Operation Geiserich

(5th century Vandal king)

This was a German operation by General Rudolf Lüters’s XV Gebirgskorps (a mixed German and Croat formation) of General Dr Lothar Rendulic’s 2nd Panzerarmee to take the port city of Split on the Dalmatian coast of German-occupied Yugoslavia (22/27 September 1943).

After Italy had signed an armistice with the Allies, effective from 9 September 1943, elements of Josip Broz Tito’s partisan forces had taken the city from its Italian garrison, and ‘Geiserich’ was then launched to ensure German control of this important coastal position. The area was held by some 6,000 men of the 1st ‘Dalmatia’ Assault Brigade, 4th ‘Dalmatia’ (Split) Brigade and several thousand Italian troops. The Axis effort was based on about 2,500 men with support provided by warplanes of Generalleutnant Wolfgang Erdmann’s Fliegerführer 'Kroatien' command, and the German land forces involved were SS-Brigadeführer und Generalmajor der Waffen-SS Karl Reichsritter von Oberkamp’s 7th SS Gebirgsdivision ‘Prinz Eugen’ and the 92nd Grenadierregiment (mot.), while the Croats contributed the 27th Ustaše Battalion.

The potent grouping of German veteran units, motorised and with armoured support, quickly overran the partisans at Klis, a suburb on the eastern side of Split, and took the city with ease.

No German loss figures have been found, but post-war Yugoslav literature claims Axis losses of 176 men killed (91 German), 557 German wounded and 85 Germans missing, but quotes no figures for the partisan losses. Although Germans seized Split, before this the partisans had been provided with time enough to remove large quantities of captured Italian matériel into concealment in the mountains and also to recruit many of the city’s inhabitants to their cause.

The 17-day interval between Italy’s capitulation and the Germans’ seizure of Split prevented the Germans from taking full control of the Dalmatian coast and coastal islands, where partisan control forced Germans then to plan and carry out several operations to take them.