Operation Audrey

This was the Allied delivery of supplies and matériel across the Adriatic Sea to support the partisan forces of Marshal Josip Broz Tito in German-occupied Yugoslavia (15 October 1943/early 1944).

After the Allied ‘Avalanche’ invasion of the Italian mainland and the Italian armistice with the Allies in September 1943, the situation in this theatre comprised the Allied possession of southern Italy and the partisan occupation of many islands off the Dalmatian coast of Yugoslavia, and also of several strongholds along the coast of Dalmatia, although these were being quickly retaken by the Germans. This presented the opportunity for the Allies to ship significant quantities of weapons to the partisan forces by sea in succession to the earlier arrangement whereby smaller quantities (107 tons to the Četnik forces commanded by General Dragoljub ‘Draza’ Mihailović and 82.5 tons to the partisans between July and September) had been delivered by air.

‘Audrey’ was schemed by a group of officers working for the US Office of Strategic Services, and was initially approved on 12 September. After receiving the support of the head of the OSS, William Joseph Donovan, the launch of the operation was agreed by the Allied high command in the theatre. By 9 October the OSS had secured berthing in the south-eastern Italian port of Bari for the operation, and started to carry out reconnaissances of the Dalmatian coast for the optimum locations at which weapons and supplies to be delivered. The Allied headquarters supplied the operation with 14 vessels transferred from the Royal Yugoslav government-in-exile.

On 16 October, Major Louis Huot and Lieutenant Robert S. Thompson, two of the operation’s three creators, and Sergei Makiedo, a representative of the Yugoslav VIII Corps, arrived in Podgora via Vis and Hvar islands for a meeting with the commander of the Yugoslav VIII Corps, and proceeded from there in a captured Italian staff car to Tito’s headquarters in Jajce for the conclusion of the formal arrangements. The quantity of supplies, and therefore the scale of the operation, grew rapidly, involving 25 vessels by November to 40 vessels in December, and the number of partisans involved in the unloading activities increased from 100 to 600.

OSS personnel who later became involved in ‘Audrey’ included Lieutenant (jg) Ward E. Ellen responsible for ship maintenance, and Lieutenant John Hamilton responsible for the organisation during December of a new Italian base for the operation at Monopoli. Between 15 October and 22 December it is claimed that 11,637 tons of supplies were sent to the Yugoslav partisan forces, although figure of 6,500 tons has been given by Captain Hans V. Tofte, the third of the operation’s ‘fathers’. Some 2,000 Yugoslav men were transferred from Italy as the strength of ‘overseas partisan brigades’, and 700 wounded partisan were evacuated alongside several thousands of refugees.