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"
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.