Trans-Adriatic shipping operation
Allied supply operation from 15 October 1943 to early 1944.
After Allied invasion of mainland Italy and Italian capitulation new situation developed with Allies holding southern Italy and Tito's Partisans numerous Dalmatian islands and also several stronghold along the coast of Dalmatia and Croatian Littoral although these were being quickly overrun by Germans.
Plan was created by group of OSS (Office of Strategic Services) officers in Bari, captain Hans V. Tofte and Lt. Robert S. Thompson which was approved by their superior Major Louis Huot on 12 September. Supported by head of OSS William Joseph Donovan it was agreed to by Allied commander in Mediterranean theater General Henry Maitland Wilson. Operation was named by Major Huot after his wife Audrey.
While in Algiers, Hout meet with representative from Partisan naval staff and 4th Operational Zone (future 8th Corps), Sergei Makiedo who was sent on a mission to ask for allied aid.
By 9 October, OSS had secured berth in Bari port for operation and started to carry out reconnaissance of Dalmatian coast for best places to deliver supplies. General Wilson HQ provided them with 14 ships transferred from Royal Yugoslav government in exile. Also RN begun to asses potentials for establishing forward bases for its torpedo boats.
On 16 October, Major Huot, Lt. Thompson and Sergei Makiedo arrived to Podgora via Vis and Hvar islands for a meeting with corps commander and continued there travel over land in former Italian staff car to Tito's headquarters in Jajce to conclude official agreement.
Amount of supplies and operations size have grown rapidly from 25 ships in November to 40 in December and Partisans workers loading ships from 100 to 600.
New OSS personal was also included Lt. (jg) Ward E. Ellen was place in charge of ship maintenance and Lt. John Hamilton organized new shipping base at Monopoli during December.
First weapons shipment from Bari was sent on 22 November and it included 14 mortars 81mm, 77 heavy machine-guns 8mm, 50 anti-tank rifles and 10 light machine-guns. Weapons were distributed amongst units defending Dalmatian islands of Korcula, Solta, Brac, Hvar and Vis while part was used to arm Partisan Navy ships.
From 15 October to 22 December it is claimed that 11,637 tons of supplies was sent to partisans although figure of 6,500 is given by captain Tofte. Also some 2000 partisans (Oversea brigades) were transferred from Italy and 700 wounded were evacuated beside thousands of refugees. For comparison from July to September only 190 tons were air dropped 107 to Mihailovic and 82,5 tons to Tito.
By incomplete Yugoslav reports from 15 October to 31 December from Italy to Vis island arrived:
- 20 anti-tank guns 40mm
- 42 mortars 81mm
- 11 mortars 45mm
- 18932 rifles
- 72 anti-tank rifles
- 395 machine guns 8mm
- 2123 submachine guns 9mm
- 335 light machine guns 6,5mm
- 6631 hand grandees
- 511 land mines
- 5140 anti-tank mine
- 102 tons of coal
- 4674 cans of petrol
- 1678 barrels of oil
- 2002 drums of oil
- 13558 sacks of flour
- 1031 bags of sugar
- 3697 bales of clothing
- 1325 bales of shoes
- cooking oil, canned food, rice, beans etc.
For period between 15 October and 10 January gives following figures:
- 2103,6 tons of food
- 1231 tons of weapons and ammunition
- 261,8 tons of cloths and shoes
- 1183,3 tons of gasoline and lubricates
- 44,7 tons of other material
- 4824,4 tons TOTAL
Most of this material beside fuel was transferred to Partisan units on the mainland. Partisans organized distribution station on Vis with ships transporting material to coastline regions not occupied by Germans and returning to Vis with wounded Partisans, refuges, former Italian soldiers, German POW and rescued Allied airmen.
Probably most significant routs until Germans blocked them were Vis-Podgora-Livno where 8th Corps was located and was also part of larger liberated area with Tito's HQ in Jajce and Vis-Senj which through Gorski Kotar and Lika could supply areas under General Staff of Croatia where serious food shortage problems existed. Effect of this was quickly felt by newly formed German 392nd Infantry Division which while advancing through Gorski Kotar encountered British land mines making Partisan ambushes even deadlier. After Germans blocked the coastline supplies could only be moved under great caution inland and until establishment of regular air bridges units in interior had to again relay on what they capture from the enemy.
Influx of Allied war material and personnel was quickly noticed by Germans who realized potential risk if it wasn't blocked immediately. German army carried out several anti-partisan operations (LANDSTURM, HAIFISCH, BERGWIESE...) with goal of securing entire coastline and deployed large number of troops to guard it but ultimate German objective capture of Vis island was never carried out. During 1944 Vis served as base for several allied hit and run landings on Dalmatian islands and played a key role in liberation of Dalmatia.
- Dr. Kazimir Pribilovic: Cetvrti pomorski obalski sektor Mornarice NOVJ
- Louis Huot: Oružje za Tita
- Oss & the Yugoslav Resistance, 1943-1945 (Military History Ser. Series, 28) by Kirk Ford
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