Dinara Chetnik Division
The most important event in the occupied western Serbian provinces of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia during 1941 was the genocide committed against the Serbian people in the “IndependentState of Croatia”. Although the Kingdom’s military and political structures were predicting that the Serbian people living in those areas would be endangered by the outbreak of war, no one expected crimes of such proportions as those that took place during WW II. Marco Aurelio Rivelli, an Italian Vatican historian and author, quoted the report of Giuseppe Angelini, the commander of the first regiment of the Italian division ”King”:
“Thousands of Serbs were blinded and brutally tortured; whole families were massacred without any regard to gender or age. The organizers and executioners often honored their slaughtering with festive celebration, such as in August 1941 when they celebrated the murder of the son of a high school director in Gospić who was their thousandth victim.“
Led by the urge for survival and self-defense, the Serbs from the “Tromedja”, (tri-boundary region) connecting the three areas of Lika, Bosnia and Dalmacia, initiated an uprising on July 26, 1941 and began to form rebellion squads. Until the beginning of 1942 these squads were grouped into 5 regiments and from them was formed the Dinara Chetnik Division (DCD – Dinarska četnička divizija).
The process of establishing the Dinara Chetnik Division was initiated by Duke Ilija Trifunović Birčanin, the Staff commandant of the western Bosnian, Lika-Dalmatian and Hercegovinian Chetnik detachments. Duke Birčanin was also the liaison between the chetniks from Tromedja and General Draža Mihailović, the Supreme Commander of the Yugoslav Army in the Homeland and Minister of War of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. In the summer of 1942 General Mihailović arrived in Hercegovina where he met with Duke Birčanin who proclaimed Serbian Orthodox priest Momčilo Djujić the “spiritual leader and commander of the uprising”. Duke Birčanin had already awarded Djujić the title of „Voyvoda“(Duke) like he had other distinguished commanders.
By acceding under the command of General Draža, the Dinara Chetnik Division acquired the formation which he had proclaimed for all the other units, according to the so-called Referral Number 5. That is when the regiments were replaced by army-corps, while the old unit’s name was retained, “mainly because ‘Dinara Chetniks Division’ sounded better than ‘Dinara Chetniks Army’,” wrote David Damjanović.
The Dinara Division was comprised of 5 army-corps with a total of almost 7,000 soldiers. These 5 corps consisted of 21 brigades. Within its structure the Division was composed of the following: a Guard’s battalion, an Intelligence group, hospital personnel, a Cultural-educational group, a Sorority – Kolo Sestara (or Circle of Sisters), national councils and youth troops and had the tasks of organizing schools for children, mandatory land cultivation, and so on.
From the end of 1941, the Tromedja also started to experience the influence of the Yugoslav Communist Party (KPJ), which managed to put a number of Serbian rebels under the command of the so-called National Liberation Army of Croatia. That is how the Dinara Chetnik Division, for the duration of WWII, came to fight against two Croatian para-militaries: Facsist (Ustashi) and Communist (Partizan). The first consisted of Croatians and the other mainly of Serbs under Croatian command.
The Dinara Chetnik Division successfully managed to accomplish its main war goal: stopping the massive Croatian crimes against the Serbs. This is most evident by comparing the number of Serbian victims on those territories that were held by the DCD with the other areas that were under the leadership of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia (KPJ), like Kozara, Kordun and Bania.
In December 1944 the Dinara Division retreated to Slovenia and on May 6, 1945 moved into Italy, where it met up with the Western allies. After staying in refugee DP (Displaced Persons) camps in Italy and Germany, its members emigrated, mostly to Great Britain, America, Canada and Australia.
This album will describe in image and word the war path of the Dinara Chetnik Division and also the life of its soldiers far away from their homeland.