August 14, 1995 Vreme News Digest Agency No 202

Offensive Storm

Chronology of the Attack and Defence

by Zoran Kusovac

Resistance in the Krajina stopped on the evening of August 8 when the 21 Krajina Corps surrendered, the only army Corps that kept fighting

Not even the greatest Croatian optimists or greatest Serb pessimists expected this outcome so quickly. The Croatian army was very surprised by the speed of their advance, even more by the deployment of the Krajina defenses or lack of them. Where they expected the fiercest resistance, defenses fell after the first artillery barrages and there was no need for armor or infantry. Knin, Udbina, Slunj, Gracac, Plitvice fell with almost no casualties on the Croatian side.

The Croatian attack started at 05:00 on Friday, August 4 from two directions on the southern (Dalmatian) front: the Croatian Army (HV) Varazdin 7th Guards brigade started along the Sinj-Knin road with almost no resistance and easily took Vrlika and Kijevo, advancing almost to Knin that evening. Knin was under fire from heavy artillery that whole day, most of it from the Deral ridge near Bosansko Grahovo with no resistance from the 6,000 men of the Krajina 9th Corps stationed in Knin. There were no obstacles or mines on important heights around Knin and no one stayed around to defend them. Serb soldiers said the command was chaotic with no coordination and that the highest ranking officers seen in the field were battalion commanders. That evening two US bombers, in what could at the very least be called strange circumstances, fired missiles at anti-aircraft defenses in Knin which destroyed what was left of morale in the Knin corps.

On Saturday morning, the 4th Split Brigade advanced from the direction of Grahovo and the 7th Varazdin from Kijevo and were astonished to discover that Knin was almost empty. They immediately asked permission from their command to enter the town. Croatia's high command realized they could capture the town instead of surrounding it as they planned. The ensuing race was a dead heat; at 12:30 both the 4th and 7th brigades entered Knin with a total of 15 tanks. They captured the famed Krajina armored train in a railway hangar.

The secondary line on the Dalmatian front was also chaotic. No one was in charge of the Krajina army, defenses fell minute after minute and towns and villages were abandoned with no military logic, mainly on the basis of rumors. As if to spite military logic, and probably because of their honor as soldiers, the 82 Krajina brigade defended Benkovac for a while although plans said it should be abandoned.

The second expected counter-attack (Mladic's 2 Krajina corps attacks to take back Grahovo and Glamoc and relieve the pressure on Knin) did not come. It was already too late: in eastern Krajina the Moslem 5th Corps was advancing with one of its wings crushing Abdic's national defence and the second joining up with the HV at the village of Rakovica on August 5; a third headed by the 505 Buzim brigade advanced on Glina and endangered the only remaining road for the withdrawal of refugees from northern Krajina.

On the northern front, the HV was surrounding Petrinja from two sides which would make its defence impossible without heavy casualties on both sides. The frontal attack on Petrinja was much lower in intensity so that those units could run down Serb soldiers who withdrew.

After the fall of Petrinja HV forces could spread out to cover Glina and endanger the second escape route via Dvor na Uni.

Most of the Krajina Serb army and equipment had already pulled out. Military leaders were concerned about the long-range Luna (FROG-7) and Volhov (SAM-2M) missiles and Orkan rocket launchers on Petrova Gora. Some of the missile crews demanded permission to launch against Croatian targets; a Luna hit Karlovac but the chain of command was relentless and the missiles were withdrawn. The first column got out at night, far away from the refugees but the last column of missiles joined the refugee column. Serb soldiers who reached Belgrade blamed Krajina president Milan Martic for that. If the Croatian MiGs that attacked the refugees had hit the missiles the dead would be counted in their hundreds. When Dvor na Uni fell, the Krajina army launched its only successful counterattack (officially led by general Mile Mrksic) allowing surrounded refugees and army units to get out of the Banija region.

The honor of the Krajina army was partly saved by the 21 Corps which stood firm along its defence lines on the fourth line of attack from the direction of Karlovac. They had no contact with the rest of the army and were burdened by tens of thousands of refugees from Kordun and Banija but they managed to hold their lines in the Vojnic-Vrginmost-Topusko triangle. When they were completely cut off they agreed to a cease-fire to hand over their heavy weapons to UN peacekeepers on condition that the refugees and army be allowed out but that deal was annulled by the Croatians who said "the Serbs will never hand their heavy weapons over to the UN". After more negotiating, resistance in the Krajina ended with the surrender of the 21 Corps on the evening of August 8.

Krajina Serb commander Cedomir Bulat reported to Croatian general Stipetic: "General, I congratulate you on your victory and I hand over the 21 Corps with 13 tanks and 15 130mm cannon".