Helion's The Trieste Crisis 1953: The First Cold War Confrontation in Europe

Author/Artists: Bojan Dimitrijevic


Helion  Publishing


$29.95 MSRP from Casemate


Scott Van Aken

Notes: 72 pages, softcover, over 100 images
ISBN 978-1-9123866342

Even though I was born only a few years prior to this, I can recall hearing about this, though not really knowing what it was all about. Right at the end of WWII, the Yugoslav Partisan Army moved north along the coast as quickly as it could and started occupying the city of Trieste. From the other side, the Allied Army moved quickly south and upon reaching Trieste, started moving the advanced forces of the Yugoslav Army out of the city. This was a bloodless movement performed to keep the city in Italy. Thus began eight years of political confrontation over the city of Trieste and the surrounding area.

It is one of those instances where one side says they've had control over the territory for years and the other says that many of the people living there are ethnic Slavs and Croats so it should be ours. The first thing that was done was the area was divided into a Zone A and a Zone B. The British were the ultimate controling authority in Zone A, which was Trieste and some of the surrounding area which included areas to the north. The Yugoslavians controlled Zone B which was the area south and west of the city. The entire area was called the Trieste Free Zone.

A policing force, which was developed and the two sides coordinated to some extent. Tito, who controlled Yugoslavia wanted to forcibly remove the Allies, but was too weak to do so without help. The Soviets were unwilling to provide the assistance needed so it was a stalemate for a few years. Things were not perfect as Allied aircraft routinely invaded the Yugoslav section and after shooting down two straying USAF C-47s in 1946, tensions rose.

In the later 40's Stalin flatly told Tito that there was no way the USSR would assist him in militarily taking over the Zone A and the city of Trieste. This had a chilling effect on the Yugoslav leader and he started to mollify his position. During all of this time there were talks to come up with a solution to things. It was becoming fairly obvious that the status quo wasn't the way to go and it would be more reasonable for the two zones to officially become parts of either Italy or Yugoslavia.

Meanwhile Tito started becoming more and more friendly towards NATO so Yugoslavia was able to get Mutual Defense equipment to help prevent the Soviets from invading that section of the Balkans. It resulted in them getting things like F-47 and F-84 Fighters, Mosquito fighter-bombers and night fighters, C-47 transports, M47 tanks and lots of other mostly-US equipment. There was even talk of having the country join NATO.

Through all of this the Italians were somewhat in the background. They wanted Trieste as part of their nation so in 1953, they made plans to occupy Zone A and started troop movements to reach this goal. The Yugoslavs got wind of it and started to do the same thing with regards to Zone B. Tensions were very high that there would be a shooting war.

The author does a commendable job of giving us the full background as well as a fairly detailed story of both the political and military aspects of the situation around Trieste. This includes unit information and movements, the equipment they were using along with any specific mini-crises that occurred in the area. This is accompanied by some excellent period photos, some nice maps as some full color profiles just to spice things up a bit. It makes for a truly good book on a series of events that few people know anything about. Highly recommended.

November 2019

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Review book courtesy of  Casemate Publishing, where you can order your copy at this link.

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