Navy of the Independent State of Croatia
|Navy of the Independent State of Croatia|
Ratna Mornarica Nezavisne Države Hrvatske
Insignia of the Navy of the Independent State of Croatia
|Size||1,262 personnel (1943)|
|Part of||Croatian Armed Forces|
|Headquarters||Zagreb, Independent State of Croatia|
|Engagements||World War II|
|Naval Ensign (1941–1944)|
|Naval Ensign (1944–1945)|
The Navy of the Independent State of Croatia (Croatian: Ratna Mornarica Nezavisne Države Hrvatske, RMNDH), was established as the navy of the Independent State of Croatia on 10 April 1941, the date the Axis puppet state was created by the fascist Ustaše party from parts of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. It consisted of two commands, the Coast and Maritime Traffic Command, and the River and River Traffic Command, and had its headquarters in the NDH capital, Zagreb. It was only a small part of the armed forces of the NDH, largely due to Italian insistence and restrictions. After the Italian capitulation in September 1943, the Germans transferred several captured Italian vessels to the RMNDH, although all of the significant ones had been lost by December 1944 when the remaining personnel were assigned to duties ashore. The RMNDH was disbanded in May 1945.
The RMNDH was established by the Law on the Establishment of the Army and Navy issued on 10 April 1941 by retired Austro-Hungarian Lieutenant Colonel (later Marshal and Commander-in-chief of the armed forces) Slavko Kvaternik, with the approval of the German authorities. The task of the navy, along with the army, was to defend the new state against both foreign and domestic enemies. The Italians opposed the formation of a navy by the NDH, as they considered the Adriatic to be Mare Nostrum (Our Sea). The Germans supported the Italians in this, so the development of the RMNDH along the Adriatic coast was initially very restricted. On 18 May 1941, the Agreement on Military Matters Pertaining to Coastal Areas was signed in Rome—the second of three Treaties of Rome signed that day. In this bilateral treaty with Italy, Croatia agreed to demilitarize the coastal area entirely, restricting itself to civil administration there. It agreed also not put any naval units in the Adriatic save for policing and customs duties. By July 1941, the RMNDH consisted of two commands, the Coast and Maritime Traffic Command, and the River and River Traffic Command, and had its headquarters in the NDH capital, Zagreb.
The Coast and Maritime Traffic Command comprised three naval commands for the northern, central and southern sections of the Adriatic coast, headquartered at Crikvenica (later Sušak), Makarska (later Split) and Dubrovnik respectively. These commands were further divided into naval districts, and consisted mainly of naval and weather stations, but were only responsible for coast guard and customs duties. The River and River Traffic Command was headquartered in Sisak, at the confluence of the Kupa, Sava, and Odra rivers about 57 km (35 mi) southeast of Zagreb. It consisted of seven river stations, a naval infantry battalion, and the River Command Flotilla, which was headquartered in Zemun, and comprised two former Royal Yugoslav Navy river monitors (Sava and Bosna), two river gunboats (Ustaša and Bosut), two river minelayers (Zagreb and Zrinski), and six motor boats. The flotilla was organised into two patrol groups, each consisting of one monitor, one gunboat, one minelayer and three motor boats, and the flotilla flagship, the river tugboat Vrbas.
The Law Decree on the Armed Forces of 18 March 1942 organised the RMNDH as a branch of the Croatian Home Guard (Croatian: Domobrani). The RMNDH was always a small part of the armed forces, numbering only 1,262 in September 1943. During that same month, at the time of the Italian capitulation, the Germans recovered the former Yugoslav torpedo boat T1 from the Italians and handed it over to the RMNDH, who renamed her Golešnica. Three more former Yugoslav vessels were captured from the Italians and handed over to the RMNDH by the Germans; the torpedo boat T7, the light cruiser Dalmacija (renamed Zniam), and the Malinska-class mining tender Mosor.
Zniam was stranded on 19 December 1943 and was torpedoed by Royal Navy MTBs two days later, while T7 was sunk on 25 June 1944. The river monitor Bosna struck a mine in the same month, and Sava was scuttled on 8 September 1944 when her crew deserted to the Yugoslav Partisans. Mosor was stranded on Ist Island near Zadar on 31 December 1944, and remained there until after the end of the war. By this stage, the RMNDH consisted of a flotilla of small coastal craft stationed at Rijeka. The entire flotilla tried to desert to the Partisans in December 1944, but all but one craft (carrying the commander of the flotilla) was prevented from doing so by the Germans. The Germans disarmed the remaining vessels and sent the crews to Zagreb where they formed a special unit for service on land. Golešnica survived the war serving on with the Yugoslav Navy.
During the war, a unit known as the Croatian Naval Legion (Croatian: Hrvatska pomorska legija) fought as part of the German Kriegsmarine (war navy) in the Black Sea campaign. The purpose of posting a naval contingent on the Black Sea was to evade the prohibitions imposed by the Treaty of Rome. The unit did not have any ships upon its arrival in the Sea of Azov. It managed to scrounge up 47 damaged or abandoned fishing vessels, mostly sailing ships, and hired local Russian and Ukrainian sailors to man them. They patrolled a coastal sector of the Sea of Azov. On 24 September 1942, the Poglavnik Ante Pavelić visited the naval headquarters, where he reached an agreement with the Germans to train and equip a "submarine fighter flotilla" (Unterseebootsjagdflottille) that would undertake anti-submarine patrols. Following the collapse of Italy and of the Eastern Front, the Croatian Naval Legion returned to the NDH in May 1944, when the crews were incorporated into the RMNDH.
- Kontraadmiral Đuro Jakčin (1941 – late 1943)
- Kapetan Bojnogbroda Edgar Angeli (late 1943 – 1944)
- Kontraadmiral Nikola Steinfl (1944 – May 1945)
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- Niehorster 2013.
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- Chesneau 1980, p. 357.
- Chesneau 1980, p. 359.
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- Müller 2012, p. 98.
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- Thomas, Nigel; Mikulan, Krunoslav (1995). Axis Forces in Yugoslavia 1941–45. New York, New York: Osprey Publishing. ISBN 978-1-85532-473-2.