Operation Leander (i)

(Greek mythological heroine)

This was a German operation to move forces over the Lika mountain region to Zara on the Dalmatian coast of occupied Yugoslavia to assume the defence of this coastal area from the Italian forces after the Italian armistice with the Allies effective from 9 September (9/14 September 1943).

The concentration of Generalleutnant Hartwig von Ludwiger’s 114th Jägerdivision in the Bihać region in preparation for this movement, which had been dictated by the Germans’ appreciation that an Italian capitulation was imminent. This wrong-footed the Yugoslav partisan general staff in Croatia, which had expected the division to be used against the partisan-held areas of Kordun and Lika, and had therefore deployed the 8th ‘Kordun’ Division and 13th Division in defensive positions.

When Italy did capitulate, the two partisan divisions were therefore poorly placed for what developed into a race toward the coast. The 114th Jägerdivision advanced without hindrance other than a limited number of skirmishes in what was now primarily a troop transfer undertaking rather than an offensive operation against the partisan forces of Josip Broz Tito.