Operation Dünkirchen

Dunkirk

This was a German and Croat pair of operations (‘Dünkirchen I’ and ‘Dünkirchen II’) against the partisan forces of Marshal Josip Broz Tito in the Krašić region of the puppet state of Croatia in German-occupied Yugoslavia (27 June/17 July 1944).

Undertaken between 27 June and 2 July, ‘Dünkirchen I’ was designed to surround and destroy the partisan 8th Assault Division and 34th Division in villages centred on Krašić, 11.25 miles (18 km) to the north of Karlovac in the Žumberak mountain region. The Axis force concentrated for this operation comprised, as its German element, the 1st Don-Kosaken-Reiterregiment of Generalleutnant Hellmuth von Pannwitz’s 1st Kosaken-Kavalleriedivision, 1st Reserve Jägerregiment, and 1 and 2/4th SS Polizeiregiment ‘Kroatien’, and, as its Croat element, elements of the 5th, 13th and 30th Ustaše Battalions, and 4/2nd Garrison Brigade.

After surrounding the area, the Axis forces began to tighten the net round the area with advances from Ozalj, Draganić, Jastrebarsko and Samobor. The fighting was heavy at times, and see-sawed for almost six days. The partisans successfully defended most of the liberated area around Krašić, and the Germans called off the operation on 2 July.

The partisans then returned immediately to their attacks on the Axis lines of communication between Karlovac and Zagreb, which made a resumption of the operation necessary as ‘Dünkirchen II’. Undertaken on 8/17 July, ‘Dünkirchen II’ involved elements of the partisan 15th Division as well as the original 8th Assault Division and 34th Division, while the Axis force now comprised two regiments of von Pannwitz’s 1st Kosaken-Kavalleriedivision and the 1st Reserve Jägerregiment and, as the Croat component, Ustaše Pukovnik Tomislav Rolf’s 3rd Ustaše Brigade and Podpukovnik Slavko Miletić’s 2nd Garrison Brigade.

Resuming at the point they had desisted on 2 July, the Germans and Croats once again closed on the Krašić area in the Žumberak. The Cossacks and Ustaše burned and looted a number of villages as they advanced and eventually captured Metlika, 9.3 miles (15 km) to the west of Krašić and just over the border in Slovenia. The partisans managed to evade a direct confrontation, and the Axis operation concluded on 16 July.

According to the German reports, the Axis losses in both operations were 44 men killed and 221 wounded, while those of the partisans were claimed as 603 men counted dead, several hundred other men estimated killed and wounded, and 19 captured.