Operations and War Crimes of the 8th Dalmatian Corps

Operations and War Crimes of the 8th Dalmatian Corps


World War 2 in Yugoslavia was a case of constant war crimes of everyone against everyone else. Germans, Italians, Ustashi, Chetniks, Partisans were all busy murdering civilians, and even Allies got on into the act on occasion.

Reason for this were multiple, but can be roughly divided into several categories: ideological, political, military and emotional. Ideologically, murder was carried out to get rid of the undesireables. For Nazis, Ustashi and Chetniks, undesireables were ethnic and political groups that were seen as hostile. For Partisans, undesireables were primarily ideological and class groups seen as hostile, but that definition could expand to encompass ethnic qualification as well. Politically, murders could be used as a fundamentally election campaign. Ustashi, Partisans and Chetniks killed people who were opposed to them politically. Partisans and possibly German special forces would also sometimes carry out war crimes as a part of propaganda and recruitment campaign, donning other side’s uniforms in order to later recruit victims to their own side.

This article will limit itself to war crimes of the 8th Dalmatian Partisan Corps.


Final operations of Yugoslav forces in the western Herzegovina began in October 1944. Following the capture of Dubrovnik, the command Staff of the 29th Division decided that subordinate brigades should as soon as possible reach the Neretva Valley, capture Stolac, Metković and Čapljina, and thus create conditions for the capture of Nevesinje, western Herzegovina and Mostar. On 26th October 1944., 14th Brigade captured Stolac, while 13th Brigade captured Donje Hrasno, Dračevo, Višiće and Prebilovci. 12th Brigade captured Metković and Gabela, as well as Čapljina the next day. On 29th October the 14th Brigade cut off the Ljubuški – Mostar road, while Western Herzegovina Detachment captured Ljubuški.

Communists soon formed the Provincial Board of the People’s Liberation Movement (PO NOP) for Western Herzegovina. The Board created a list of all suspect and/or dangerous individuals that were to be eliminated. This list contained 160 Catholic laymen from Čapljina and Ljubuško, a number of priests and 44 Franciscan monks. Soon, 60 laymen were killed in Čapljina and 58 in Ljubuško, while some had managed to escape. Execution of priests was delayed until after the capture of Mostar, as it would have caused unfavorable public opinion.

In 1944., a conference was held by Partisans on which decision was made to kill all monks from Franciscan monastery in Široki Brijeg, and the village itself was to be destroyed. Partisan OZN (Odjeljenje za Zaštitu Naroda – Detachment for Protection of People) had singled out the Catholic Church as an irredeemable enemy that was to be destroyed with prejudice. At the same time, Partisan IX Division was active in Herzegovina, where it “requisitioned” supplies from peasants by force. XXIX Division replaced it, and immediately complaints of partisans raping people began.

Following the end of “liberation” of Dalmatia in December 1944., VIII Dalmatian Corps did not participate in larger operations. Its 9th Dalmatian Division was sent to relieve the forces holding the frontline south of Mostar. 4th Brigade was also sent to Neretva – Jara line., with majority of forces concentrated on defending the Mostar – Čitluk road. Political comissars were busy promoting “brotherhood and friendship” of Serbs and Croats. But the attention was still primarily on the battlefield.

During the night of 2nd to 3rd January 1945. the units of the 2nd Dalmatian Brigade crossed Neretva near the destroyed bridge in Čapljina and continued towards Ljubuško where they spent several days resting. On the 5th January the entire brigade was in the Cerov Dolac – Gruda area. Report of the 9th Division HQ from 12 January 1945 notes that the “enemy forces with significant Ustashi elements, local Ustashi police, as well as the Black Legion, recruited in this area, with support of the clergy and the local community, are attempting to maintain themselves there, and fill their numbers with forced mobilization while robbing and carrying out crimes against the population”.

By order of the Headquarters of the 9th Division from 5th January 1945., the 2nd Dalmatian Brigade was ordered to relieve the elements of 3rd Brigade and cleanse the area of hostile elements. Task of the 3rd and 4th Brigade was to prevent Croatian Armed Forces from acting towards Čapljina and Ljubuško. 2nd Brigade suffered heavy casualties and on 23rd January had to withdraw towards Imotski and Posušje, where it remained until 4th February.

Meanwhile several war crimes had been recorded in Herzegovina. Six men were shot near graveyard in Mamići by the 2nd Dalmatian Brigade commanded by Bruno Vuletić. Exact count of the dead was difficult as Partisans had burnt the parish registers as well as the Franciscan library. Overall, 388 victims or 12,94% of the population of the area had been recorded, of which 139 soldiers and 45 civilians died during the war and 444 soldiers and 130 civilians after the war’s end.

Preparation of the Mostar Operation

Area of Široki Brijeg, Mostar and Nevesinje was under command of the German Army Group E, with organization of defense being assigned to the Headquarters of the 21st Mountain Corps, located in Sarajevo. In this area were located units of the 369th Legionary Division, 9th Croatian Mountain Division, Italian “San Marco” legion, the Black Legion (1st Ustashi Standing Corps), and other Ustashi and Chetnik units with 30 battalions in total, as well as one company of 181st Jaeger Division, for a total of 20 000 men. Overal command was held by the commander of the 369th Legionary Division, German General-Major Georg Reinecke.

Combat began on 27th January with German and Croatian attack against the 4th Split Brigade, and took Ljubuški in the Operation Bora. German forces advanced on 28th January, but the 12th Herzegovina Brigade and the Corps of the People’s Defense managed to push them back to Čapljina – Ljubuški line. 4th Split Brigade of the 9th Division retreated in direction of Vrgorac, probably taking with it fra Maksimilijan Jurčić, who was murdered near Vrgorac.

When Croatian Armed Forces forces took Ljubuško, many people prepared them a warm welcome, as described in report of the Biokovo-Neretva Committee of the Communist Party of Croatia. Part of the reason, as described in the report, was the fact that many families had members that had been shot by Partisans. People secretly cooperated with NDH forces and also Imotski, Široki Brijeg and Mostar cooperated with each other.

On 30 January 1945., Headquarters of the VIII Corps had suggested – and the Supreme Headquarters of NOVJ accepted and ordered – transfer of majority of forces towards Mostar. Taking Mostar would serve to push German and Croatian forces back towards Sarajevo and Ivan-sedlo, which would secure the battlefield of the planned future offensive. This would also protect the rear of the VIII Corps when it went from Lika towards Soča.

VII Corps Headquarters was also given command of the 29th Herzegovina Division of the 2nd Montenegrin Corps and the 3rd Bosnian-Herzegovinan Brigade of KNOJ. Capture of Mostar was a task of 9th, 19th and 26th Divisions, while the 20th Division had been left in Lika to protect the rear area. With 1st Tank and the Artillery Brigade, force had a total of 40 000 soldiers.

According to the operational plan of the Headquarters of the of the VIII Corps, the Mostar operation would be carried out in two phases. In the first phase, majority of the forces of the VIII Corps (9th and 26th Division, Artillery Brigade and the 1st Tank Brigade) were to destroy Croatian and German forces in the area of Široki Brijeg and encircle Mostar from the West and North. In the second phase, Mostar was to be taken while 29th Herzegovina Brigade was to take Nevesinje and penetrate into the area of Široko polje north of Mostar, and towards Konjice and Jablanica. Air support was provided from Vis by the 1st and 2nd Squadron of NOVJ and Allied RAF Group in Southern Italy.

First Phase of Mostar Operation and Capture of Široki Brijeg

First phase of the Mostar Operation involved fighting for Široki Brijeg, Ljubuški and Čitluk, where there were some 6 000 Croatian and German soldiers of the 369th Legionary Division, 1st and 2nd Home Guard battalion, 2nd Ustashi battalion and other units.

26th Division was tasked with attacking along the line of Kočerin – Široki Brijeg – Knešpolje, and with one brigade securing the path to Rakitno. 9th Division was to surround Široki Brijeg and reach Knešpolje with one brigade while leaving second to secure the left flank of the 26th Division. Artillery and Tank Brigades supported the attack of the 26th Division, attack of the 19th Division with 12th Brigade of the 29th Division from the southern side along the line of Čitluk – Varda – Mostar, and attack of the 29th Division onto Nevesinje and Blagaj from East and entering Mostar. One of the aims was to have 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 11th and 12th Dalmatian Brigade penetrate into the area of Knešpolje, cutting off the retreat towards Mostar and destroying Croatian and German units in Široki Brijeg.

On 6th February 1945. at 7 o’clock, 1st, 11th and 12th Dalmatian Brigade supported by the 1st Tank Brigade went on to attack. Some success had been achieved along the line of Kočen – Široki Brijeg, where attack was being carried out by the 1st Dalmatian and the 1st Tank Brigades, but the defences were not penetrated. Maneuver of 12th Brigade of the 26th Division and 2nd and 3rd Brigades of the 9th Division allowed them to penetrate into area of Knešpolje and cut off defenders from Mostar. In response, Germans sent a battalion from Mostar, which penetrated the lines of the 2nd Dalmatian Brigade and succeeded in linking up with units in Široki Brijeg. This forced the VIII Corps to retreat from Knešpolje.

The attack continued on the 7th February. While the plan of the attack had remained the same, new units had been introduced into combat. Second attack by the 26th Division with 1st, 11th and 12th Brigade and supported by tanks produced better results. German and Croatian forces were forced into a limited space and while they managed to escape the encirclement, suffered heavy losses, setting up a new defense line at Mikuljača and Jastrebinka.

At the same time, the 19th Division, reinforced by 12th Brigade of the 29th Division, was operating to the south of Mostar, between Mostarsko blato and Neretva. On the left side of Neretva, 11th Brigade of 29th Division was pressuring Konjic, while 14th Brigade had reached the mountain foot of Veleže. Meanwhile, 10th and 13th Brigade of the 29th Division, one tank battalion and an artillery battalion were assembled for the attack on Nevesinje, Buna and Blagaj. Having taken Široki Brijeg, units of the 9th, 19th and 26th Division reached Mostar. Between 8th and 12th February lasted preparations for the attack on Mostar.

Operations of the 11th Dalmatian Brigate and Capture of Široki Brijeg Monastery

On 30th January 1945., the 11th Brigade received orders to transfer its forces to the Split – Gradac – Vrgorac direction, which was achieved through 31st January and 1st February. In that time units of the 4th Brigade had established frontline on the river of Trebiža and secured the direction of Ljubuški – Crveni Grm – Vrgorac. First and Fourth Battalion of the 11th Brigade were sent towards Vidin on 31th January, where they linked up with the Battalion of National Defense. By 3nd February, 2nd and 3rd Battalion of the 11th Brigade had arrived to the area around Vitina. Around Počelj on the left shore of Neretva were assembling the elements of the 29th Herzegovina Division, units of KNOJ and part of the 1st Tank Brigade with a total of 3 000 soldiers. Croatian Armed Forces abandoned Čapljina on 3rd February and retreated along the direction of Čitluk – Mostar, with Čapljina being taken on the same day by the 12th Herzegovina Brigade and the Brigade of KNOJ. Two priests and a nun were killed by the Partisans in Gabela and Čapljina.

Units of the 4th Brigade crossed into Trebižat on 4th February, and entered Ljubuški at 12 o’clock, which had been abandoned by the Croatian forces. Croatian troops were also accompanied by the priests, including many whose names were present on the Partisan pre-prepared execution lists. This was a good idea, as following the capture of Čapljina and Ljubuški, Partisans seem to have considered it of utmost importance to murder the Franciscans. According to OZNA, by 8th February some 60% of population of the areas of Čapljina and Ljubuški had escaped towards Mostar.

On 4th February the 1st Brigade arrived to Kočerin. Third overseas brigade secured the direction of Rakitno – Vukojevo – Izbično. On the same day, 11th Brigade was ordered to move to Buhovo and organize attack from southern side onto Široki Brijeg. 1st Brigade attacked Kočerin directly, supported by a tank company of the 1st Tank Brigade. 12th Brigade attacked from the left, 11th Brigade attacked from the direction of Buhovo. Third Overseas Brigade was ordered to take Ljubotići and protect against counterattacks from rakitno. 2nd and 3rd Brigade of the 9th Division protected the flanks. Two battalions of the 13th Dalmatian Brigade were assigned to the 9th Division, on the right flank of the 11th Brigade.

11th Brigade was ordered by the division HQ to eliminate enemy positions in the monastery complex and the gymnasium. Artillery was ordered to bombard the monastery in Široki Brijeg, while other targets were to be shelled at request. Monastery was to be attacked by the 2nd Battalion of the 11th Brigade. Monastery itself was turned into a fortified strongpoint, defended by the members of the 370th Regiment and an Ustashi battalion, some 250 soldiers in all. Artillery positions were also near the monastery.

Consequently, monastery and the gymnasium were damaged in the artillery bombardment carried out from 1st to 5th February 1945. Church itself was hit some 296 times.

In the night of 5th to 6th February, 2nd and 4th Battalion of the 11th Brigade went on to attack Široki Brijeg. By morning the 4th Battalion had reached the minefield in front of the monastery while 2nd Battalion had taken the village of Mokro. Attempts to take the monastery failed due to minefield and wire defences, and 2nd Battalion also stalled at village of Pribinović. 3rd Brigade managed to take village of Uzarići, but the 1st Brigade failed to enter Široki Brijeg. 12th Brigade took Čavar and Dubrava, but had to return to Lončar – Mosor, and thus assault on Široki Brijeg had to be postponed. 2nd Brigade reached the area of Knešpolje, while Third Brigade spent night at Ljuštica – Turčinovići line. Meanwhile, 19th Division was reinforced with 12th Herzegovina Brigade, and cleansed the area of Croatian forces and the Muslim militias, reaching the Kruševo – Ljuti Dolac – Biograci line.

In the period from 6th to 8th February 1945., some 30 civilians were killed by partisans in the wider area of Uzarić. Before the assault on Široki Brijeg, 3rd Brigade took up positions in village of Turčinovići while the 13th Brigade did the same in village of Jare. On 7th February, 3rd Brigade relocated from Uzarići to Knešpolje where it continued its crimes against the civilian population. Three people were killed in a small village of Solde, while 10 civilians and some 30 German prisoners – all from Čitluk – were killed in Barbarića Ograda. Another 10 civilians were killed in Široki Brijeg and 7 in Družice.

During the day of 6th of February, Partisan artillery and tanks bombarded the monastery and gymnasium, while 14 civilians were killed in Grabova Draga. During these events present was 4th Battalion of the 2nd Brigade of the 9th Division, joined during combat by the 2nd Battalion of the same brigade. Control of Grabova Draga was then given to the 4th and 5th Battalions of the 2nd Brigade. These finally took the positions on the line of Goranci – Odolj, and came into conflict with a column of 600 members of the Croatian Armed Forces. 1st Battalion remained in reserve near village of Gradac. 2nd Brigade had to pull its forces back towards Metkovići – Radeljkovina – Grabova Draga. Croatian Armed Forces however circled around the 2nd Battalion, penetrating Partisan positions in direction of Grabova Draga – Gornji Gradac – Donji Gradac, forcing a withdrawal.

During the night of 6th / 7th February, preparations were carried out for the attack on Široki Brijeg. One brigade of 19th Division was to secure a bridgehead on Lištica, while another was to cut off Croatian and German forces a retreat towards Mostar.

Attack was continued in the early morning of 7th February, with general assault commencing in the 5 in the morning. British air force bombarded the monastery complex in support of the partisan attack, destroying the southern belfry turret. Meanwhile partisans entered the monastery itself, where allegedly armed monks offered resistance. Ivan Špika alleged that monks were killing partisans with machine guns, despite the fact that Špika himself was in Split at time of the attack. Eleven monastery inhabitants had been killed. Partisans spread the word that they had been killed fighting against the partisans. This was an obvious lie since they were killed on 8th of February, some ten hours after the end of fighting, and some of the victims were not even present in the monastery during the combat. Partisan reports after combat also indicate that the policy of systematic murder of Franciscan monks had begun as early as 1942.

In order to justify murders, OZN stated that Franciscans had helped organize attempt by the Croatian Armed Forces to penetrate partisan lines from Mostar towards Široki Brijeg. Franciscans also allegedly organized a widespread popular uprising which had attacked partisan units in the area of Široki Brijeg – Ljubiški – Čapljina – Mostar. UNS (Ustashi Supervision Service) and GESTAPO were also allegedly supported by the Catholic Church, which was singled out as the most dangerous enemy. 1st Croatian Division of KNOJ noted that in operations around Ljubuško during January 1945., partisan units were receiving fire from the houses, but threw the enemy back with a counterattack. Enemy was thrown back, and Široki Brijeg and Mostar taken, and villages that had resisted were punished.

Fra Marko Dragičević, who witnessed capture of the Franciscan monastery, negated Partisan claims of having received fire from the monastery. He explained that it was physically impossible for anyone from the gymnasium to have shot at the partisans, since the church blocked line of sight from it. Fra Borislav Pandžić had opened the doors of the monastery to prevent the partisans from breaking them. Partisans entered the monastery, and forced the monks to step onto the painting of Ante Pavelić under threat of death. Monks were declared guilty and shot on spot, which was explained by them having shot at the partisans – despite the fact that one of the monks killed had been blind at the time, and several were incapable of leaving their beds due to illness. In all, twelve monks were killed under false accusations.

Pavao Prcela, member of the 1st Battalion of the 1st Brigade, noted that his unit was tasked with taking village of Cigansko Brdo in a valley near Lištica. They took the place after three days of heavy fighting. After having taken the village, order came from above to kill everybody in it – men, women, children, old folks. The order was carried out, and the partisans also slaughtered cattle. Similar actions were repeated few days later in Mostar. In fact, the entire division under general Dapčević had been ordered to murder people with no regard and at random. Rafael Radović, member of the 11th Brigade, also had similar testimony. He was told by a member of 11th Brigade how they had killed a group of some twenty Franciscans by throwing gas bombs into the basement; previously he also witnessed a murder of a Franciscan by an assigned agent of UDBA. He also noted that already several months before the fall of Široki Brijeg the partisan propaganda had been talking about how the Franciscan monks were shooting at partisans while nuns were throwing boiling water at them, and thus they all had to be killed. But Prcela noted that neither he nor any of the partisans he had met personally, ever had any unpleasant experiences with the monks – to the contrary, they were always helpful. Partisans in Herzegovina also murdered every single captured German, Italian or Ustashi soldier, as well as many captured members of the Croatian Home Guard. Many civilians were also killed. In one instance six young men – all under twenty years of age – from Ljubuško were murdered near Široki Brijeg.

Ivan Gugić, also a member of the 11th Brigade and a witness of crimes in Kočevski Rog, told how upon joining the brigade in April 1945., other soldiers told him that Usorac Mate, commander of the Reconaissance Platoon of the HQ of XI Dalmatian Brigade, was bragging how he and his platoon commanders had raped and beat the nuns after combat for the Široki Brijeg.

Ivan Prcela noted that the crime in Široki Brijeg is the best known pre-Bleiburg Partisan crime (other crimes did happen after Bleiburg). Partisans captured the monks, and soon before evening shot them, soaked bodies in diesel and then burned them. Alongside a dozen monks captured in the monastery itself (others were caught trying to escape), partisans found also some 20 to 30 wounded German soldiers. All were killed. Several priests and professors of the gymnasium were taken towards split and on 8th February killed near Zagvozd. Eight francescans who were killed there were previously tortured for a day in a burned-up house in Sudišće. This was done by the 4th Battalion of the 5th Brigade of the 1st Croatian Division od KNOJ. Battalion HQ with one company was providing security for OZN and its prison. Other elements with in Vrgorac, Ljubuški, Lovreć, Studenci, Aržan and Zagvozd.

At around 10 o’clock, 11th Brigade had taken the monastery complex while 12th and 1st Brigades continued their movement towards Knešpolje and took Cigansko brdo (Roma Hill) and the village of Lončar. By the end of the day the 26th Division had reached the line of Lukovača – D. Polog – Jastrebinka – Gorance, while 9th Division remained in the area of Široki Brijeg – Knešpolje – Gornji Gradac. 19th Division took positions at Uzarić, and Široki Brijeg. Knešpolje was taken during the night of 7th on 8th February, but already on 6th February the 12th Brigade had captured some 100 Axis troops in Knešpolje and sent them to the rear units.

Following the capture of Široki Brijeg, units of the 11th Brigade took positions in the wider area of the city, while the 1st Battalion continued to pursue German and Croatian forces in the direction of village of Dobrić. They reached the village on 8th of February, and from 10th the brigade is preparing for the Axis counterattack, fortifying the line of Goranci – Odolj – Jastrebinka – Vasina Kosa – Gradina – k.605 – Vlasnići – Lukavača. Its right flank is held by the 19th Dalmatian Division while the left flank is held by the 9th Dalmatian Division which is advancing towards Neretva north of Mostar. 26th Division positioned its 11th Dalmatian Brigade at the line of Mostar – Vlasnići – k. 605 – Gradina – Vlasina kosa, 12th Dalmatian Brigade at the line of Vasina kosa – Jastrebinka, 3rd Overseas Brigade at line of Goranci – Jastrebinka, 1st Dalmatian Brigade is in reserve at Široki Brijeg, and artillery in the area of Žvatić.

Following the cleansing of Široki Brijeg, units of the 26th Division moved eastwards towards Mostar, 11th Brigade took Polog, 3rd Brigade of the 9th Division Knešpolje, while the 2nd Brigade moved towards the villages of Goranci and Grabova Draga to cleanse the area of the Croatian forces. 2nd Brigade was positioned to the left of the 12th Brigade, at the line of Gornji Gradac – Cigansko Brdo – Knešpolje. On 9th February 1945., 12th Brigade was transferred to the area of Gostuše – Gornji Gradac, but Brigade’s whereabouts are unknown for the 8th February when six Franciscans from Mostarski Gradac had been killed near Vrljića ograda. However, nephew of the murdered fra Zvonko Grubišić, Ljubo Grubišić, testified that commander of the brigade that had executedthe Franciscans had been Gaće from Zagvozd, which would mean that it was indeed the 12th Brigade that had carried out the murders. Alongside the Franciscans, two Croatian soldiers and two civilians had also been killed. Youngest victim, Drago Vrljić, was 16 at the time.

In nearby village of Trn, a number of civilians were killed by partisans in the period between 7th and 9th February. Unit most likely active in the area was the 1st Dalmatian Brigade, though Tank Brigade of the VIII Corps may have been present instead.

Second Phase of the Mostar Operation and Capture of Mostar

Following the fall of Široki Brijeg, attacks were continued towards Jastrebinka, Hum and Mostar. Attack however had to be ceased due to a snowstorm, and continued on 13th February. 26th Division advanced from the west at route Široki Brijeg – Mostar, while 19th Division was at its right flank, moving along the route of Varda – Milinković – Mostar. Ninth Division was tasked with reaching the road and railway route Mostar – Jablanica to cut off Croatian and German troops in Mostar. 29th Herzegovina Division was attacking from southeastern side. First Tank Brigade was acting along the route of the right column, on the road Knešpolje – Mostar. 12th Herzegovina Brigade had earlier been subordinated to the 19th Division, and attention was also given to destroy Croatian-German defense in the narrows between Mostarsko blato and Neretva so as to open Mostar to attack from the south.

War crimes happened in concord with the operations. Between 10th and 13th February 1945., partisans killed some 70-odd Croatian civilians as well as five priests in the area of Ljubuški. Seven other priests were also killed in the wider area. This happened in the area of the 3rd Overseas Brigade of the 26th Division which was, during the attack on Široki Brijeg, securing the direction of Rakitno – Vukojevno – Izbično.

Attack on Mostar by the VIII Corps began in the morning of 13th February with a strong air attack. By noon, 12th Brigade had penetrated German-Croatian defences at Jastrebinka and nearly reached western side of Mostar. To its left, the 3rd Overseas Brigade had reached Mostar mine, but was thrown back. 11th Brigade too was initially unsuccessful in attack on Mikuljača and Keveljača, which were only taken following introduction of additional forces from 1st and 12th Brigades, as well as tanks, artillery and aviation. 19th Division took fortified strongpoint at Varda and linked up with 26th Division for a general assault on Mostar. During the night, 13th Herzegovina Brigade took Blagaj and continued onto Mostar. In the evening of the 13th February, units of the VIII Corps were at the western and southern sides of the city while 9th Division was covering them in direction of Drežnica and protecting the left flank of the units attacking Mostar.

In the morning of 14th February, last attack on Mostar began. Following the intense artillery bombardment, majority of the 26th Division (1st, 11th and 12th Brigade and 1st Tank Brigade) moved in against the city. Western part of the city was taken by the early afternoon, and around 17 hours the 12th Brigade and 1st Tank Brigade entered eastern part of the city. Immediately after entering the city Yugoslav authorities put together a list of “suspicious” individuals which were to be eliminated, and the “cleansing” begun but a few hours later. Some 32 Croatians were killed in the Rodoč on Mostar periphery. 12 women and children were murdered by Partisans in Buna by tying stones to their necks before throwing them into the river. At around 17:30, seven Franciscan monks were taken from the Mostar monastery, taken to Čekrk and murdered there.

Partisan political election campaign did not stop there. Some 80 civilians were killed in Posušje region, while 70 more were “disappeared”. In the Drinovac county, some dozen civilians were killed. In Ljubuško and its surroundings, 35 civilians were openly killed, while around 70 more were taken away and never seen or heard from again. Another 25 men were killed in Čapljina, while a group of 120 more were taken away and never seen again. In this group was also present the local pastor, who was later confirmed killed. Some 50 peasants were killed in Brotanj, while no certain numbers are known for people murdered in Široki Brijeg and Mostar. Many more people ran away. The result was an outright genocide and complete ethnic cleansing of Eastern Herzegovina, which had lost its Croatian ethnic corpus.

Disposition of Military Units Following the End of Mostar Operation

German Army and Croatian Armed Forces retreated towards Jablanica as the 2nd Dalmatian Brigade to the West and 29th Herzegovina Division to the east failed to cut off their retreat. German units that had managed to retreat towards Sarajevo were accepted by the 7th Waffen SS division. For the first three days they were being pursued by the 9th Division and the 1st Brigade of the 26th Division, and then by the 29th Division. Mostar operation ended with capture of Drežnica on 16th February, while capture of Ivan-sedlo by the 29th Division on 4th March ended the operations for conquest of Herzegovina.

Units of the VIII Corps remained in Mostar where soon arrived the representatives of the People’s Liberation Committee of Dalmatia headed by Vicko Krstulović as well as that of Bosnia and Herzegovina headed by Avdo Hum and others. HQ of VIII Corps also arrived from Imotski. Parade of Partisan units was held on 20th February. Following the several days of rest, VIII Corps was sent back to northern and central Dalmatia where preparations were underway for an offensive towards Lika, Gorski Kotar, Croatian shore, Istra and Trst. Only 29th Herzegovina division remained in Herzegovina alongside the Bosnian-Herzegovina Division of KNOJ. These units took over the duties of “cleansing” the conquered area from the “remnants of Ustasho-Chetnik bands” – which is to say, killing anyone who was politically inconvenient for the new Communist regime.

Mostar operation was specific because Josip Broz Tito and the Supreme Headquarters of NOV POJ (People’s Liberation Army and Partisan Detachments of Yugoslavia) were in direct command of the VIII Corps and the 29th Division, which was not the case in Knin operation, where the central command only gave general directions while operations planning was carried out by the command staff of the VIII Corps.



One thought on “Operations and War Crimes of the 8th Dalmatian Corps

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s