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Armed resistance Organisation of resistance

Rudi Čajavec and the Yugoslav “Partisan Aviation”

Upon the establishment of the Independent State of Croatia, the town of Banja Luka in northwest Bosnia became its geographic center. Among the institutions newly established there was the Colonization Department, with a mandate to seize land from persecuted Serbs and populate it with Croats. The regime appointed to its head a 30 year old Rudolf (Rudi) Čajavec, reserve air force officer from central Bosnia and agriculture graduate student of the Sorbonne University in Paris. Unknown to them, Čajavec was a communist. This fact had escaped police attention as he was not a member of the Communist Party nor connected to it.


As a bachelor, Čajavec settled in the “Palace” Hotel, where his bon vivant style attracted the attention of many local bigshots, whom he quickly befriended. But under this facade was someone willing to take action. The opportunity presented itself when one of the Department’s employees, Vinko Markotić, who was a member of the underground Communist party, realized he had before him a potential associate. This understanding came out of their office small–talk. With cards on the table, Čajavec offered his services, and thus became a part of the small communist “cell” within the Department, one of several local “cells” that functioned within the regime’s apparatus.


His first contribution was fresh, top–tier intelligence, gathered through alcohol infused socializing in the “Palace”, where police chiefs, political heads and army officers let their tongues loose. His second contribution were the guns and military equipment provided to the Department for “field work” and staff self–protection. Loads of weapons obtained for “colonists” were transported to the Partisans by the Department’s own vehicles. But Čajavec’s third contribution became the most celebrated one: the foundation of the “Partisan Aviation”.


As a reserve pilot, Čajavec was also introduced to an antifascist “cell” around Franjo Kluz within the air force base near Banja Luka. By the spring of 1942, both Čajavec and this group were approaching the risk of being uncovered by the police. In coordination with the Partisan command, on 23 May, Kluz took one “Potez 25” airplane and landed it on a field near liberated Prijedor, followed by Čajavec in a “Breguet 19”. These were the first wings of the “Partisan Aviation”, which was immediately engaged in combat missions. However, Čajavec was shot down and died on 4 June, while Kluz’s “Potez” was destroyed on the ground on 6 July. Kluz got his wings back in 1944. He died in combat over Dalmatia, flying a “Spitfire” from a new Yugoslav Partisan Squadron base in Italy.


Vladan Vukliš

Sources used
  • Zaga Umićević, “Nepokorena Banjaluka”, in Srednja Bosna u NOB, III (Banjaluka: Glas, 1981) (Cyrillic): 565–570
  • Vinko Markotić, “S Čajavecom u Uredu za kolonizaciju”, in Srednja Bosna u NOB, III (Banjaluka: Glas, 1981) (Cyrillic): 570–587
  • Mišo Leković, Prva partizanska krila (Beograd: Rad, 1962)
  • Predrag Pejčić, Prva i Druga eskadrila NOVJ (Beograd: Vojnoizdavački i novinski centar, 1991)
Further reading
  • Slavko Odić, Slavko Komarica, Partizanska obavještajna služba, I–III (Zagreb: Centar za informacije i publicitet, 1988)
  • Vladan Vukliš, Marijana Todorović Bilić, Banjalučki ilegalac: Sjećanja Žarka Lastrića (Banjaluka: Arhiv Republike Srpske, 2020)
  • Vazduhoplovstvo u Narodnooslobodilačkom ratu Jugoslavije, ed. Miloš Kovačević (Zemun: Komanda ratnog vazduhoplovstva, 1965):
  • Website: aeroflight, Yugoslavia Partisan Airforce:

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