Operation Freischütz (ii)

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This was a German unrealised plan for the occupation of the island of Vis off the Dalmatian coast of occupied Yugoslavia (21 February/April 1944).

This Italian-garrisoned island was not occupied by the Germans in the aftermath of the Italian armistice with the Allied in September 1943, giving the Allies the chance to occupy it with special forces in January 1944 and then to establish it as a forward base for the coastal forces harrying German shipping in the Adriatic. An advanced air base was also developed on the island to serve the needs of tactical aircraft operating in support of the Yugoslav partisans and against tactical targets of opportunity in the western Balkans.

The Germans at this stage reappreciated the significance of the island and resurrected their design for an occupation, in January starting to gather the men and vessels necessary for the landing, which was planned for 21 February 1944, postponed for lack of adequate strength, and finally cancelled by Adolf Hitler.

At this time Vis island was held by three Yugoslav brigades of the 26th ‘Dalmatia’ Division of Marshal Josip Broz Tito’s partisan forces, plus British commando units and other smaller units. The planning for the definitive ‘Freischütz’ (ii) was undertaken by the headquarters of Generalleutnant Josef Kübler’s 118th Jägerdivision under the overall supervision of SS-Obergruppenführer und General der Waffen-SS Artur Phleps’s V SS Gebirgskorps.

During the night of the operation’s start, four battalions of the 750th Jägerregiment were to have landed on the south of the island and advanced toward the main town while commandos of Generalmajor Alexander von Pfuhlstein’s Division ‘Brandenburg’ special forces formation, disguised as partisans, entered the harbour and created chaos in the town. In the morning 360 paratroopers were to have jumped over the island, and another 200 airborne soldiers were to have arrived in gliders.

So overwhelming was the Allied air and naval superiority in these confined waters, however, that by April 1944 the Germans had again abandoned the idea of taking the island.