Operation Velika Kapela

large chapel (& Yugoslav towns)

'Velika Kapela' was an Italian operation by Generale di Corpo d’Armata Ricardo Balocco’s V Corpo d’Armata against the partisan forces of Josip Broz Tito in Italian-occupied Yugoslavia (16/29 September 1942).

On 20 August the staff of Generale d’Armata Mario Roatta’s Italian 2a Armata ordered the V Corpo d’Armata to attack and destroy the 1st 'Primorje-Gorski Kotar' Partisan Detachment in the Velika and Mala Kapela area of Croatia. The offensive was planned on a significant scale with an Italian contribution comprising Generale di Divisione Manilo Caprizzi’s 3a Divisione montagna 'Ravenna', Generale di Divisione Giunio Ruggiero’s 21a Divisione 'Granatieri di Sardegna', the 14a Brigata costiera, artillery and engineer unit of the V Corpo d’Armata, two battalions of the XI Corpo d’Armata to secure the approaches to Kupi, and elements of the 5th Gruppo Guardia di Finanza. Croat and Četnik elements of the area were also involved.

After what they deemed careful preparations, on 16 September the Italian-led forces advanced from their encircling base area (Prokike, Zuta Lokva, Brinje, Jezerane, Plaski, Josipdol, Ogulin, Gomirje, Mrkopalj, Lokve, Fuzine, Krk, Novi and Senj) and started to penetrate into the partisan-held area, in which their main objectives were Dreznica and Jasenak. In the area were all three of the 1st 'Primorje-Gorski Kotar' Partisan Detachment’s battalions, but so slow was the Italian-led advance that many of the partisans slipped through the Axis net. The Axis forces neared Dreznica only on 20 September, and then failed to take it and the area round it.

To avoid the possibility that it would be caught in the area between Stalka, Ledenica and Brinje, the staff of the Yugoslav 5th Zone moved the 'Matija Gubec' Battalion across the local railway linking Ogulin and Susak to operate in the Liča and Fuzina area, and the 'Marko Karamarko' Battalion and 'Ljubica Gerovac' Battalion into the area of between Jezerane and Modrus to attack the Italian lines of communications linking Jezerane and Dreznica, and between Modrus and Jezerane. At the same time this same staff ordered the 2nd 'Primorje-Gorski Kotar' Partisan Detachment to go over to offensive action in the areas of Delnice, Lokve and Brod Moravice with the object of pinning the Italian-led forces. The end of September saw the arrival of the 1st and 2nd Assault Battalions of the 1st 'Primorje-Gorski Kotar' Partisan Detachment from Kordun, and on 28 September these fell on the villages of Tisovac and Josipovac on the lines of communication linking Ogulin and Jasenak, and killed and wounded about 180 Italian soldiers. Similarly, on 2 October the 2nd 'Primorje-Gorski Kotar' Partisan Detachment, on its way to Brod and Kupi, attacked a column of 300 Italian soldiers.

After gaining temporary control of their operation’s objectives, at the beginning of October the Italians began to fall back to their start line. Having burned almost all the villages in the area and seized or destroyed all of its grain, the Italians left the 1st 'Primorje-Gorski Kotar' Partisan Detachment in a very difficult positions with little shelter or food.