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Thursday, March 23rd 2017, 11:07pm

Yugoslav News and Events, 1948

Novosti News Service, Bar, Thursday, 1 January 1948

The slipways of the Adriatic Shipyards are busy today as no fewer than four vessels see their keels laid. The ammunition auxiliaries of the Project 1948 Alpha design will absorb half of the yard’s workforce for nearly a year, while the landing ships of the Project 1948 Gamma design are expected to support the remaining portion; it is probable that the shipyard will be hiring additional workers to assure that construction schedules are met – for one of the two minelayer ordered for the Royal Yugoslav Navy remains under construction. All this has spurred economic activity in the city and in the surrounding district.


Thursday, March 23rd 2017, 11:10pm

Delivery Status Report, 31 March 1948

Domestic Ground Ordnance Production

M43 Service Rifle -:- 39,000
M47 GP Machinegun -:- 1,800
M39 Aircraft Machinegun -:- 150
M37 Tank Machinegun -:- 90
M40 Rocket Launcher -:- 450
M32 Hand Grenade -:- 540,000
Small Arms Ammunition -:- 42,000,000
Artillery Ammunition -:- 540,000

Domestic Vehicle Production for Royal Yugoslav Army

Zastava M40 0.25-ton Truck -:- 450
Zastava M41 1.5-ton Truck -:- 1,000
Novi Sad M44 3-ton Truck -:- 935
Novi Sad M46 Artillery Tractor -:- 325
AT.47 Tank Destroyer -:- 36
Orkan Armoured Reconnaissance Vehicle -:- 96
M47 Half Track Infantry Carrier -:- 54

Aircraft Deliveries

Soko Orao -:- 30
Type 222 Vihor -:- 15
Type 224 Galeb -:- 18
Utva Lasta -:- 12


Thursday, March 30th 2017, 2:31am

Novosti News Service, Zagreb, Tuesday, 6 January 1948

“The Sword of Truth”, sequel to last year’s “The Sword of Justice”, saw its premiere last evening to sold-out crowds, and it is beyond question that Zagreb Films has another popular film in its hands. Karlo Bulić reprises the role of Maćevolac, “The Swordsman”, a dashing freedom fighter whom some believe to be the reincarnation of Andrijica Simic – the famous Croatian hajduk. In “The Sword of Truth” the hero acts to clear the reputation of an Italian army officer falsely accused of a massacre of Dalmatian peasants and bring to book those who have framed him for the crime.


Monday, April 3rd 2017, 7:25pm

Sombor Air Base, Apatin, Friday 9 January 1948

Air Force Chief of Staff Rupnik and his aides had arrived at the air base the previous evening on what was officially billed as a tour of inspection; and they had toured the base in a rather perfunctory manner. But their presence betrayed to every man on the base that something unusual was up.

The answer to their curiosity came in the late morning when an unfamiliar sound could be heard in the distance; in the control tower officers at the electronic detection equipment were tracking an aircraft moving at unusual speed; when this was reported, the observers were told to remain calm. Moments later a twin-engine aircraft thundered over the airfield, attracting all eyes due to its screaming engines and its lightning-like movements. Relatively few Royal Yugoslav Air Force officers had seen a jet-powered aircraft before, and none of those present at the Sombor bomber base had done so.

The aircraft made a circuit of the field and then slowed for its landing approach, taking advantage of the long, hard-surface runway, and braking its speed with a drogue parachute. When it came to a stop it could be seen that it was marked with the black cross of the German air force, and several official cars were hurrying out to meet it.

Hours later an official announcement was issued, stating that the first of three Arado Ar234 light bomber aircraft leased by Yugoslavia for evaluation had been delivered. This caused something of a stir, as was intended.


Friday, April 14th 2017, 10:56pm

Report of the Hungarian Military Attaché, Belgrade, Thursday, 15 January 1948

Reports that the Yugoslav navy intends to create an amphibious force to operate in the Adriatic have been confirmed; two landing ships have been laid down and my sources indicate that as many as eight units are to be constructed. Further, two examples of a larger supply ship – which could support amphibious operations once a lodgement has been made – are also being built. In the coastal waters of the Adriatic such craft could provide useful support to any attempts by the Yugoslav army to confront the Italian forces in the southern portion of Dalmatia.

The first of several Arado Ar234 light bomber aircraft has been delivered to the Yugoslav air force for evaluation; it appears that the Yugoslavs have pressed Germany for the supply of additional machines but to date such requests have been refused. Delivery of British Meteor fighter aircraft continues, as does domestic efforts to develop a jet fighter aircraft; my sources indicate however that a new technical mission will be sent to France to consider developments there.

Production of the M47 machinegun is building up rapidly, with nearly four thousand delivered to date; deliveries of the M43 semi-automatic rifle exceed 300,000 – representing a significant increase in firepower for the Yugoslav army. Development work on the indigenous medium tank continues with a prototype expected to emerge soon. While production of the new wheeled reconnaissance vehicle is reportedly proceeding at an acceptable pace production of the semi-track infantry carrier is lagging.


Thursday, April 27th 2017, 1:10am

Novosti News Service, Belgrade, Tuesday, 20 January 1948

It was announced today that an agreement has been reached with the French Government regarding the purchase of Dassault Ouragan II fighter aircraft for the Royal Yugoslav Air Force. Specifics of the number involved have not yet been released, but the Air Force has requirements in excess of two hundred aircraft to succeed the Soko Orao in the day interceptor role.

The Yugoslav Embassy, Damascus, Monday, 26 January 1948

Lieutenant Colonel Janko Bobetko was overjoyed with the results of the day’s meeting with officials of the Syrian Government. They had inked an agreement to provide the Syrian Army with substantial numbers of the new M47 half-track infantry carrier to equip its planned mechanised brigades. The order was for seventy vehicles, with an option for seventy more, with deliveries to commence in the spring. Bobetko was confident that the Royal Yugoslav Army could be persuaded to sacrifice its own delivery schedules for the gain of foreign currency by the Treasury. The Syrians were proving to be one of Yugoslavia’s largest and steadiest overseas customers, and the growth of Yugoslav influence in the Levant counted for something in the grand scheme of things.


Friday, May 5th 2017, 12:45am

Yugoslav News and Events, February 1948

Novosti News Service, Belgrade, Monday, 2 February 1948

The floating dry dock completed at the port of Bar last December has left under tow for its ultimate destination, the naval base at Durrës. It is expected to arrive there later this month, and become operational in the early summer.


Wednesday, May 24th 2017, 2:19am

Belgrade, The Ministry of Defence, Monday, 9 February 1948

Major General Lav Rupnik pondered the wisdom of the proposal drawn up by his staff. The long-simmering state of tension between Yugoslavia and its Italian neighbour demanded constant vigilance, and with the arrival of Arado Ar234 bombers from Germany the means were at hand to test the efficacy of Italian air defences. The risk of such a course was that the Italians might actually intercept one of the Arados, and only three had been leased from Germany; losing one would be bad enough, but it was quite likely the embarrassment would prompt Germany to demand the immediate return of the others.

The plan by his staff called for the border radar chain to monitor any Italian response to the approach of an Arado to Italian air space over Occupied Slovenia – the presumption being that the pilot of the Arado would not actually violate Italian territory. It also presumed that the Italians would not over-react and engage in a hot pursuit into Yugoslav air space.

For the moment he would take no action on the proposal; it would have to wait for better weather in any case. He would have to get approval of the Prime Minister in any event, and there were too many items being juggled at the moment to know how that might turn out.


Monday, May 29th 2017, 2:19pm

Novosti News Service, Belgrade, Monday, 16 February 1948

The Ministry of Defence has announced details regarding the agreement to procure Dassault Ouragan II fighter aircraft from France. It calls for the purchase of seventy-five machines with deliveries commencing in the early spring, with options for a second batch – which may be exercised sometime next year. Furthermore, a select group of pilots of the Royal Yugoslav Air Force will be sent to France for familiarisation and instructor training with units of the Armee de l’Air.


Sunday, June 18th 2017, 11:19pm

Yugoslav News and Events, March 1948

Novosti News Service, Belgrade, Monday, 1 March 1948

The Belgian trade delegation arrived to day to begin talks with government and industry leaders to discuss expanding bilateral trade links between Belgium and Yugoslavia, as well as potential Belgian investment in the national economy. In addition to several officials of the Belgian government the delegation includes representatives of the Société Générale de Belgique, the Société anonyme John Cockerill, and the Forges de Zeebrugge; industry insiders believe that the Belgian delegation will be able to secure orders for machine tools and production equipment to modernise the nation’s defence industries as well as open the door to commercial sales of a wide range of Belgian goods.


Saturday, June 24th 2017, 7:38pm

Novosti News Service, Durrës, Friday, 5 March 1948

Naval officials here pronounced their satisfaction with the initial testing of the new floating dry dock that will complete the establishment of the Royal Yugoslav Navy’s newest naval base. Constructed at Bar by the Adriatic Shipyard the dry dock arrived here under tow last month. It is expected to become operational for ship repairs by early summer. Long-range plans call for the construction of a similar, but smaller, dry dock for the Kotor naval station.


Wednesday, June 28th 2017, 1:24am

Privredni vjesnik, Zagreb, Thursday, 11 March 1948

The Belgian trade mission departed today after more than a week of talks with ministers of the Government and industry leaders from around the nation. The delegation was composed of seventy participants from twenty-seven enterprises in the private sector as well as more than a dozen officials of the Belgian Government. The private sector firms that made up the mission are engaged in urban planning and management, banking and investment, infrastructure development, consumer goods, agriculture, and manufacturing. Few details have been released regarding any concrete outcomes but it has been confirmed that the Jasenica Equipment and Machinery Company has placed orders for machine tools and industrial plant equipment with the firm Forges de Zeebrugge. It is believed that this order is made in anticipation of the Jasenica enterprise participating the production of armoured vehicles for the Royal Yugoslav Army.


Wednesday, June 28th 2017, 10:03am

Belgium is always happy to do business!


Friday, July 7th 2017, 7:14pm

Report of the Hungarian Military Attaché, Belgrade, Monday, March 15, 1948

The Yugoslav government has sent the first batch of pilots to France to train on the Dassault Ouragan II fighter aircraft; deliveries of the first of the order for seventy-five aircraft are expected in April of this year, though the complete order is not expected to finish before December. Rumours abound that the Yugoslavs sought to acquire Fw340 or Bf329 aircraft from Germany but such requests were denied; confirmation has been sought but this must be considered dubious at the moment.

Yugoslavia continues to be a major supplier of armaments to Syria, concluding the sale of tracked infantry carriers and even offering to forego deliveries to its own army. The Yugoslav army holds high hopes for the teams it has sent to the Militariad in Moscow, hoping to showcase its progress and its equipment.

Few new naval developments have emerged; construction of the first pair of small amphibious craft continues and work on the second is scheduled to begin in the spring. The lack of activity from the Italian fleet has emboldened the Yugoslavs and confrontations is the Adriatic are quite possible.


Tuesday, August 22nd 2017, 1:43am

Yugoslav News and Events, April 1948

Belgrade, The White Palace, Thursday, 1 April 1948

Major-General Lav Rupnik, Air Force chief of staff concluded his briefing of the King and the Cabinet on the proposed operation. “Sire,” he said, “based upon our assessment it is necessary to test the reactions of the Italians. If they are better than our predictions, we will still be able to minimize our penetration of their air space and allow the Foreign Ministry an opportunity to disavow the operation as a ‘navigational error’; if their reaction is on the order of our expectations, we will gain confirmation of our intelligence.”

King Alexsandr allowed himself a moment to let the general’s words sink in. He then turned to his prime minister. “Nikola, do you consider the potential gains worth the political risks?”

Karasec nodded. “The Italian Government appears incapable of coherent action, and by all reports is hamstrung by factional infighting. If anything is going to prod them into recognising that we exist an overflight would do it.”

Boris Furlan, the foreign minister seconded the prime minister’s assessment. “Our interest section at the Swiss legation at Rome gives little other indication. If Italian resolve is so hollow as to allow us to get away with General Rupnik’s gamble, it would be worth the risk to confirm that.”

The king drummed his fingers on the table while he considered the consequences. “General, how soon would you wish to undertake this action?”

“On or about the fifteenth of the month sire,” Rupnik replied. “The exact timing would be dependent upon the weather.”

“Proceed with your preparations then,” the king ordered, “subject to final orders.”


Tuesday, August 22nd 2017, 1:45am

Delivery Status Report, 30 June 1948

Domestic Ground Ordnance Production

M43 Service Rifle -:- 39,000
M47 GP Machinegun -:- 1,800
M39 Aircraft Machinegun -:- 150
M37 Tank Machinegun -:- 90
M40 Rocket Launcher -:- 450
M32 Hand Grenade -:- 420,000
Small Arms Ammunition -:- 36,000,000
Artillery Ammunition -:- 450,000

Domestic Vehicle Production for Royal Yugoslav Army

Zastava M40 0.25-ton Truck -:- 300
Zastava M41 1.5-ton Truck -:- 750
Novi Sad M44 3-ton Truck -:- 1,010
Novi Sad M46 Artillery Tractor -:- 450
AT.47 Tank Destroyer -:- 36
Orkan Armoured Reconnaissance Vehicle -:- 72
M47 Half Track Infantry Carrier -:- 45

Aircraft Deliveries

Soko Orao -:- 30
Type 222 Vihor -:- 15
Type 224 Galeb -:- 18
Utva Lasta -:- 12


Tuesday, August 29th 2017, 6:42pm

Report of the Hungarian Military Attaché, Belgrade, Sunday, 4 April 1948

An agent who recently visited the Adriatic Shipyard at Bar reports that two additional landing craft pf the ‘Gamma’ type have been laid down, while work on the two launched last month continues at a feverish pace. Coupled with the two support ships of the ‘Alpha’ type, this effort suggests that the Yugoslavs are preparing to be ready should Italian weakness give an opportunity to ‘liberate’ Dalmatia. Yugoslav naval patrols have been more active in the policing of civil traffic into and out of the port of Vlore, where the economic embargo continues to force Italy to bring all supplies by sea.


Thursday, September 7th 2017, 3:07am

A Balkan Vade mecum – The Travellers Guide to South-eastern Europe

The Italian port of Valona – otherwise known as Vlore – was once a thriving centre of commerce; today it is a backwater, caught between the imperial ambitions of Italy and the irredentist claims of Greece and Yugoslavia. Founded by the Greeks in the 6th Century BC she has known many masters – Macedonians, Romans, Byzantines, Normans, Turks – the city came under Italian sway in the wake of the Great War. Successive Italian governments have lavished millions to fortify it against possible attack by land or sea, but to little avail. Today the city is slowly dying, the victim of a long-running economic blockade.

Both Greece and Yugoslavia resent the Italian presence in what each considers its territory – though the Yugoslavs are diplomatic enough to consider the city Greek in order to maintain a united front against their rival across the Adriatic. After a breakdown of negotiations between the Italian and Yugoslav governments the latter declared an economic embargo against the Italian exclave; a policy adopted by Greece as well in order to increase the pressure on Italy. The city’s hinterland, upon which the population depended for food and other raw materials, was closed to commerce. Since that time the Italian Government has been forced to import by sea vast quantities of foodstuffs to keep the restive population of the city alive.

Unfortunately many of these imports fail to reach those in greatest need of them. Typically inefficient Italian bureaucrats horde produce in warehouses under military guard – where it rots or is doled out to those who can afford the prices demanded. Worse, criminal gangs have established themselves in the city, preying upon those in greatest need, and turning into an entrepôt for smugglers. To such criminal organisations the Italian authorities have turned a blind eye.

The city’s streets are nearly empty. The fishing villages that dotted the Bay of Vlore are dwindling. Only the old remain – the young have left to find employment in Italy or have crossed the frontier into Greece and Yugoslavia, choosing relative freedom in exile.


Wednesday, September 13th 2017, 5:14pm

Zeljava Air Base, Bihac, Thursday, 15 April 1948

Major-General Rupnik had arranged the test of the Italian air defences with meticulous care. The normal radar chain that guarded the Italian frontier had been reinforced by several mobile units brought up from the vicinity of the capital to extend the over watch capacity of the network. Agents operating on the Italian side of the border would give warning – as best they could – of any special preparations, and would report afterward their observations. Fighter patrols operating over Yugoslavia were on alert to react as necessary to respond to any Italian ‘hot pursuit’ of the Yugoslav Arado chosen for the mission.

Despite the preparations, despite the apparent laxness of the Italian defenders, Rupnik knew that there were too many things that could go wrong. He had come to the war room of the Zeljava air base to monitor the operation personally. The Arado reconnaissance aircraft, equipped with cameras, would cross the Italian frontier in the vicinity of Karlovac, flying westward towards the Italian-occupied port of Rijeka, where, if all went well, it would photograph the activity of the Italian fleet there. While some of his staff had suggested that the aircraft’s flight be extended to the look into the port of Pola, Rupnik had vetoed such a move as too risky. What they were doing was sufficiently dangerous.

The ground controllers were monitoring all activity along the frontier, and when the Arado was plotted as departing Yugoslav airspace the tension in the room was palpable. Flying high and fast the Arado should complete its mission before any Italian aircraft could rise from their airfields to interfere; any standing patrols of fighter aircraft would be a different issue – they might have sufficient time and altitude to intercept. Thus far however, the data from the Yugoslav radar network did not identify any such preparations.

The clock clicked onward; in his mind Rupnik reviewed the course the aircraft was to follow – skirting Vrbovsko, Ravna Gora, and Delnice before crossing the final range of mountains and starting its approach run to Rijeka. His eyes were riveted on the plotting board, where the markers that would have indicated the position of Italian aircraft lay unused. The reports coming in from all quarters suggested no response – a circumstance Rupnik took no solace in – it could merely mask a trap set by the Italians.

By now the Arado would have reached the vicinity of Rijeka; Rupnik hoped that whatever its cameras recorded would be worth the risk taken. After accomplishing its mission, the Arado would held south and then southeast along the coast, turning inland in the vicinity of Selce and again climbing over the mountains that framed the limits of Italian-occupied Dalmatia.

One of the monitoring controllers spoke, “Our radar station at Plaski reports our aircraft approaching, nothing else on their screens”. Rupnik watched the markers moved – at least the Arado was now back in Yugoslav airspace – without any reaction on the part of the Italians it would seem. The tension in the war room evaporated.

The signals network monitoring Italian communications though was quite busy. Intercepted messages – some in code, and some in the clear, indicated that the Arado had been spotted and perhaps tracked, though the first Italian aircraft detected on the Yugoslav radar did not appear until the Arado had reached Yugoslav territory – which suggested a very poor state of readiness on the part of the Italians. No attempts were made to follow the Arado. Rupnik hoped that the intercepted transmissions might be prised open to yield more intelligence upon further analysis, but for the moment, he had gambled and won. No doubt Rome would protest, and might even attempt something of its own. But that would be another day.


Tuesday, September 19th 2017, 6:45pm

Belgrade, The Ministry of Defence, Monday, 19 April 1948

The Air Staff had completed its preliminary assessment of the recently-completed reconnaissance overflight of Rijeka; as expected, the Italians had issued a protest to the Swiss, who in turn forwarded it to Belgrade, where the Swiss were politely thanked and the protest filed. The Government had little respect for Italy. But the assessment proved that the attempt was worth the risk, and the potential fallout.

Fears of an Italian trap proved to be groundless. From agent reports it was found that at the twenty-minute delay in response at Aviano Air Base was due to the absence of the duty officer for an unscheduled lunch date with ‘a young lady’. The same agents had forwarded the details of the unfortunate officer’s summary court martial. At Istrana Air Base, which under normal circumstances would have back-stopped Aviano, the main runway was under construction. Eventually the airfield of Rivolto received orders to scramble but by the time its aircraft were airborne, the Yugoslav Arado had returned to Yugoslav airspace. Overall, the Italian response was execrable. Whether this would hold for the future was another matter.

Development of the reconnaissance photographs showed relatively little activity in the dockyards and few warships in the harbour. This too chimed with agent reports that what Italian naval construction was happening was concentrated in the main yards at Riva Trigoso, Muggiano, and Sestri Ponente. The yards at Rijeka seemed confined to constructing merchantmen.