Operation Balkanschlucht

Balkan gorge

This was a German operation against the partisan forces of Josip Broz Tito’s Yugoslav II Assault Corps and the Italian ‘Venezia’ Partisan Division (latterly Generale di Brigata Carlo Isasca’s 19th Divisione montagna ‘Venezia’ before its change of sides on 10 October 1943) in German-occupied Yugoslavia (15/23 October 1943).

The German planning was initially centred on only the partisan forces, and began on 7 October with orders issued by General Paul Bader’s (from 10 October General Gustav Fehn’s) XXI Gebirgskorps to Generalleutnant Josef Kübler’s 118th Jägerdivision and Generalleutnant Friedrich-Wilhelm Deutsch’s 297th Division to concentrate in the valleys of the Lim and Tara rivers against the Yugoslav II Assault Corps.

With the support of local anti-communist forces, the operation began on 15 October as the 118th Jägerdivision advanced from Podgorica toward Kolasin and the 297th Division moved from Peci toward Andrijevica and Berane, the object of the two divisions being to drive the Yugoslav II Assault Corps (2nd ‘Dalmatia’ Assault Brigade of the 2nd Proletarian Assault Division and the 4th Proletarian Assault Brigade of the 3rd Assault Division supported by the ‘Zeta’ Partisan Detachment) from the road between Pec and Podgorica and to surround parts of what was now the five-brigade Italian ‘Venezia’ Partisan Division inside Berane.

The operation made some progress on the ground, and while the partisan forces suffered some casualties they were nonetheless able to evade the main weight of the German operation.