Croatian Legion Military and Feldpost History
    Kroatien Shield

    369th Croatian Reinforced Infantry Regiment

    The independent state of Croatia was formed on 10 April 1941, ten days after the Axis invasion of Yugoslavia. Croatia being the chief beneficiary annexed Bosnia and Herzegovina, which is a Muslim state. Its founder was Ante Pavelic, political leader of the Ustasha party, which had nationalistic, catholic and anti-Serb policies. During the Russian campaign, Croatians volunteered to fight alongside Germany.
    A Croatian Legion composed of three infantry battalions was formed, two raised at Varazdin, and the other one formed of Bosnian Croats from Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina. In addition the legion had a staff company, an anti-tank company and a heavy weapons company, later an artillery group, with three batteries of 105mm guns, was added. The legion was designated as the "Verstarken Kroatischen Infanterie Regiment 369" (369th Croatian Reinforced Infantry Regiment). Reinforced because the regiment had its own artillery, beyond the regular issue infantry guns.

    The Croatians wore German uniforms with the coat-of-arms patch of twenty five red and white checkers beneath the legend "HRVATSKA" (Croatia).
    After training at Doellersheim camp near Vienna, Austria, the 3895 troop regiment was equipped and attached to the German "100. Jager Division" (100th Light Division) on the southern sector of the Eastern Front. The Legion was commanded by a Croatian Colonel Ivan Markulj but subordinated to the Germans. After three weeks of intensive training, the regiment was finally transported by train and sent to Bessarabia, Romania. Then it proceeded on a 750kms forced march through the Ukraine to reach the front-lines.

    By September 1941, the legion moved to Kharkov and fought effectively against partisans in the Stalino sector during the Russian winter counter-offensive of 1941/42. It took part in the advance of the German 6th Army from Voronezh to Stalingrad.

    Croatian Feldpost

    369th Infantry Feldpost

    Rare feldpost card mailed on April 11, 1942 by a Croatian volunteer of the 369th Infantry Regiment. Sender shows FPN 42050A indicating that he was assigned to the 2nd Battalion/5th Company. The feldpost card shows the unit seal and has been censored. By April 1942, the 369th Regiment was attached to the German 6th Army and already advancing towards the Don River.

    The 369th Infantry Regiment in Stalingrad

    After a year in existence, in July 1942, the regiment advance on the Don River at the collective farm Kolhoz near Selivanovo, members of the regiment fought often at close quarters defeating repeated Russian counter-attacks. The Croatians casualties were high 46 dead and 176 wounded.
    On 26 August 1942, the first reinforcements arrived from the training battalion in Stokerau and the regiment was sent to Glaskov for rest and refitting. On 22 September 1942, Colonel Viktor Pavicic replaced Col. Markulj as the CO of the regiment.

    On 25 September 1942, the 6th Army enters Stalingrad. The next day the regiment received orders to move out, arriving 14 hours later on the suburbs of Stalingrad. These Croatian volunteers fought on several of the hardest sectors inside the surrounded perimeter at Stalingrad, especially fought with extreme courage in the "Red October." Very few Croatians survived after the Russians overran their positions.
    By 13 October the regiment was down to one weak battalion and two independent companies consisting of only 983 men. On 6 November the remains of the regiment were attached to the German 212th Infantry Regiment. By the end of November there were only 5 Officers, 9 NCOs and 110 men left fighting. On 23 January 1943, 18 wounded Croatians were flown out of Stalingrad. They were the last Croatians to leave Stalingrad alive.

    Croatian Rgt

    By January 1943, German 6th Army surrendered to the Russians, who captured the last remnants of the 369th Croatian Regiment. Only less then 100 men lead by Lt-Col Mesic surrendered on 2 February 1943, at the building of the Soviet Airforce Academy.

    About 1000 wounded Croats were flown out to safety. After the Stalingrad disaster, a division of Croatian volunteers was created with former members of the regiment and volunteers from Croatia.

    These Stalingrad veterans were awarded a special Linden Leaf shaped badge, with the Croat checkerboard and the words "Hrvatska Legija-1941" (Croatian Legion). A sample of the badge is shown in my Croatian Legion Awards.

    In March 1943 the division, which carried the same designated number was formed as the"Kroatischen Infanterie Division 369." Although the formation was Croatian, many Officers and NCO's were German. Its commander was the German Lt-General Fritz Nieholdt. This division was committed to fight Tito's partisans in Yugoslavia.

    In late 1944 two more units under German cadre were created, designated the 373rd & 392nd Infantry Divisions. These three divisions were deployed against Tito's partisans. The personnel of these divisions wore German Army uniforms with the checkerboard national emblem beneath the legend "HRVATSKA"(Croatia). On their headgear they sometimes wore a gold oval badge with the letters "NDH" (for Independent State of Croatia) or coat-of-arms shield.

    The Croatians were also, recruited by Italians who controlled coastal and certain sectors of Croatia. A contingent of 1200 volunteers was attached to the Italian 8th Army. The formation was known as the "88. Legione Croata Autotransportabile." These Croatians wore Italian Army uniforms. In addition, in May 1943 a Croatian legion was being raised (about four months before the collapse of the Italian army). This legion was sent to Lake Gorda in northern Italy, where it was formed into a 1800 man combat regiment of two battalions, one artillery battalion an engineer company, and a replacement battalion. This regiment was located in the Italo-Slovene border and used for guard duty by the Germans when the Italians surrendered. Nevertheless the legion was sent to Stockerau training camp, where the regiment was disbanded. Its men composed of Croatians and Italians were used to reinforce the Croatian 369th, 373rd and 392nd Infantry Divisions.

    A Croatian Naval Legion was formed in 1941. About 1000 volunteers were placed in some 60 light vessels left behind by the Russians. This makeshift flotilla, badly equipped carried out coastal security duties in the black sea. With the fall of Mussolini in 1943, the Croatian fleet was almost disbanded. However still under German domination, the Croatian fleet managed to operate in the Andriatic sea with German and Italian vessels under the German flag.

    The "Kroaten-Staffeln" Croatian Air Force was also formed in late 1941. It was composed of a fighter squadron and a bomber squadron. The squadrons were equipped respectively with Me109bf's and the Do17's. They were attached to the German fighter groups JG52 and JG53. The fighter group was commanded by Oberst Franjo Dzal. The Air Force saw action over many sectors; the bombers raiding Moscow at one point while the fighters saw action in the Caucasus. In mid-1944 the Croatian airmen returned to their own country to help stop the partisan threat.

    Croatian Postal History

    Postal History:Initially Croatian and Italian volunteers serving in German units paid for postage. By 24 July 1942, the Croatian government made an agreement with Germany that postcards and letters weighing from 100gms up to 250gms could be sent through the Feldpost service between members of the German and Croatia forces. Airmail service was free of charge, special Luftfeldost labels were provided to each soldier. A postal charge of 20Rpf in Germany and 7.50Kuna in Croatia was applied to packages weighing from 250gms to 1000gms.

    Feldpost numbers were assigned to all Croatian formations.

    It should be noted that Croatians serving in Italian units were assigned Italian Posta Militare (PM) fieldpost numbers.
    All mail was subject for inspection and censorship by Germany and Croatia.

    The following is an organizational Feldpost listing of the 369th Infantry Regiment. This unit fought during the summer 1941 to winter 1942:

    Feldpost numbers were assigned to all Croatian formations.

    It should be noted that Croatians serving in Italian units were assigned Italian Posta Militare (PM) fieldpost numbers.
    All mail was subject for inspection and censorship by Germany and Croatia.

    The following is an organizational Feldpost listing of the 369th Infantry Regiment. This unit fought during the summer 1941 to winter 1942:

    Regimental Staff 40508
    I Battalion (1-4 Co.) 41457 A-E
    II Battalion (5-8 Co.) 42050 A-E
    III Battalion (9-12 Co.) 43170 A-E
    13 Company 44152
    14 Company 44926
    Column 45484
    Croatian Feldpost

    Above are two feldpost covers mailed by Croatian volunteers. The top cover is dated November 1943 to Wr. Neustadt, Austria where the Croatian Flak Legion was in training.
    Below is another cover mailed in February 1944 to the Croatian Flak unit located in Oldenburg.

    369th Infantry Division Feldpost

    When the 369th Infantry Regiment was destroyed during the battle of Stalingrad a new 369th Infantry Division was formed in December 1942.
    This division was referred as the "Devil's Division" and was composed of mostly veterans of the 369th Inf. Rgt.
    The following feldpost numbers were assigned:

    369th. Div. Hdqtrs. 17796
    Grenadier Rgt. 369 Staff Rgt. 21425 A-E Staff Grenadier Rgt. 370
    1st. Battalion (1-4 Co.) 15183 A-D 1st. Battalion (1-4 Co.) 25808 A-D
    II Battalion (5-8 Co.) 19762 A-D II Battalion (5-8 Co.) 26323 A-D
    III Battalion (9-12 Co.) 13549 A-D III Battalion (9-12 Co.) 27388 A-D
    Staff Rgt. (13-14 Co.) 12923 A-B 13th. Company 22351
    369th Reconn.Unit Staff 23521 14th. Company 23274
    1st. Motorcycle Squad 24358 Engineer Battalion 369
    2nd. Motorcycle Squad 03836 Staff 26373
    3rd. Motorcycle Squad 25711 1st. Company 27165
    369th,Artillery Rgt.   2nd. Company 28975
    Staff Rgt. & Field Battr 30428 3rd. Company 05369
    I Battalion (1-3 Co.)   Column 29559
    with Coast Battr. 3A 14305 Anti-tank Unit
    II Btl. & Coast   Staff 18676
    Battr. 6A (4-6 Co.) 31151 A-C 1st.Company 19587
    III Battalion (7-8 Co.)   2nd. Company 22374
    with Coast Battr. 8A 32040 A-B Training Brigade Mixed Reserve
    SIgnal Unit 369 Staff 41059 Btl. (1-2) Eng. Co. 57630*
    1st. Company 42522 Training Bgd. Conv. Unit 58207
    2nd. Company 43710 XVII Battalion Staff 34311
    1st. Motor Ambulance Plat. 45006 Bakery Company 47101
    2nd. Motor Ambulance Plat. 44105 Military Police 47380
    Medical Company 46276 Motor Vehicle Repair Co. 39602
    Veterinary Company 42963 Field Reserve Battalion 57588
    Butcher Company 46007 Administrated Company 45960
    Croatian Special French-Arab Co. 33309
    Croatian Mountain Brigade   Supply Transport 369
    (German Trained) Battalion 1 11693 Small Motor Transport 34283
    Croatian Mountain Brigade   2nd. Transp. Col. 35308
    (German Trained) Battalion 2 04767 2nd. Transp. Squad 38541
    Croatian Mountain Brigade   3rd. Transp. Squad 36016
    (German Trained) Battalion 3 08868 4th. Transp. Col. 37465
    Supply 40365
    Reserve Training Units  
    Light Artillery Unit 46511
    Training Brigade 59875
    I Battalion 56478
    II Battalion 59099
    III Battalion 57364
    IV Battalion 56925
    Reserve Regiment 41700
    Training Artillery Brigade 56756
    Training Artillery Res. Rgt. 26455
    Croatian Feldpost

    The cover above was mailed in 1944 from FPN 57364E, indicating the the volunteer was in the 369th Inf. Div./Training Brigade/3rd Btl.
    Below is another cover with senders FPN 56925B (369th Inf.Div./Training Brigade/4th Btl.

    Croatian 373rd & 392nd Infantry Division Feldpost

    In September 1943, the 373rd & 392nd Infantry Divisions were formed. The 373rd Infantry Division was referred as the Tiger Division and was under the command of Lt-General Emil Zellner, a German. This division fought against Tito's partisans however, it suffered continuous desertion of its personnel.

    The 392nd Infantry Division was formed in Croatia on October 1943 and trained in Austria. It was a German-Croatian Division serving on line communications duties, fighting partisans in south of Karlovac, Croatia. This unit was unreliable with lots of desertions.
    Both divisions were assigned feldpost numbers.

    Note: At this moment feldpost numbers assigned to the 373rd & 392nd Infantry Divisions will not be posted.

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