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The Croatian Naval Legion


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#1 JCFalkenbergIII

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Posted 24 June 2008 - 03:56 AM

The Croatian Naval Legion

Soon after Pavelic's call for Croatian volunteers to fight on the Eastern Front went out on July 2nd 1941, enough naval officers and men came forward to form the Croatian Naval Brigade. This Brigade had all together 343 members, of which 23 were officers, 220 NCO's and 100 sailors.

It is interesting to note that Italy had vetoed the forming of a Croatian national Navy that would serve in the Adriatic Sea, so all of the best naval personnel in Croatia stepped forward into German service. (The Italians had no problems with the formation of a Croatian Legion unit that would serve on the Eastern Front).

Shortly after formation, the Brigade received the title "Croatian Naval Legion" (Hrvatska Pomorska Legija), and became a part of the German Navy (Kriegsmarine). The first commander was Frigate Captain Andro Vrkljan. He was later replaced by Battleship Captain Stjepan Rumenovic.

The Naval Legion was sent for training to Varna, Bulgaria, on the Black Sea. Upon arrival in Varna on July 17th 1941, the Croatian Legionnaires received their uniforms and started with training on German minesweepers and submarines, as they were to be the future crews of these ships in the Black Sea. The training during this period, over and above the required naval training on the boats, consisted of infantry training, signals training, rowing, and German language instruction. German Admiral Schuster was one of the dignitaries that paid a visit to the Croatian Legionnaires during their training in Bulgaria.

Training was completed on September 22nd 1941, and on the same day the Legion set off for the Soviet Union, where they arrived on the 30th of September 1941. The official military designation for the Legion was 23.Minesuch-Flottilla, or 23rd Minesweeping Flotilla.

At the end of September 1941, the Legion was stationed in Geniscek. The town was fortified shortly after the unit arrived and patrolling commenced - both shore patrols and patrols along the coastline. A report from this period indicated that the Croatian sailors were "eager to do battle".

An attack on Geniscek in late 1941 by the Soviets was destroyed thanks to Luftwaffe intervention. At the time only the Croatian Legion, a squad of Romanian cavalry and a small German garrison were present to defend the town. The Winter was passed in digging bunkers, and keeping warm. During this period Captain Vrkljan of the Legion was travelling with a German inspection team throughout the region. Amongst other adventures, the Inspection team fought as infantry in the town of Teodozija during a Soviet attack. During these long, cold, boring Winter months, the Soviets attempted to destroy the troop moral by continuously dropping propaganda leaflets, which, among other things, poked fun at the Germans for having a bad Christmas, and trying to convince them that only surrender will bring about the possibility of ever having another good one. All leaflets ended with "Long live Moscow! Down with Hitler". The Croatian Legionnaires used the leaflets in their stoves.

At the begining of April 1942, the ice in the Geniscek harbour finally began to loosen, and the Croatians prepared to depart from Geniscek. Being well liked by the locals, the Town Council of Geniscek named a street "Hrvatska" (Croatia) in their honor.

By mid-April, the ice was almost gone, and the Croatian ships could once again set sail. Mines were ordered placed around the harbour entrance as a defense against possible Soviet attack, however, in a catastrophic accident during the laying of the mines, 25 Croatians were killed and 2 boats destroyed. On May 25th 1942, the Croatian naval flotilla sailed out of Geniscek. They had manned their positions in this small town for 8 months, and had defended it from all attacks with poise and courage, and had sustained minimal losses.

In August of 1942, the Legion was at Marinpol. The Legion at this time had 31 MFK's (Motorfischkuter), and 35 other motor boats under their command. Including the command ship "Tovaris" (captured from the Soviet navy) and other smaller boats, the Legion was 130 boats strong. The Legion's commander, besides his Croatian crews, also commanded 200 German sailors that had been assigned to the Legion. The German contingent was commanded by Ensign Plautz.

Just prior to New Years Eve, 1942, the Legion transfered their ships to new crews, and were sent to Croatia for rest. After this, they were sent to Germany for further training, and after this back to Varna. In October of 1943, the Legion was transferred to Trieste, where men of the Legion were assigned to various Kriegsmarine ships, thereby officially ending the Croatian's service as a single unit of the German Navy.

It is interesting to note that, during their tour of duty in the Crimea, Sea of Azov and the Black Sea, the Croatians managed to recruit into their ranks several former Red Army sailors of Ukrainian nationality. Some of these Ukrainians brought their ships with them to the Croatians!

A Croatian Coastal Artillery Battery was also attached to the Legion in the summer of 1943.

The Croatian Legionnaires wore regular Kriegsmarine uniforms with only the red-white checkerboard shield of Croatia on their left arm to distinguish them. The coastal artillery wore German field grey, with the arm-shield.


Feldgrau :: Croatian Volunteers in the Wehrmacht in WWII
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#2 JCFalkenbergIII

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Posted 03 September 2008 - 03:43 AM

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