Posts Tagged ‘Serbia’

The war of Yugoslavian dissolution was fought in three consti­tuent republics during 1991 and 1992. An overview of the fighting in each region is given in this section.

Much of the trouble started brewing in 1990. Like other Communist nations in Eastern Europe, Yugoslavia underwent significant economic turmoil and hyperinflation as it tried to rid itself of a socialist economy. Nationalist factions within the ruling League of Communists of Yugoslavia (LCY) walked out on a January 1990 congress and so doing effectively destroyed the party. Yugoslavia’s communists reorganized themselves along republican structures, giving new prominence to the local communist organizations, but without a national party leadership, there was little to check rising nationalism in all the major Yugoslavian republics and when this nationalism combined with Yugoslavians’ growing distaste for the Communists led to non-communist governments being elected in four of the six republics at the next free elections.

In Slovenia, the reformed communist Party for Democratic Renewal was defeated by the DEMOS coalition of anti-communist political parties. In Croatia, the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) under Franjo Tjudman gained the majority in the republic’s Parliament.

Bosnia-Hercegovina’s communists were defeated by nationalist groups representing Muslims, Serbs, and Croats with the Muslim Party of Democratic Action gaining power. Macedonian nationalists also gained power in that republic’s elections.

Only in Serbia and Montenegro did the former Communists manage to hold on to power with Slobodan Milosevic’s Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) gaining the majority of seats in Serbia. These elections were indicative of how the nation would later disintegrate from the newly re-ignited nationalist and irredentist unrest.

Following the election of the Croatian Democratic Union, Serbs within Croatia’s borders staged an August 19 referendum calling for Croatian Serb autonomy. When the Croatian government declared the referendum illegal, Serbs in the Krajina region raided government armories and blocked roads and railways leading to the region. Croatian police efforts to put down the uprising met with interference from JNA and Serbian authorities. This in turn sparked HDZ extremists to arm themselves to counter the Serbian insurgency. The situation was made worse when both Croatia and Slovenia assumed command of their regional TDFs and when Slovenia staged a successful separatist referendum.

1991 started with Yugoslavia in military and constitutional crisis. A January 9 Federal Presidential order for all unauthorized forces to disarm was widely ignored. Only emergency diplomatic maneuvers averted clashes between the JNA and Croatian TDF and irregular units over the enforcement of the order. A January 10 meeting among the six republics on reorganizing the Yugoslav federation was a failure as competing visions of the nation could not be reconciled. In February, both Slovenia and Croatia emplaced secession legislation and signed a mutual defence pact against JNA intervention.

Ethnic tensions continued to rise in the region as a result of three events. In February, the Serbs in Krajina declared their secession from Croatia. Then in March, 100,000 anti-SPS protestors in Belgrade organized by the Serbian Renaissance Party’s Vuk Draskovic were met with riot police and JNA troops using tanks and APCs. The violent Belgrade clashes caused a great deal of concern over the combative nature of the Milosevic government and the potential use of the JNA to settle civil disorder. Also on March 1, armed Serbs police in Pakrac in Krajina attempted to disarm their Croatian colleagues and started a riot as thousands of ethnic Serbs in the town came out to show their support. 200

Croatian ”specijalici” riot police were sent in later in the day. The next day, the JNA were deployed in Pakrac to restore order and force the Croatian special police from the area.

Fighting within Krajina would continue and grow in intensity in May. Gun battles occurred in Plitvice National Park, bombs exploded in Knin, and the JNA occupied Kijevo. May encompassed several JNA crackdowns on Croat and Serb fighting in Krajina with armored units occupying many of the villages around Knin and paratroopers relieving the Serb-besieged Kijevo. Adding to the tensions in May were the Krajina and Croatian secessionist referendums. Krajinans voted 90% to remain part of Yugoslavia, while 92.2% of Croatians voted for secession. It was on this stage of ethnic tension that Croatia and Slovenia jointly declared their independence and so started the war of Yugoslavian dissolution.


The formal declaration of Slovenian independence came on June 25, 1991 and brought forth an immediate call for military intervention from the Federal parliament. Two days later, almost 2,000 JNA troops were mobilized to seize border crossings on the Slovenian borders of Austria, Hungary, and Italy. After twelve hours of pushing through roadblocks and heavily armed resistance, the JNA reached and seized the crossings. The Slovenian airports were closed down and the Ljubljana airport came under JNA airstrikes. June 28th saw a brief halt to JNA activities and the implementation of a fragile European Community-brokered cease­fire, which quickly fell apart and sporadic fighting continued throughout Slovenia. The Slovenian TDF proved its effectiveness in a well-organized campaign against the JNA in which it was able to stage effective blockades of JNA troops before a second ceasefire was implemented. On July 3, the JNA began returning to its Slovenian barracks allowing an uneasy peace to settle during the summer.

Slovenia had participated in EC-sponsored talks with Croatia and the Federal Government on the island of Brioni on July 7. This called for a ceasefire and a three-month moratorium on the implementation of Slovenian and Croatian independence declarations. Three months later, on October 7, Slovenia once again declared its independence and dissociated itself from Yugoslavia. This was accepted by the Yugoslav government, who agreed to withdraw JNA troops and hand over military equipment by October 25th. Slovenia had attained its sovereignty.


Like Slovenia, Croatia declared its independence from Yugoslavia on June 25th, 1991. Unlike Slovenia, however, the JNA fought a campaign of territorial conquest with much of the fighting revolving around protecting the Serb-dominated regions of Krajina and Slavonia.

Eastern Croatia and Krajina came under heavy conflict with JNA, Serbian irregulars, and Croatian ZNG all fighting over the same territory, despite the Brioni and the later Ohrid peace talks. The overmatched Croatian ZNG was unable to prevent a steady advance of Serb/JNA forces across Eastern Croatia and lost several villages to armored and infantry thrusts by August. The fighting also produced a significant refugee problem within Yugoslavia, with nearly 90,000 people being displaced internally and several thousand fleeing to Hungary.

By September, international pressure forced further EC-brokered ceasefire talks, but the ceasefires were unable to hold for more than a few hours. Croatians were able to regain some control over the fighting by blockading of 15 army bases, which quickly surrendered on September 15 with their equipment. That same day, the JNA bombed and shelled Ploce where Croatian forces had pillaged a naval base for weapons. On September 19, a JNA armored column also moved into Slavonia near Osijek to engage Croatian defenders in the heaviest fighting of the war and on September 22, they had gained control of Petrijna and several other towns. At this point, the JNA was suffering heavily from desertions and agreed to a ceasefire which lasted to month’s end. The ceasefire gave Croatian forces the opportunity to improve their positions by moving armored units and heavy artillery into new combat positions. Most of the Croatian equipment had been captured from the surrendered JNA bases.

When the fighting began again on October 1, the Croatians were in a much better position to stall the disintegrating JNA and Serbian forces. Croatian forces fought hard to capture JNA garrisons within Croatia. In response, the Yugoslav navy blockaded and attacked the Croatian ports of Dubrovnik, Ploce, Pula, Rujeka, Sebenik, Split, and Zadar, which created severe shortages of water and electricity in those cities. A few days later, on October 8, Croatia declared its independence.

Fighting would continue in Croatia until the beginning of the new year. HOS staged attacks into Serbia (November 5,6), Vukovar fell to Serbian forces (November 17), and the JNA launched renewed offensives against Dubrovnik, Osijek, Karlovac, and Sisak (December 27) while Croatia managed to recapture parts of western Slavonia (December 20). Then, on January 3, a lasting ceasefire ended the major fighting in Croatia as the United Nations granted recognition to Slovenia and Croatia. Although the ceasefire would be sporadically and continually violated in the coming months, the war in Croatia was over. Peace was ensured by the deployment in March of a 14,000-member UN Protection Force (UNPROFOR) to the regions of Slavonia and Krajina.


With its multiethnic population, it was only a matter of time before Bosnia-Hercegovina became the scene of bitter ethnic fighting in the war of Yugoslavian dissolution. The people of Bosnia consist primarily of Muslims but with Serbs and Croats both strongly represented in the balance. But ethnic fighting is a deceptive term, implying that there is no greater purpose to the war than killing one’s neighbors. The Bosnian war was not about ethnic hatreds and the term was used only as post-facto justification. Instead, the war occurred because of a mix of irredentism and expansionism.

By January 1992, the Serbian leadership knew that Yugoslavia no longer existed except as “Greater Serbia” and their main concern then became the enlarging of Serbian lands so that they would have the biggest territory when the ashes settled. Bosnia, with its large Serbian population and borders to Krajina would have appeared the best region for a territorial war.

The Bosnian government had made legislative changes to prepare for independence in October 1991 with an independence plebiscite held on November 9-12. The people of the republic voted overwhelmingly for independence, although it was claimed that the Serb-dominated Krajna (sic) had voted 90% in favor of remaining with Yugoslavia. This split was enough to frighten the European Community from granting Bosnia-Hercegovina international recognition in January 1992, in the belief that doing so would lead to ethnic fighting. This did not prevent the Serbs from declaring the Autonomous Republic of the Serbian People of Bosnia-Hercegovina on January 9 and removing themselves from independence debates in the Bosnian government.

Tensions would increase between the three ethnic groups in Bosnia. On February 24, a bomb injured 12 people in an Odzak Croatian Cultural Center. Three days later, another bomb in Banja Luca damaged the central mosque. Tensions would rise even higher following a February 29-March 1 referendum on independence when 99.4% of the voters preferred independence. Bosnian Serbs boycotted the vote and Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic said that an independent Bosnia was unacceptable and there were several clashes between Serbs and Muslims in Sarajevo and Bosanski Brod. This did not stop Bosnian President Alija Izbetgovic from proclaiming the republic’s independence on March 3.

Although diplomacy would defuse the tensions for the next few weeks, by month’s end, fighting had broken out between Bosnian Serbs and Croats in Bosanski Brod and Neum. On March 27, the Serbian Republic of Bosnia-Hercegovina and its loyalty to Yugoslavia were proclaimed.

Amid intensifying fighting in April, Bosnia-Hercegovina received international recognition. The fighting occurred all across the new republic, with Serbs attempting to capture and hold territory where possible. The goal of the Serbs at this point was to open an overland corridor from Serbia to Bosanska Krajina and the Serbian Republic of Krajina in Croatia and in this they had succeeded by month’s end. They captured Zvornik, Srebrenica, and Bratunac and were poised to besiege and shell Sarajevo by April 21.

The fighting in Bosnia then settled into a pattern of intense fighting broken by short-lived ceasefires as the war became a state of siege against the Bosniak and Croat citizens of Bosnia-Hercegovina. In May, the JNA forces, which had been supporting the Bosnian Serbs, had all non-Bosnian members recalled to Yugoslavia. This left 55,000 Bosnian Serb JNA members still in Bosnia and they and their equipment were assigned to the Bosnian Serb Army.

Then in June, Federal Croatian forces entered Bosnia in force to assist Bosnian Croats in expanding Croat-held territor­ies around Bosanski Brod, Mostar, and Travnik, thus creating the Croatian Community of Herzeg-Bosna. This came as a shock to the Bosnian Muslim forces who had previously considered the Croatians as allies. Instead, the Croatians seemed to be cooperating with Serbs in carving up Bosnia. The creation of Herzeg-Bosna was welcomed by Bosnian Serbs as legitimizing their territorial conquests and the creation of ethnic cantons. Muslims treated Herzeg-Bosna as illegal, but did not have the military or political assets to dispute it. Muslim control of Bosnia had by this point shrank to holding the cities of Tuzla, Zenica, Sarajevo, Visegrad, and Gorazde as well as a small pocket north of Bihac. The rest of the nation was split between Serbs and Croats.

Fighting would continue interminably over the summer, although the establishment of a UNPROFOR base at the Sarajevo airport by Canadian and French peacekeepers to permit entry of relief flights was one moment of brightness. The UNPROFOR peacekeepers would be replaced a month later by French, Ukranian, and Egyptian forces who would continue the dispersal of relief supplies to Bosnian citizens over the coming months.

Despite the presence of UNPROFOR in Sarajevo, a lasting peace is not readily forseeable. Peace, when it comes, will have to be a diplomatic, rather than military, solution because none of the belligerents in Bosnia-Hercegovina have the military resources to create their own peace and all are on precarious political and economic footings. However, a diplomatic peace effort is also begarred by the results of the war. Both Bosnian Serbs and Croats have peace plans calling for ethnic cantonments based on the territories they have captured. Bosnian Muslims, however, who make up the majority of the population would be dispossessed under such a plan, which would legitimize Serb and Croat land grabs and the creation of as many as 1 Million Bosniak refugees. To bolster its case for cantonments, the Bosnian Serbs have been engaging in “ethnic cleansing,” which involves forcibly evicting non-Serb residents from Serb-held regions, creating even more refugees.

Many of the refugees have fled to Hungary, Croatia, and Kosovo. Others remain in Bosnia, unable to leave, and ill prepared for the coming winter.

In the long term, the continued fighting in Bosnia must end. No war can continue forever. The only questions are when, and how many will have to die first. This war simply becomes another justification for Blood Vengeance in the next round of fighting.


During the war of Yugoslavian dissolution, there were several military and paramilitary forces operating within the Yugoslavian republics. These ranged from the remnants of the Federal Yugo­slavian Armed Forces to National Guard forces of the breakaway republics. As the war progressed, military forces fragmented along first ethnic, and then political lines. The war itself devolved into numerous small-unit actions and artillery bombardments. Each of the major combatants is examined below.


Federal Yugoslavian and Serbian Forces engaged in joint operations in 1991 and 1992 in an attempt to prevent the dissolution of Yugoslavia and to attempt to place Yugoslavia under Serbian dominion. The interoperability of these forces was based both upon the Yugoslavian military doctrine of Total National Defence and the ethnic similarity of their command. Since 1953, the officer corps and command structures of the Yugoslavian National Army had come to be dominated by Serbians and Montenegrins, while the Serbian Forces were an ethnically-organized militia. The military structures and doctrines of Yugoslavian and Serbian forces are examined below.

Army of the Republic of Yugoslavia

The Yugoslavian National Army (JNA), also known as the Yugoslavian Peoples’ Army (YPA), had a unique operational doctrine for a conventional military force. Yugoslavia based its defence doctrine upon the concept of Total National Defence (TND), which drew upon Yugoslavia’s rich partisan history during World War II. TND gave the JNA the role of defending borders against aggressors with the intention of delaying an invader long enough for Territorial Defence Forces (TDF) to enter the field and start wearing the invader down with partisan tactics. The entire Yugoslavian population under TND was to be engaged in armed resistance, armaments production, and civil defence. TND was believed by the Yugoslavian planners to be the best method by which a smaller nation could properly defend itself against a much stronger invader.

Ironically, the TND concept proved to be a catalyst in tearing the Yugoslavian nation apart in the bloody separatist battles of 1991 and 1992. The TDF were organized along social/political lines with each Republic, province, and commune possessing its own TDF elements. Unlike the JNA, which integrated all nationalities below the officer level, the disparate TDF elements were usually ethnically homogenous, and would form the base of nationalist resistance to the Yugoslavian Federation.

Each TDF force was split into manouverable and spatial elements. Under TND, manouverable elements were to act as mobile partisan squads, while the smaller spatial elements protected key locations and defended the population. The battalion-sized manouverable elements were under the control of republic staffs and these were the units which formed the armies of the breakaway republics.

The JNA itself was organized under six districts, based at Belgrade, Skopje, Split, Zagreb, Sarajevo, and Ljubljana. Before the war, the JNA fielded a large force, with some 213,500 people under arms and 575,000 reservists. The TDF fielded as many as one million personnel. The JNA organization is given on the table below.

Table of Yugoslavian National Army Composition


Infantry Divisions


Mechanized Infantry Brigades


 Motorized Infantry Brigades


Light Brigades


Mountain Brigades


Independent Tank Brigades


Artillery Regiments


Antitank Regiments


Antiaircraft Artillery Regiments


Antiaircraft Missile Regiments

As the war of Yugoslavian dissolution progressed, the JNA found itself being weakened, not only through the usual casualties and desertions accompanying an inter-ethic war, but also because JNA conscripts in Croatia, Slovenia, Macedonia, and Bosnia-Hercegovina refused to enter the ranks. The JNA slowly became a Serb/Montenegrin organization, and even these ethnic groups were wont to desert when they grew weary of the fighting.

Weapons and Equipment: JNA and TDF equipment consisted of material ranging in vintage from World War II to the present. Main Battle Tanks (MBTs) were primarily the older Soviet T-54/T-55 series, but the Yugoslavian State Factories were also producing the newer M-84 MBT, which was a licensed copy of the Soviet T-72M MBT (also known as the T-74). Other tanks in active service were the American M-47 Patton, and the Soviet PT-76 Light Amphibious Tank. As the war went on, World War II era T-34/85 Soviet tanks were pressed into service. Most tanks were organized into tank battalions attached to infantry divisions or regiments. Eight independent tank regiments consisting of one heavy tank battalion using M-84s and two regular tank battalions using T-55s were also fielded. Each tank battalion was organized along Soviet lines, with a headquarters tank over three companies of ten tanks each.

Armored personnel carriers were mainly locally produced BVP M80A and M60 APCs and BOV-M armored cars. Older Soviet equipment like BTR-60/-50/-40s as well as American M-3A1 halftracks and M-8 Greyhound armored cars were also in service. Soviet BRDM-2 vehicles were used for reconnaissance.

Helicopter support provided by the Yugoslavian Air Force consisted of Aerospatiale SA-341 Gazelles produced under license in Yugoslavia as the ”Partizan• and Mil Mi-8 Hip Transport helicopters. The air force also provided close air support over the combat zones with the Yugoslav-produced Galeb/Jastreb, Kraguj, and Soko IAR-93B Orao 2 and Soviet-made MiG-21F and MiG-21U jets.

However, the Yugoslavian war was not a mobile war. Infantry and artillery ruled the battlefield, with tanks being pressed into service as self-propelled artillery. Other artillery consisted of D-30 and 2S1 (SAU-122) 122mm howitzers, M-101 105mm, and M65 and M-114 155mm Howitzers. There was a strong reliance on mortars, primarily the Soviet M-38 82mm and M-43 120mm types.

Yugoslavia also produced its own copy of the Brandt MO-120-AM50 120mm Mortar. Direct fire antitank guns included the 75mm M-1943, the 90mm M63B2, and the 100mm T-12.

JNA infantry weapons were primarily Warsaw Pact and locally-produced weapons, including AK-47s (called M-70 Zastavars) and AMD-65s assault rifles as well as the Soviet SVD sniper rifle and Tokarev TT33 (M-65) 9mm pistol. The JNA also fielded RPK (M-65B) light machineguns and relied upon the M53 SARAC (local copy of German MG-42 World War II-era MG), the German MG-3, and the Soviet PKM for heavier machineguns. Explosive infantry weapons included the local M-79 Osser 90mm rocket launcher and the M-71 LRL 128mm indirect fire rocket launcher.  Yugoslavia also relied quite heavily on older recoilless artillery and anti-tank launchers in the past, but these have not had much of a profile in media reports on the fighting, leading to the assumption that many had been retired and replaced by more modern rocket and missile launchers. Recoilless launchers included the 82mm M-60PB, the 57mm M-18, and the 105mm M-65. Anti-tank missiles included the AT-1 Snapper and the AT-2/AT-3 Sagger.

Rechristening: With the formation of the Federal Yugoslavian Republic (FRY) on April 27, 1992, the JNA was renamed the Army of the Republic of Yugoslavia, and was supposed to operate only on FRY territory, theoretically preventing any Army operations in Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia-Hercegovina, or Macedonia.

Serbian TDF

The Serbian TDF was the official military force of the Serbian republic and operated very closely with the JNA. The Serbian TDF was a militia/partisan structure under the TND concept which dominated Yugoslavian military structures for several decades and the TDF’s role was to assist in the defence of Serbia against foreign invasion. However, when the Yugoslav nation began its devolution, TDF units quickly became official armies for the breakaway republics and at this time, the Serbian government obtained control of the elements comprising the Serbian TDF.

Serbian TDF weapons were identical to JNA arms, although the TDF, being oriented towards small-unit operations, would have focused on infantry weapons. Because of the closeness of the Serbian TDF and the JNA, Serbian TDF units were much better equipped and trained than other TDFs.

Serbian Irregulars

The term irregular was applied very liberally to many non-JNA units operating in Yugoslavia and often encompassed government-controlled Territorial Defence Forces. In proper use, the term “irregular” should only apply to independent paramilitary forces.

The most prominent group of irregulars in Yugoslavia was the Cetnik movement. They were a wing of Vojislav Seselj’s Serbian Radical Party and operated in the partisan or marauder style, much like their World War II namesakes. The original Cetniks were nationalist Serbian partisans led by General Drazha Mihailovic fighting against Nazi German occupa¬tion. The original Cetniks were eradicated by Tito’s partisans following World War II.

Although Croatians used “Cetnik” to refer to both all Serbian irregulars and as a synonym for fascists or hardcore Marxists, the Cetniks were only one group of Serbian irregulars operating in Yugoslavia. Others prominent irregulars included the White Eagles under the command of Dragoslav Bokan and the Serbian Tigers of Zeljko (Arkan) Raznatovic.

Finally, there were irregulars which claimed to be the armies defending independent Serbian republics liberated from Bosnian or Croatian territory.  These included the Army of the Serbian Republic of Bosnia-Hercegovina under the command of Radovan Karadzic and General Ratko Mladic and the Army of the Serbian Republic of Krajina. All of these irregulars, because of the close Serbian ties to the JNA, operated with arms and even armor and artillery equal to those of the JNA and relied on the JNA for air support. They also fielded civilian or irregular weapons where military weapons were unavailable.

Serbian Special Force

The Serbian military announced the formation of a Special Force of 20,000 “well-trained” troops on November 7, 1991. The exact role of this force has not been reported to date, although the name suggests elite force style missions, ranging from intense partisan warfare to internal security operations. A more likely role would be as a politically reliable and militarily effective guards unit, receiving the best equipment and personnel.


The Republic of Slovenia was the first Republic to break away from Yugoslavia, and also the first to suffer attack by JNA and Serbian troops seeking to preserve Yugoslavian ”jedenstovo” (unity). It was also the first republic to cement its independence with strong resistance and an effective and lasting ceasefire.

Slovenian TDF

The Slovenian Territorial Defence Force was organized along the same lines as other Yugoslavian TDFs, but in combat, the Slovenian TDF responded with well-trained and well-organized troops. In this sense, the Slovenian TDF was not the partisan militia that TND envisioned, but was the full-fledged republican army that Serbia feared. JNA troops in Slovenia found their ground assault facing heavy resistance, and then found their positions besieged by the Slovenian TDF.

Slovenian TDF units equipped themselves from Slovenian-based JNA and TDF armories and from weapons captured from JNA forces, so they used the same weapons and vehicles as the JNA, as well as any weapons which they were able to import from other nations.

The current Slovenian Army is now making use of JNA equipment handed over to them on the JNA withdrawl of October 25, 1992.

Slovenian and Croatian Special Forces

Given that the TDF structure did not allow for the formation of Western-style elite units, the sparse media references to Slovenian and Croatian Special Forces are a mystery. Of the two nations, Slovenia had a more professional TDF organization, so it is possible that elite units were organized from the best trained of Slovenian TDF troops to act as “palace guards” and partisan raiders, much like the Serbian Special Force (see above).

Croatian Special Forces, on the other hand, were likely Special Forces in name only, trading on the mystique surrounding elite units. Croatian “Zebras”, as they called themselves, were probably little more than a splinter of Croat irregulars or ZNG units. The organization of the Croatian ZNG and the splintering of Croat resistance along political lines precluded the estab­lishment and training of traditional “elite” units.


The resistance units which saw the most of the fighting in the war of Yugoslavian dissolution were the various Croatian militias. The fighting within Croatia lasted for several months and even spilled over into Serbia. Croatian units were also active in Bosnia-Hercegovina following the republic’s move to independence and were instrumental in carving the state of Herzeg-Bosna out of the old borders of Bosnia-Hercegovina.

Croatian TDF/ZNG

On April 11, 1991 the Croatian Territorial Defence Force became the cadre for the Croatian National Guard Corps or ZNG. The ZNG later filled the role of the republic’s army and was the main force of resistance to JNA and Serbian invasion. The ZNG came under the command of the Croatian ”Ministartvo Obrane” (Defence Ministry).

During the course of the war, the ZNG proved capable of fighting the JNA and Serbian forces to a standstill, but nothing more. The ZNG was primarily an infantry-based organization which used captured JNA weapons and artillery pieces where avail­able. Its infantry weapons were likewise primarily those of the JNA and civilian and irregular units (see below), although Croatian leaders, after scouring world arms markets, were able to procure a large amount of Ultimax 100 Squad Assault Weapons manufactured by Chartered Industries of Singapore. Other infantry weapons, primarily Soviet-designed, were imported from Hungary, Romania, and other former Eastern Bloc nations.

Armored Units: Although very rare, Croatian ZNG armor did operate in small units distributed throughout the Croatian theatre. Any armored vehicles the Croatians possessed consisted of captured JNA equipment or civilian vehicles. Tanks used by the Croatians included sparse collections of T-54/T-55 MBTs, M-84 MBTs, and whole units of T-34/85 World War II tanks. Armored Personnel Carriers included BVP M80As, M-60s, BOVs, BTR-60s, and BTR-40s, as well as civilian trucks and farm tractors which had steel plate welded on as expedient armor.

Croatian HOS and Irregulars

The political splintering of the Croatian military forces meant that there were several unofficial Croatian paramilitary forces operating as irregulars through the course of the war. The most prominent of the irregular units was the HOS, which was the military wing of the ”Hrvatska Stranka Prava” (HSP)–the Croatian Party of Rights or Croatian Party of Justice, depending on the translation. The HSP/HOS were an extreme right-wing organization which organized and fought independently of the actions of the Croatian government and even engaged in attacks in the Republic of Serbia. Naturally, this caused a great deal of friction between the HSP/HOS and the ZNG, and Dobroslav Paraga, the HSP leader, was arrested in November 1991 on charges of trying to overthrow the Croatian government.

The HSP/HOS appeared to be a resurrection of the Ustase radical movement of World War II. The Ustase were a fascist terrorist group installed as the government of independent Croatia following Hitler’s invasion of April 6, 1941. The Ustase militia terrorized the civilian population, but their most terrible crimes included the mass extermination of Orthodox Serbians and Croatian Jews with such brutality that even German and Italian officials were horrified.

HOS used weaponry similar to the ZNG, although frictions between the two organizations have probably meant that the HOS had been forced to limit itself to civilian and irregular weaponry or to cultivate other sources for its arms. HOS was primarily an infantry organization, but did use captured armored vehicles in a defensive role. HOS units engaged in both guerrilla infantry attacks on Serbian and JNA positions and villages, and also defended several village strongholds in Croatia.Üd[1][1]ÜŒ Croatian Specijalci and Milicija.

Many of the early clashes preceding Croatian independence occurred between Croatian ”Milicija” (police) forces and armed Serbian insurgents operating in the Serbian-dominated regions of Croatia. In response to Serbian insurrection, Croatian extremists, including those in the ruling Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) armed themselves and the Croatian government formed a special paramilitary police reserve known as the ”Specijalici”, an internal security force. Although the ”Specijalici” were demobilized in January 1991 to forestall a crackdown by the JNA, they were not disbanded and appeared two months later at Pakrac, acting as riot police in concert with the ”Milicija”. The Croatian police forces there cracked down heavily on Serbian separatists until replaced and forced out of the fighting by JNA forces.

Croatian International Brigade

The Croatian International Brigade was an irregular Croatian infantry unit which was composed of expatriate Croatians and non-Croatian mercenaries acting as cadre for local Croatian units. In practice, the Zagreb International Brigade acted as a receiving area for “imported” troops before assigning them to disparate Croatian ZNG and ”Samb” (independent) units. The International Brigade also referred to all “imported” troops, regardless of their actual unit assignment. The Internationals were of varying quality, ranging from untrained teenagers to professional soldiers. In a sense, they were much like the mercenaries and adventurers who fought the Fascists in the Spanish Civil War.

Weapons consisted of a varying mix of civilian weapons and Croatian military weapons.


To understand the warfare in Bosnia-Hercegovina, one must be aware that there were three distinct ethnically-based forces fighting for the same land. Bosnian Muslims (Bosniaks) made up just over half of the population of Bosnia-Hercegovina, with the balance composed of Bosnian Serbs and Bosnian Croats in roughly equal numbers. The forces fighting in Bosnia are summarized below.

Serbian forces operating in Bosnia-Hercegovina included the JNA, who contributed 55,000 Bosnian-Serb troops as well as artillery and armor. The JNA forces were subordinated to the 100,000 strong Bosnian Serb Army commanded by Karadzic and Mladic, leaders of the Serbian Republic of Bosnia-Hercegovina. Serbian irregulars also joined the fighting and included the Cetniks, Krajinan Serb volunteers, White Eagles, and Serbian Tigers. Although the irregulars were not officially under the command of the Bosnian Serb Army, they did receive aid and arms from Serbia.

Croatian forces in Bosnia-Hercegovina were mainly Bosnian Croats and included the Croatian Defence Council (HVO) and the Croatian Democratic Union. HOS units were also present, and although the Croatian government denied the reports, Croatian ZNG troops were said to be present in Herzeg-Bosna and near Sarajevo.

Bosnian government forces included the 120,000-strong Bosnian TDF which is a poorly-trained and poorly-equipped militia organization, and the 70,000 strong multiethnic Bosnian Police.

Independent units included the Muslim Patriotic League and the Bosnian Green Berets, which were the military wing of the ethnically-Muslim Party of Democratic Action (SDA).


Macedonian Armed Forces consist of the old Macedonian TDF and have been subordinate to the Macedonian government since January 1992. They have used JNA equipment turned over to them when the JNA pulled out on March 26, 1992.

Macedonia was not involved in the fighting surrounding the war of Yugoslavian dissolution and its independence came peacefully. However, the independence of Macedonia has angered Greece, and worried Bulgaria. Also, Macedonian Albanikos have started agitating for independence. So, given these factors the peacefully-born Macedonian Army will be tasked with border defence and internal security responsibilities for the forseeable future.


Combatants in Yugoslavia, and especially Croatia and Bosnia-Hercegovina, used a mix of weapons from a variety of sources. Although the primary weapons were those captured from JNA forces and arsenals, several others were imported by Croatia prior to an European Community arms embargo, while others were older weapons relegated to TDF arsenals.

The most common irregulars’ weapon was the Soviet-designed AK-47, and these were brought in from Hungary, Romania, and Czechoslovakia. German made G-3s and Argentinian produced FN-FAL Para Modelo IIIs were also present in quantity, and photographs showed combatants with Italian SPAS-12 shotguns, Czechoslovak-produced MGV 176 copies of the American AMD-180 submachineguns, and Soviet PPSh-43 submachineguns. Irregulars in Croatia also made extensive use of the Singaporan Ultimax 100 Squad Assault Weapon.

Civilian Weapons were pressed into military service, ranging from the new Croatian-produced HS-91 9mm submachinegun, to the World War II era Mauser Kar98K rifles. American-made hunting rifles in calibers ranging from .22 LR to Remington 7mm Magnum and beyond were used extensively when military weapons were unavailable.

On a much smaller scale, expedient firearms improvised out of steel pipe saw use in the most desperate areas. These included homemade pistols, rifles, and shotguns, including shotgun revolvers, and were as dangerous to the firer as to the tar­get. Improvised firearms have never been particularly effective when compared with modern weapons, but their danger on the battlefield should never be underestimated.