Višegrad and destruction of the railway bridge across Drina.[5] Armstrong and Seitz took part in a Chetnik action against Axis-controlled units[which?] protecting the railway bridge over Drina near Višegrad.[6]

The German garrison in Višegrad had more than 800 soldiers while another garrison of 300 German soldiers was protecting main bridge over the River Drina.[7] The Chetnik force of 2,500 soldiers that attacked Višegrad used heavy mortars, light artillery and small arms.[8]

Attack on Višegrad

According to the plan of attack, developed by Zaharije Ostojić, the attack on Višegrad was organized from both left and right bank of river Drina.[9] The attack from the left bank was planned to start one hour earlier than attack from the right bank, with intention to provoke German forces to leave bunkers on the right side to support their forces on the left side of the river.[10] The attack started in 4 am on 5 October 1943.[11]

Before Chetniks stormed into Višegrad they first destroyed four smaller bridges in Mokra Gora.[12] The Chetnik forces began with preparation movement for this battle during the night of 2 October 1943.[13] Two days later Chetniks attacked Axis troops garrisoned in Višegrad .[14] There was a fierce fighting between German and Ustaše garrison and Chetniks.[15]

The bridge was taken by assault of Chetniks who used only hand grenades.[16] The casualties of Chetniks were 21 dead and 30 wounded.[17]

At the beginning of October 1943, based on Armstrong's instructions Mihailović and his Chetniks organized the attack on Višegrad, captured the town and destroyed the railway bridge across river Drina on Sarajevo-Užice railway.[18] This bridge was the longest bridge in Axis occupied Yugoslavia destroyed by rebel guerrilla.[19] In this attack about 2,500 Chetniks[20] killed about 350 Ustaše and German soldiers and captured a lot of ammunition and arms.[21] The Axis forces had 400 wounded.[22] The bridge near Višegrad was destroyed with help of British sappers commanded by British Major Archie Jack.[23]

Aftermath

The BBC credited communist forces of Yugoslav Partisans for the successful anti-Axis campaign of Chetniks in Višegrad.[24] The BBC did not make any corrections although the people and institutions who protested because of this misinformation included Kenneth Pickthorn and officials of Yugoslav government in exile in London.[25] After the capture of Višegrad, the Chetniks also captured Rogatica on 14 and 15 October and killed more than 200 Axis soldiers.[26] The BBC again credited communist forces with this success.[27] The Chetnik forces then advanced toward Sokolac, using arms captured from Germans and Ustaše who retreated together with many Muslim civilians who also suffered substantial casualties during Chetnik chase of Ustaše and German forces.[28] When Chetniks attacked Axis forces in Sokolac on 21 October 1943, the Partisans attacked them from rear.[29] In his report Mihailović emphasized that this was the best proof that communists closely collaborated with Ustaše and Germans.[30]

References

  1. ^ (Karchmar 1973, p. 526):"During the Cetnik offensive in East Bosnia in October 1943, the High Command was in the area of Visegrad and Dobrun"
  2. ^ (Petovar & Trikić 1982, p. 398):"Акци]ом ]е руководио Захари]е Осто]ић, а командант снага ко]е су кренуле из западне Срби]е био ]е Драгослав Рачић. Напад четника ]е извршен на Вишеград."
  3. ^ (Ford 1992, p. 20)
  4. ^ (Tomasevich 1975, p. 184)
  5. ^ (Ford 1992, p. 20)
  6. ^ (Pešić 2002, p. 87):"Demolished Railway Bridge near Visegrad in Bosnia. Col. Albert Seitz, the chief of American Mission and General Charles Armstrong, the chief of British Mission SOE took part in the action."
  7. ^ Congressional Record: Proceedings and Debates of the ... Congress. U.S. Government Printing Office. 1967. p. 34855.
  8. ^ Glimpses of Walter Mansfield. Federal Bar Foundation. 1995. p. 58. At dawn on 4 October 1943, the attack was launched with heavy mortars, light artillery and small arms fire.
  9. ^ (Николић 2009, p. 444)
  10. ^ (Николић 2009, p. 444)
  11. ^ (Николић 2009, p. 444)
  12. ^ (Charters & Tugwell 1990, p. 73)
  13. ^ (Mattingly 1989, p. 77)
  14. ^ (Mattingly 1989, p. 77)
  15. ^ (Mattingly 1989, p. 77)
  16. ^ (Mencken 1944, p. 201)
  17. ^ (Mencken 1944, p. 201)
  18. ^ (Rootham & Димитријевић 2004, p. 230)
  19. ^ NIN: nedeljne informativne novine. Politika. March 2008. p. 11. Био је то најдужи мост у земљи срушен од стране герилаца
  20. ^ The Marine Corps Gazette. Marine Corps Association. 1946. p. 16. Over 2,500 guerrillas were gradually massed with their arms in the woods south of Visegrad.
  21. ^ (Ford 1992, p. 21)
  22. ^ (Николић 2009, p. 444)
  23. ^ (Pešić 2002, p. 86)
  24. ^ (Charters & Tugwell 1990, p. 73)
  25. ^ (Charters & Tugwell 1990, p. 73)
  26. ^ (Charters & Tugwell 1990, p. 73)
  27. ^ (Charters & Tugwell 1990, p. 73):"Once more, the Partisans were credited with the attack."
  28. ^ (Živković 1997, p. 204):"Големе снаге Равногораца, са пуно камиона, бацача и топова отетих од Нщемаца и усташа надирале су у октобру 1943. од Рогатице ка Сокоцу, тjераjу!m Нщемце и усташе..."
  29. ^ (Николић 2009, p. 445)
  30. ^ (Николић 2009, p. 445):"Ово нека послужи као најбољи доказ свима да су комунисти у пуној сарадњи са усташама и Немцима"

Sources