Operation Beogradska Operacija

Belgrade operation

The 'Beogradska Operacija' was the Yugoslav element of the joint Soviet and Yugoslav 'Belgrade Strategic Offensive Operation' by the forces of Marshal Josip Broz Tito for the liberation of Belgrade in Axis-occupied Yugoslavia (11/20 October 1944).

The strength of the German defence of Belgrade and Serbia was in general the result of from the reinforcement of the local garrisons by elements of Generaloberst Alexander Löhr’s Heeresgruppe 'E', which was being withdrawn from Greece, where its task had been occupation and the defence of the southern Balkans against any possible Allied landing.

The most direct line of withdrawal available to the formations of Heeresgruppe 'E' was the rail line connecting Thessaloníki and Belgrade via Nis, and also the good road network along the same general line using the many river valleys of the area. After Greek and Yugoslav guerrilla and partisan forces had made it difficult for the Germans to use these two primary routes, the route then adopted by the formations of Heeresgruppe 'E' was that between Kosovo to Sarajevo via Mostar. The number of German troops in Belgrade and Serbia was also swelled by other German formations pulling back from Bulgaria and from Romania up the line of the Danube river.

The Axis order of battle was based on General Hans Felber’s Armeegruppe 'Felber'. The major formations within this organisation were General Wilhelm Schneckenburger’s Korpsgruppe 'Schneckenburger' (from 13 October controlled directly by Felber after Schneckenburger had been mortally wounded) and the Korpsgruppe 'Stern'. Each of these formations had some 30,000 men, just 20,000 of those in Korpsgruppe 'Schneckenburger' being German, and the only armour available to the Armeegruppe 'Felber' was about 70 armoured fighting vehicles in the Korpsgruppe 'Schneckenburger'. This latter comprised parts of the 737th Jägerregiment of Generalleutnant August Wittmann’s 117th Jägerdivision, the 1/734th Jägerregiment of Generalleutnant Hartwig von Ludwiger’s 104th Jägerdivision, two battalions of the 750th Jägerregiment of Generalmajor Hubert Lamey’s 118th Jägerdivision, parts of Generalmajor Otto Sydow’s (later Oberst Dr Hermann Rudhart’s and from 30 October Oberst Johann-Wilhelm Döring-Manteuffel’s) 20th Flakdivision, the Kampfgruppe 'Dizner', the Kampfgruppe 'Jungenfeld', Hauptmann Heinrich Kollböck’s 191st Sturmgeschützbrigade, the Kampfgruppe 'Rudno', parts of Oberst Werner von Hillebrandt’s 92nd Panzergrenadierbrigade, three battalions of the 440th Festungsbrigade, the Regiment 'Festung Belgrade', three battalions of the 18th SS Polizeiregiment, two battalions each of the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 9th SS Polizeiregimenter, three battalions of the Feldgendarmerieersatzregiment, three battalions of the 146th Ersatzregiment, one replacement battalion of SS-Brigadeführer und Generalmajor der Waffen-SS Otto Kumm’s 7th SS Gebirgsdivision 'Prinz Eugen', the 28th Landesschützenbataillon, parts of the 5th SS Polizeiregiment (mot.), three companies of Panzerabteilung zbV 12, parts of the Panzerabteilung 202, the 38th Flakregiment (mot.), a number of other battalion- and company-sized units, elements of the Serb State Guard, elements of the Serb Volunteer Corps, and elements of the Russian Defence Corps.

The Korpsgruppe 'Stern' comprised Generalleutnant Walter Stettner Ritter von Grabenhofen’s (from 19 October Generalmajor August Wittmann’s) 1st Gebirgsdivision, the 2nd Regiment of the Panzergrenadierdivision 'Brandenburg', the 2/146th Ersatzregiment, the 738th Bataillon (turkestanische), one battalion of 88-mm (3.565-in) dual-role anti-aircraft and anti-tank guns of SS-Standartenführer Helmut Dörner’s 4th SS Polizeigrenadierdivision, one battery of the 913/38th Flakregiment (mot.), the Kampfgruppe 'Wittman' (92nd Grenadierbrigade reinforced with one SS flak battalion, one artillery battalion and one section of the 468th Panzeraufklärungsabteilung), the Sturmregiment 'Rhodos', the 2/737th Jägerregiment of the 117th Jägerdivision, the 116th Aufklärungsbataillon, the 44th Panzerabwehrbataillon, the 2nd Kompanie of the 191st Sturmgeschützbrigade, Abteilung 'Osterwitz' (two battalions of the 2nd Regiment of the Panzergrenadierdivision 'Brandenburg'), Abteilung 'Schercuberg' (one reinforced battalion of the 4th Regiment of the Panzergrenadierdivision 'Brandenburg') and a number of smaller units.

From 17 October the Korpsgruppe 'Stern' comprised the Kampfgruppe 'Wittman' (98th Gebirgsjägerregiment and 99th Gebirgsjägerregiment of the 1st Gebirgsdivision, and the remnants of the 737th Regiment), the Kampfgruppe 'Hilebrant' (92nd Grenadierbrigade, 1st and 2nd Regimenter of the Panzergrenadierdivision 'Brandenburg'), and the Kampfgruppe 'Langrok' (54th Jägerregiment, 116th Aufklärungsbataillon and 3rd SS Polizeiregiment).

Facing these German and allied forces were some 50,000 Yugoslav and 17,020 Soviet troops. The Yugoslav element was General-pukovnik Peko Đapčević's Yugoslav 1st Army Group, whose primary formations were Đapčević's own I Proletarian Corps and General-major Danilo Lekić's XII Assault Corps. The I Proletarian Corps comprised Pukovnik Vaso Jovanović's Yugoslav 1st Proletarian Division (1st, 3rd and 13th Proletarian Brigades and 8th 'Montenegrin' Brigade), Pukovnik Đoko Jovanović's 6th Proletarian Division 'Nikola Tesla' (1st, 2nd and 3rd 'Lika' Proletarian Brigades, and 22nd 'Serbia' Brigade), Pukovnik Milutin Morača’s 5th 'Krajina' Assault Division (1st, 4th and 10th 'Krajiska' Brigades, and 21st 'Serb' Brigade), Pukovnik Miloje Milojević's 21st 'Serb' Assault Division (2nd Proletarian Brigade, and 4th and 5th 'Serb' Brigades), and the 17th 'East Bosnia' Assault Division (2nd 'Krajiska' Brigade, 6th Proletarian Brigade, and 15th 'Majevica' Brigade).

The XII Assault Corps comprised Pukovnik Milo Siljegović's 11th 'Krajina' Assault Division (5th and 12th 'Krajiska' Brigades, and 32nd 'Serb' Brigade, Potpukovnik Marko Peričin-Kamenjar’s 16th 'Vojvodina' Assault Division (1st, 2nd and 4th 'Vojvodina' Brigades), Pukovnik Radojica Nenezić's Yugoslav 28th 'Slavonia' Assault Division (17th, 21st and 25th 'Slavonia' Brigades), and Potpukovnik Radoslav Jović's 36th 'Vojvodina' Assault Division (3rd, 5th and 6th 'Vojvodina' Brigades). Also under command, from the Yugoslav XIV Corps, was Potpukovnik Miladin Ivanović's 23rd 'Serbia' Assault Division.

Advancing from Romania, the Soviet army contributed from Marshal Sovetskogo Soyuza Fyedor I. Tolbukhin’s 3rd Ukrainian Front the men, 160 tanks, 21 self-propelled guns, 366 pieces of artillery and 31 aircraft of General Major Vladimir I. Zhdanov’s IV Guards Mechanised Corps (Soviet 36th Tank Brigade, 13th, 14th and 15th Mechanised Brigades, 230th Howitzer Artillery Regiment, 140th Mortar Regiment, 58th Guards Rocket Artillery Regiment, 42nd Anti-Tank Brigade, 22nd Anti-Aircraft Division and 218th Independent Engineer Battalion), LXXV Corps (73rd, 74th, 233rd and 236th Rifle Divisions), 5th Independent Motorised Rifle Brigade, part of the 109th Guard Division, the Danube Military Flotilla and, from General Leytenant Vladimir A. Sudets’s 17th Air Army, IX Mixed Air Corps (131st Fighter Division with 155 fighters, and 92nd Attack Division) supported by three other fighter divisions, two attack divisions and two bomber divisions.