The Sutjeska offensive (May-June 1943) was a failed attempt by the Axis forces to destroy the anti-occupation Yugoslav partisan force, marking a turning point for Yugoslavia during World War II. This action--codenamed Operation Schwarz ("Black") by the Germans--took place near the Sutjeska river, in Italian-occupied Yugoslavia.
Begun in May 1943, this offensive was the fifth attempt by the fascists to crush the resistance movement called the People's Liberation Army of Yugoslavia (Narodnooslobodilačka vojska Jugoslavije), and capture their leader, Josip Broz Tito (also known as "Walter").
127,000 fascist troops were sent to circle and isolate the partisans on Durmitor mountain between the Tara and Piva rivers. The fascist forces included German, Italian, Ustashe, Bulgarian and Chetnik troops. The partisans began to pull out over the Sutjeska River on May 26th or 27th, with the help of two British officers who had parachuted in to assist them: a mayor named Stuart and a Professor Deakin. The terrain conditions weren't suitable for crossing the river as one large group, so the partisans divided into two separate units: group north and group South. The groups continued on under constant bombardment.
Wounded Tito with Ivan Ribar during the Offensive on Sutjeska on June 13
On June 9th, a bomb fell near the leading group, killing Mayor Stuart and Tito's dog Luks, a German Shepherd, who jumped at Tito, saving his life, though he was wounded in his arm. The situation did not look good for the partisans, but, eager to defeat the fascists and bent on survival, they twice broke the enemy line during the following week. Eventually they made it through the line, though at the cost of 6391 partisan lives.
With Italian capitulation, the Axis was never again able to sum up enough troops to re-attack the partisans. The battle marked a turning point toward Allied control of Yugoslavia.
- Operation SCHWARZ - Sutjeska offensive (http://www.vojska.net/ww2/battles/schwarz)
- A History of Yugoslavian Reistance in WWII (http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/resistance_movement_in_yugoslavi.htm/)