Foreword 5

Chapter 1: Legionnaires
A Road into the Unknown 7
The Front of All Fronts 9
In Icy Skies 12
Fiery Spring 20
Time of Vacillation 28
Gustavs Over the Caucasus 35
On the Gates of Tuapse 50
New Challenges 57
Battle Over Kuban 59
Time of Crisis 65
Offspring in the Crimea 71
Fight to the Last 81
Long Way Home 84

Chapter 2: Fighters of the Zvonimir Cross
Terror State 87
Too Little Too Late 91
Every Man for Himself 96

Chapter 3: Bulgarian Arrows
Defending Sofia 103
En Route to Ploiesti 111
Under the Allied Flag 115
Spoils of War 121

Chapter 4: Protectors of the Republic
Guerilla Air Force 123
War Booty 124
Bulgarian Connection 130
Back on First Line Service 134
Marshal’s Guards 137
The Young Regiment 142
Gloomy Year 145
End of the Road 156
Survivors 165

Chapter 5: Camouflage and Markings
Hrvatska zrakoplovna legija 167
Zrakoplovstvo Nezavisne Države Hrvatske 170
Vazdushni na Negovo Velichestvo Voyski & Vazdushni Voyski 171
Vazduhoplovstvo jugoslovenske armije & Jugoslovensko ratno vazduhoplovstvo 173

Endnotes 175

Appendix 1: Provisional List of Claims Achieved With Bf 109s by HZL Pilots 1941 – 1944 177
Appendix 2: Known Losses of Luftwaffe Bf 109s with HZL Pilots 1941 – 1944 183
Appendix 3: Known ZNDH Bf 109 Losses 1944 – 1945 184
Appendix 4: Known Claims Achieved With Bf 109 by VnNVV Pilots Over Yugoslavia 1943 – 1945 185
Appendix 5: Known Bf 109 Deliveries to VnNVV 1941 – 1945 186
Appendix 6: Known VnNVV & VV Bf 109 Losses in Operations Over Yugoslavia 1943 – 1945 186
Appendix 7: VnNVV Bf 109Gs Seized by Luftwaffe at Skoplje Aerodrome, September 1944 186
Appendix 8: VJA & JRV Bf 109 Register 1945 – 1953 187
Appendix 9: VJA & JRV Bf 109 List of Losses & Accidents 1945 – 1952 188
Appendix 10: Reconstruction of the Register of DB 605A & D Engines in JRV Inventory 190
Appendix 11: Approximate Comparison of Ranks 190

Abbreviations 191
Selected Bibliography 192
Selected Archival Funds and Documents 192
Selected Internet Sources 192
Messerschmitt Bf 109 in Color 193


The iconic Messerschmitt Bf 109 roamed the skies over the Balkans for fourteen years with eight different air forces, while Yugoslav pilots flew it across the European continent, from the Bay of Biscay, over East Prussia and Ukrainian steppe, till the foothills of the Caucasus. This book is a sequel to the Volume I, which told the story of the best fighter in the inventory of the Royal Yugoslav Air Force, and a mainstay of the Luftwaffe fighters operating over Yugoslavia.
The first chapter in the Volume II follows in unprecedented detail the path of the Croat Air Force Legion fighter component, which fought on the Eastern Front both at the time of easy victories and against the overwhelming might of the Red Air Force as a part of the crack JG 52. Most of the actions of 15.(kroat.)/JG 52 have been paired with recently disclosed documents from Russian archives and for the first time, this provides an exceptional insight into the true combat value of the Croat Legionnaires and their Bf 109s.
A lot has been written about the Bf 109s in minor Axis countries, yet its short and inglorious line of duty in the Independent State of Croatia is almost unknown. Based on wealth of previously unpublished data and first hand accounts, the second chapter covers the acquisition and service of the most modern aircraft of the puppet Croat state and many incredible episodes from its service.
The changing fortunes of the Bulgarian airmen that flew the Bf 109 over Yugoslavia in their war against the USAAF and then the Germans is described in chapter three. Their actions and claims have been deeply researched and thoroughly cross-checked, both with Allied and German records.
Emergence of the Partisan guerrilla air force and its trophy fighters – a curiosity not seen in any other teatre of war – and the unexpected return of the German engineering masterpiece into the skies of the Yugoslav Republic in 1948 is chronicled in the fourth chapter. With young and inexperienced pilots at the controls of demanding and unforgiving fighter, the service of 77 aircraft was marked with incredible 120 accidents.
The final chapter explains in detail various camouflage patterns and markings applied on Bf 109s in Croat Air Force Legion, Independent State of Croatia, Bulgaria and Yugoslavia.
Comprehensive appendixes contain the most precise list of confirmed and unconfirmed victories and losses of Legionnaire Bf 109 pilots ever published; register of Croat Bf 109 losses; Bulgarian Bf 109 claims and losses over Yugoslavia, list of Bf 109s delivered to Bulgaria whilst in Axis camp, list of Bf 109s captured by the Luftwaffe at Skoplje after Bulgaria switched sides; register of Bf 109s in Yugoslav inventory with production numbers and previous service history, their accident log, list of 255 DB 605 engines in Yugoslav inventory; and detailed comparison of ranks.
Illustrated with 37 superb aircraft profiles and 255 photographs – the vast majority of which are published for the first time, ‘Messerschmitt Bf 109: The Yugoslav Story (Volume II)’ represents the result of decades of painstaking research. It is drawn from extensive archival sources, numerous interviews and personal recollections, as well as documents and artifacts from private collections in Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Germany, Russia, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Czechia, France, South Africa, New Zealand, United States, United Kingdom, Belgium, Finland and Italy.


When one of us interviewed a former Messerschmitt Bf 109 pilot in 1978, little could he have imagined that it would take four decades before the ‘Yugoslav’ part of the story about the iconic German fighter would be completed and presented to the public. Finally, we have done it.
Just as with the first volume, we encountered many difficulties, unknowns and dilemmas in our research.
When reconstructing the war record of the Croat Air Force Legion, it was not only the lack of documents – as in the time frame between early April and late July 1942 – and personal statements that presented the major problem, but rather our intention to compare these sources with those providing the Soviet side of the story. A small fragment of it was accessible in the form of digitalized documents through the ‘Pamyat naroda’ (Memory of the People), ‘Podvig naroda’ (Accomplishment of the People) and OBD Memorial web portals, as well as a few published sources. Although we failed to find comprehensive data for most engagements in the early period, our friends from Russia and Ukraine provided us with details, which shed a new light on activities of the Legionnaires on the Eastern Front.
Especially complicated was our effort to find modern names for locations mentioned in documents and interviews. Many small places have long vanished, others had their names changed, some were written in their German version and more than once there were several villages with exactly the same names. Archival sources are few when dealing with the short saga of the Messerschmitt Bf 109 in the Air Force of the Independent State of Croatia. For this reason, we had no option but to rely heavily on personal statements and interviews, made long after the events in question, and therefore less reliable.
The work on the Bulgarian fighter operations was helped by several excellent, recently published books, which combined with Bulgarian, Yugoslav, US and German archival finds, and helping hands of our associates from Bulgaria, Czechia and Germany, provided many, albeit still not all, of the answers we were looking for.
Finally, although some episodes from the early period could not be fully reconstructed, persistence in exploring various Serbian archives and assistance of the veterans enabled us to come out with a detailed history of the Bf 109 in service with Partisans and its post-war role in the air arm of the Yugoslav Socialist Federation.
Colleagues from around the world provided unselfish assistance and shared with us the wealth of their painstaking research: Eric Mombeek from Belgium; Yordan Andreev (+), Dimitar Nedialkov, Simeon Tsvetkov and Teodor Konstantinov from Bulgaria; Nenad Goll (+), Mario Raguž, Marko Jeras, Josip Novak, Danijel Frka, Siniša Pogačić, Robert Čopec, Amir Obhođaš, Lovro Peršen and Dragan Frlan from Croatia; Jaroslav Kreč and Martin Vyroubal from Czechia; Carl-Fredrik Geust from Finland; Michel Ledet from France; Gerhard Stemmer, Peter Petrick, Sven Carlsen and Zvonimir Freivogel from Germany; Ferdinando D’Amico (+) from Italy; Svetozar Jokanović from Montenegro; Andrey Kuznetsov, Sergey Feoktistov and Aleksandr Gartman from Russia; Čedomir Janić (+), Vojislav Mikić (+), Šime Oštrić, Ognjan Petrović, Aleksandar Radić, Predrag Miladinović, Aleksandar Kolo, Miodrag Ristić, Dragan Šaler, Mario Hrelja, Dragan Munižaba, Nebojša Simović, Dejan Vukmirović, Vuk Lončarević, Predrag Lažetić, Slobodan Bošković, Ljubiša Pavlović and Aleksandar Ognjević from Serbia; Mitja Maruško, Marko Ličina, Tomaž Perme, Sašo Knez and Marko Malec from Slovenia; Stefaan Bouwer and Tinus le Roux from South Africa; Ivan Lavrinenko from Ukraine; Eddie Creek and Samir Karabašić from the United Kingdom; Russell Fahey and Henry L. de Zeng from the United States. A huge thanks to all of them, as well as to David Isby from the United States who was kind enough to review our English text.
We would especially like to thank the former aviators, aircrew and their families, both those that we had the honour to meet or contact in person as well as those interviewed by our friends and colleagues: Albin Starc, Tomislav Kauzlarić, Josip Helebrant, Vladimir Ferenčina, Bogdan Vujičić, Vladimir Kreš, Zdenko Avdić, Ivan Baltić, Desimir Furtinović, Stjepan Radić, Ignacije Lucin, Zlatko Stipčić, Slavko Boškić, Nikola Vučina, Mato Dukovac, Franjo Džal, Janko Čurilović, Josip Jelačić, Ivan Mezdjić, Vladimir Bosner, Tihomir Simčič, Šerif Mehanović, Đuro Gredičak, Đuro Perak, Marjan Kokot,Dragutin Žauhar, Mihajlo Nikolić, Petar Obradović, Dušan Martinović, Radovan Daković, Nikola Kuprešanin, Nikola Milekić, Miloš Milikić, Slavko Lampe, Stanislav Džodžović, Dušan Prašnikar, Marko Flajs, Viktor Tomić, Ciril Rupert, Dobrivoj Petrovski, Teodor Bukovnik, Miladin Zečević, Branko Galić, Anđelko Košuta, Petar Novković, Zdravko Marušič, Stanko Bečejac, Stevan Krnjajić, Franc Rupnik, Slobodan Nikolić, Tomaš Samardžić, Branko Vujičić, Tomaž Baraga, Branko Kovačević, Janez Kavčič, Miloš Kondić, Živko Erdoglija and Albin Pibernik from the former Yugoslavia; Petar Bochev, Stoyan Stoyanov and Todor Rozev from Bulgaria; and Raymond Clark from New Zealand.
Last but not least, this work would not have been possible without documents and photographs obtained from numerous institutions around the world, foremost Military Archive (Vojni arhiv), Aviation Museum – Belgrade (Muzej vazduhoplovstva – Beograd), Air Force Museum (Muzej ratnog vazduhoplovstva) and Serbian National Library (Narodna biblioteka Srbije) in Serbia; Croatian State Archives (Hrvatski državni arhiv), Croatian History Museum (Hrvatski povijesni muzej) and Museum of Military and War History (Muzej vojne i ratne povijesti) in Croatia; Central Archives of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation (Центральный архив Министерства обороны Российской Федерации) in Russia; State Military History Archives (Държавният военноисторически архив) in Bulgaria; Museum of Contemporary History (Muzej novejše zgodovine) in Slovenia; Federal military Archives (Bundesarchiv Militärarchiv) in Germany; The National Archives of the United Kingdom; National Archives and Records Administration and Air Force Historical Research Agency in the United States; and Muzej revolucije naroda Hercegovine (Museum of the Revolution of the People of Herzegovina) in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
In the foreword of the first volume, we emphasized our intention to present as realistic a picture of the events as possible but also that, with sources available, some facts and events will unavoidably be misinterpreted or omitted. Back in 2002, two of us published a book covering some of the events described in this volume. When returning to the subject, after many years, we were surprised at the many corrections we had to make. New sources, not only provided clues about matters previously unknown, but also enabled us to better understand other sources and scrutinize them from a new perspective. As much as we tried to prevent it, we are aware that this will happen again. After all, the search for historical truth never ends. We eagerly await new evidence that would fill gaps and correct mistakes we might have made this time.
The Second World War was unfortunately not the final armed conflict experienced by Yugoslavia and its people. It influenced the decades to follow; its wounds proved too deep to heal. No lessons were learned and differences proved stronger than common values. Eventually the second joint state of the South Slavs disappeared in a destructive, sad way and with it, many secrets of its rich, colourful and unusual aviation history. By writing these two volumes, we hope that a small but important segment of this aviation history has been preserved, to serve as a reminder of the lives, deeds and sacrifices of the mostly gone generation, which once believed in a better tomorrow, just as we do today.

Belgrade, 30 August 2018

Boris Ciglić, Dragan Savić & Milan Micevski


English translation review:
David Isby

Translation of sources in Russian language:
Marija Mažibrada

Ognjan Petrović

Graphic Design:
Unibrand Communications d.o.o.

Supported by:
Top Pos Servis

Format: 290 x 210 mm

200 pages

255 photographs

37 aircraft profiles


Release Date: 11 October 2018

ISBN: 978-86-909727-3-9

ⓒ 2018 All rights reserved