In April 1941, Nazi Germany, the Kingdom of Italy and other Axis allies attacked and occupied the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. Italian forces occupied Montenegro and established it as a puppet Kingdom of Montenegro.
During May, the Montenegrin branch of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia started preparations for the uprising planned for mid-July. The Communist Party and its Youth League organised 6,000 of its members into detachments prepared for guerrilla warfare. The second uprising in Nazi-occupied Europe happened on 13 July 1941 in Montenegro.
|Hans Herbert Macholz, Kurt Waldheim, Escola Roncagli, and Artur Phleps in Podgorica, Yugoslavia, 1943|
Hans Herbert Macholz, Kurt Waldheim, Escola Roncagli, and Artur Phleps in Podgorica, Yugoslavia, 1943
Unexpectedly, the uprising took sway and by 20 July 32,000 men and women joined the fight. Beside the coast and major towns (Podgorica, Cetinje, Pljevlja and Nikšić), which were besieged, Montenegro was mostly liberated. In a month of fighting the Italian army had 5,000 dead, wounded and captured. The uprising lasted until mid-August, when it was suppressed by a counter-offensive numbering 67,000 Italian troops brought in from Albania. Faced with new and overwhelming Italian forces, many of the fighters lay down their arms and returned home. Despite that, intense guerrilla fighting lasted until December. Fighters who remained under arms fractured into two groups. Most of them went on to join the Yugoslav Partisans, consisting of communists and those inclined towards active resistance. Those loyal to the Karađorđević dynasty and opposing communism went on to become Chetniks, and turned to collaboration with Italians against the Partisans, whose numbers included Arso Jovanović, Sava Kovačević, Svetozar Vukmanović-Tempo, Milovan Đilas, Peko Dapčević, Vlado Dapčević, Veljko Vlahović, and Blažo Jovanović. War broke out between Partisans and Chetniks during the first half of 1942. Pressured by Italians and Chetniks the core of the Montenegrin Partisans left to Serbia and Bosnia where they joined with other Yugoslav Partisans. Fighting between Partisans and Chetniks continued through the war. Chetniks with Italian backing controlled most of the country from mid-1942 to April 1943. Montenegrin Chetniks received the status of “anti-communist militia” and received weapons, ammunition, food rations and salaries from Italy. Most of them were moved to Mostar where they participated in the Battle of Neretva against the Partisans but were dealt a heavy defeat.
During the German operation Schwartz against the Partisans in May and June 1943, Germans disarmed large number of Chetniks without fighting as they feared they would turn against them in case of an Allied invasion of the Balkans. After the capitulation of Italy in September 1943, Partisans managed to take hold of most of Montenegro for a brief time, but Montenegro was soon occupied by German forces and fierce fighting continued during late 1943 and entire 1944. Montenegro was liberated by the Partisans in December.