Operation Flash 1995 – Part 2

Operation Flash 1995 – Part 2

Operation on the direction North

In the North, which was an auxilliary direction of the attack, were 52.dp (52nd Home Guard Regiment) and 105th Brigade of Croatian Army (HV), reinforced with an artillery battery of antitank cannons 76 mm from 127th Brigade HV (127.br HV). On the first day of the operation in the direction Pakrac – Lipik – s. (village) Bijela Stijena, 1st Battalion of 105th Brigade of HV occupied the line Donja and Gornja Subocka – Bukovčanska Cesta – Gornje Kričke, and transitioned to an active defense. Along with advance of the Special Police of MUP RH along the direction of Donje and Gornje Kričke – Gornji Kovačevac – Trnakovac, 1st Company of the 1st Infantry Battalion and Saboteur Platoon of the 105th Brigade of the Croatian Army were sent to attack object Čardak (tt 319). Along with advance by the Special Police, to the attack were introduced 3rd Battalion of 105th Brigade of HV in direction of Brdo (tt 417) – Bjelanovac, as well as 2nd Battalion of 105th Brigade on direction s. Milisavci – s. Rađenovci – s. Bijela Stijena. After demobilization of of 52.dp it took over the line Lipik – Pakrac – s. Kusonje – s. Bjelajci, where it sets up an active defense.

Area of Pakrac was defended by the 51st Infantry Brigade commanded by the Lieutenant Colonel Stevo Harambašić, 59th Daruvar Detachment led by the Captain First Class Vlado Gatarić, and 63rd Podrava-Slatina detachment led by Major Bora Dobrić. On the first day of operation, forces of the Special Police of MUP RH that had been carrying out the attack from the direction of Novska and Nova Gradiška linked up on 1st May 1995. at around 23:00 in the area of Benkovac Okučanski. With this, they cut off rebel Serb the vital communications like of Pakrac – Okučani. As a result, northern part of the occupied area of Western Slavonia had been surrounded by Croatian forces, and forces of the 18th Corps of SVK (Serb Army of Krajina) had been split into two.

According to order of the commander of 18th Corps of SVK, Colonel Lazo Babić, which had been given at cca. 15:00 of 2nd May 1995. to commander of 51st Infantry Brigade, Lieutenant Colonel Stevo Harambašić, some 7 000 Serb soldiers and civilians which had been surrounded in the area of Pakrac, Govrinica, Šeovica and Omanovac, were supposed to – over the next two days – surrender their weapons to Argentinian battalion of UNCRO. This had been agreed with Croatian government, and 62 members of UN forces which had been in the area of Pakrac would serve as intermediaries in the surrender proceedings.

Unsuccessful Surrender Negotiations

Surrounded elements of the 18th Corps of SVK and Serb civilians in the area of Šumetlica – s. Brusnik – s. Kraguj – s. Japanga – s. Čaglić – Omanovac were called on to surrender on 3rd of May. Surrender negotiations between representatives of Serb rebels and the emissary of the Croatian government, dr. Ivica Kostović, lasted until 12:00 on 4th May, without success. During the night of 3rd onto 4th May, a group of Serb soldiers attempted an unsuccessful break through the lines of 3rd Battalion of 105th Brigade of HV near the village of Bjelanovac.

dr. Ivica Kostović

Serb forces that had been surrounded at wider area of Pakrac were delaying the surrender and there was a possibility of their breakthrough towards Bučja and then to Sava. Because of this, the Chief of the General Staff of the Croatian Army published an order for its destruction on 4th of May, or else forcing an unconditional surrender. Following this command, General Petar Stipetić gave order to begin the attack at 14:00. Croatian Air Force helicopters were ordered to transport the reinforced company of 81st Guards Battalion which was to land at village of Bjelajci and begin the attack. TRS (Artillery-Rocket Group) was ordered to prepare to provide artillery fire against targets in Šumetlica, Brusnik, Kraguje, Japage, Čaglić and Omanovac. To allow for efficient implementation of the order, high-ranking officers of GS HV (General Headquarters of the Croatian Army) led by General Petar Stipetić went to the command posts of 52.dp (52nd Home Guard Regiment), 81.gb (81st Guards Battalion) and 105th Brigade of HV.

Attack began at 14:00 with heavy artillery bombardment of assigned targets. Following the artillery preparation was the infantry assault. Around 17 hours the Serb forces started to surrender, and by 19 hours around 1500 Serb soldiers and several thousand civilians had surrendered. Task was carried out by 52.dp, 81.gb and 105th Brigade of HV, Special Police forces, and artillery support. Around 19 hours operations at direction North were finished and order was given for HV forces to start pulling out as the liberated area was to be turned over to the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MUP) RH.

During the 4th of May 1995., majority of rebel Serbs had surrendered, with the exception of 500 soldiers and members of SUP Okučani, who continued guerilla warfare in the forests of Papuk and Psunj. Some of them had managed, through the next week or so, to retreat over Sava onto Serb-controlled areas in BiH, while the remainder surrendered to Croatian police on 20th May 1995.

Among the rebel Serbs in the area of Pakrac were captured president of the Pakrac municipality, Miroslav Gvozdanović; president of the Executive Council of the Pakrac municipality, Obrad Ivanković, and vice-president of the Executive Council, Veljko Džakula. Obrad Ivanković was left in the area of Pakrac to calm down the remaining Serb population, while Veljko Džakula was interrogated and given amnesty for participating in the aggression on Croatia.

According to the estimates, some 1500 rebel Serbs were captured, mostly members of the army, police and organs of government. They were taken to internment in Slavonska Požega, Bjelovar and Varaždin and, if they had not carried out any war crimes, allowed to go home upon being heard. Croatian government treated captured Serbs well and there was no physical abuse, which was confirmed by both captives themselves and various Red Cross, EU and UNCRO observers.

Operation in the Direction East

In the direction of Nova Gradiška, until operation Flash Croatian forces were holding the line s. Pivare – s. Gorice (eastern part) – s. Poljane – s. Mašić – Mašićko brdo – s. Mašićka Šagovina – s. Širinci. According to the Attack Directive of the Chief of the General Staff of HV, general Janko Bobetko, from 5th December 1994., on the direction East for the main line of advance the task was given to units of the 81st Guards Battalion Virovitica, on the line Mašićka Šagovina – Cage – Okučani, as well as the units of 4th Battalion of 5.gbr (5th Guards Brigade) and 121.dp (121st Home Guard Regiment) Nova Gradiška, reinforced by tanks of 105th Brigade of HV Bjelovar on the direction of Nova Gradiška – Okučani. Auxilliary line of advance at direction East was task of units of 8th Guards Battalion Nova Gradiška and 15th Antitank Artillery-Rocket Brigade. The plan remained fundamentally unchanged up until beginning of the operation in May 1995.

Main line of advance on direction of Gorica – Donji Bogićevci – new interchange – Okučani was a task of the units of 4th Battalion of 5.gbr, 121.dp and an armored-mechanized company (lightened by a platoon) of 105th Brigade of HV. These units were to break Serb forces in the area of Gornje brdo and Donji Bogićevci, and continue the attack in the area of the highway, linking up with new forces in the area of the interchange before proceeding to Donje Okučane. After that, they were to bring forces under cover of night through Prašnik forest and with a portion of forces capture Novi Varoš and Gređane. Portion of forces were to follow in step with the main force, but along the line of Medari – Trnava – Okučani road. In the next phase, these forces were to participate in the liberation of Okučani and reach the border. Members of the 265th Reconnaissance-Diversion Company were tasked with leading the 4th Battalion of 5.gbr towards Donji Bogićevci, as well as securing the left flank of the 4th Battalion by infiltrating between Serb forces into the Sjeverni Prašnik forest.

Task of the 81.gb was to execute a flanking maneuver along the direction of Šagovina Mašićka – Čelar hill – Okučani, penetrate Serb defenses and reach the line of s. (village) Cage – s. Gornji Bogićevci, which would cut off Okučani from the north. In the next phase, the battalion was to participate in the liberation of Okučani.

At the auxilliary line of the attack, units of 80.gb were to penetrate Serb defense line along the direction of Pivare – Stara Gradiška, cut the road Stara Gradiška – Okučani, reach Sava river as soon as possible and then organize defences towards Bosanska Gradiška and along the national border. Along with the 80.gb was saboteur unit of GS HV.

Task of the 1st Battalion of 123rd Brigade of HV from Požega was to defend the border at Sava in a stretch from village (s.) of Mačković to s. Davor, and to prevent any attempts by Serb forces at crossing from Bosnia and Herzegovina. Tank platoon of 123rd brigade of HV was to reinforce the units of the 81.gb at direction of Međuvođe – s. Smirnić.

Special forces of the MUP RH were tasked with cutting area to the north of communication line (road) Novska – Nova Gradiška in the rear of Serb forces, so as to allow the advance of Serb forces towards Okučani. In the direction East (Sector A) the Special Police of MUP RH was to operate on the line of Kik (tt.820) – Čardak – s. Trnakovac and link up with the special forces of MUP RH which were to arrive from the direction of s. Kričke – s. Rajčići – s. Trnakovac, after which they were to begin clearing the liberated area of Psunj together with the 52nd Home Guard Regiment. Commander of the Forward Command Post (IZM) of the Sector A – Sector East was Zdravko Janić. In the sector East the task was to be carried out by the Special Unit of Police (SJP) of the Police Department (PU) of Brod-Posavina Šimini anđeli pakla (“Šime’s Hell Angels”) and part of SJP PU of Sisak-Moslavina Osa with 250 members, SJP PU Vukovar-Srijem Krpelj with 210 members, SJP PU of Osijek-Baranja Orao with 160 members, SJP PU of Požega-Slavonija Trenk with 100 members, Antiterrorist Unit Lučko and SJP PU of Požega-Slavonija Trenk (sic) with 160 members, and as reserve forces SJP PU Koprivnica-Križevci Ban and SJP PU Sisak-Moslavina Osa with 160 members.

Zdravko Janić

For the artillery support in the area of Nova Gradiška was formed TRS (Artillery – Rocket Group) East, consisting of two batteries of howitzers 152 mm and a platton of SVLR (Self-Propelled Multi-Tube Rocket Launcher) Grad from the 16th artillery-rocket brigade and a battery of T-130 cannons as well as a platoon of 152 mm howitzers from the 18th Artillery Battalion (“divizijun”). Artillery group was in the area: village Cernik (tt.189) – Bukovac – Bjelavine (tt.238) – s.Gunjavci (forest Kutnjak). For antitank warfare was formed the Antiarmor Detachment East from 2nd Antiarmor Artillery-Rocket Battalion of 15th Antiarmor Artillery-Rocket Brigade. The unit was located in the area of s. Visoka Greda – s. Prvča – Zukve (tt.97), and was to operate in the area Vujanovac – Zgonovi – Grabež and s.Gorice – Gornje brdo. Anti-air defense was provided by the elements of the 201st Artillery-Rocket Brigade of Anti-Air Defense Osijek. Electronic Warfare Platoon was tasked with tracking and jamming Serb communications, while the Unmanned Air Vehicle Platoon was tasked with tracking movements of Serb forces in real time. Engineering support was provided by the 34th Engineering Battalion Čakoves, logistics by 312th Logistics Base while communications were organized by the 255th Communications Company.

On the second day of operations in the direction East new units were included into offensive operations – 2nd Battalion of 3.gbr at direction of old road Nova Gradiška – Okučani, and reinforced 2nd Battalion of 5.gbr at direction s. Gorice – Pustara. Later, members of the military police were also included in the operation.

Arrayed against the Croatian forces was the 54th Infantry Brigade of 18th Corps of Serb Army of Krajina (SVK). 1st Infantry Battalion of the brigade was located in the area of Bobare, 2nd Infantry Battalion in the area of Ratkovac, 3rd Infantry Battalion in the area of Donji Bogićevci, and 4th Infantry Battalion in the area of Medare. Just before the Operation Flash the Brigade had 1320 soldiers or 64% of the planned strength. It had taken up positions at the line of river Sava – forest Prašnik – s. Donji Bogićevci – s. Dragalić – s. Medari – s. Trnava – forest Gaj – Prosjeka – Velika Gradina (point 681). Along with the Army, area was held by small forces of Police of RSK (Republic of Serb Krajina) and the Special Police Unit SAO Western Slavonia (SAO – Serb Autonomous Region). Artillery support was provided by the Howitzer Artillery Battalion and Mixed Antiarmor Artillery Battalion of the 18th Corps of SVK (Serb Army of Krajina), and artillery units of VRS (Army of Republic of Serbia) in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Heavy Fighting

First infantry battalion of 121.dp started the attack on the direction of Mašić – Medari. Around 8:00 the unit established contact with Serb forces in Medari, and after heavy fighting and with artillery support managed to reach the line before the crossroads in village of Medari. With this it had fulfilled its task for the first day, suffering one dead and 13 wounded. Second infantry battalion of 121.dp had, during the first day, reached the line Prašnik forest – pheasantry, but did not fully complete the task because Serb forces had focused their defences in that area.

Units of the 4th battalion of 5.gbr with armored-mechanized company of of 105th brigade of HV were attacking along the direction of Gorice – Donji Bogićevci. In the morning hours these units penetrated Serb defences and by 8:00 had taken control of the western part of village Gorice. Left flank of Croatian forces was secured by the 2nd platoon of 256.ids, which had infiltrated the area of Sjeverni Prašnik forest with the aim of preventing reinforcement of Serb forces in Donji Bogićevci from direction of Okučani. Members of 5.dpr had, after liberation of Gorice, continued the attack towards Donji Bogićevci but were halted in front of the village by heavy resistance of Serb forces. They had no armored support, as tanks had used up the ammunition available during conquest of western part of Gorice, and so capture of Donji Bogićevci was not possible. In these operations the battalion had two wounded and several dead. During the afternoon hours the 4th battalion of 5.gbr was pulled back for rest and reinforcement, and replaced by the 1st Company of 3rd Battalion of 121.dp, while the remainder of 3rd Battalion had remained in reserve. Units of 4th Battalion of 5.gbr had been commanded by colonel Marin Pišonić.

At direction of Šagovina Mašićka – Okučani units of 81.gb began the attack at around 8:00 from the starting line of Kajtazovac – Cerik – Rovišta. First Infantry Company with a saboteur platoon attacked along the auxilliary direction of Gajevi – s. Smrtić – s. Ratkovac. Company was reinforced with a tank platoon of 123rd Brigade of HV. First Serb resistance was encountered by 81.gb in the Gajevi forest, where they breached Serb defences by 11:45, suffering one dead and two wounded in the process. After that, Croatian units continued the attack towards Vunduk hill and area of Buban, where Serb forces attempted to organize the second line of defense, but by 13:30 Serb units had been broken, and Croatian forces continued the advance towards villages of Smrtić and Ratkovac. During the afternoon, with heavy artillery support, units of 81.gb had taken control of the Serb resistance point on Džakula Hill and pushed Serb forces south of village of Smrtić. By 19:30 they took the village, where they organized rest, reinforcement and preparation for continuation of combat operations. Diversant platoon of 81.gb continued activities in the area around cemetery in Smrtić with the aim of preventing consolidation of Serb forces.

Units of 2nd and 3rd company of 81.gb were attacking with a flanking maneuver at the main direction of the attack s. Šagovina Mašićka – forest Kresevac – s. Cage. Second Company with the reconnaissance platoon was attacking along the direction of s. Šagovina Mašićka – forest Lještara – Golo brdo (“Naked Hill”) – hill Čelar. After taking control of the Lještara forest, members of 81.gb had by 12:25 reached the road s. Širinci – s. Ratkovac. In these combat actions, during opening of passes through the minefields, two members of the reconnaissance platoon were wounded. Units of 81.gb kept advancing towards the Dabrovački put (Dabrovac Way), clashing along the way with smaller groups of Serb forces that were escaping Kresevac forest to the south. In these clashes Croatian forces had two wounded scouts, while Serb forces lost about a dozen soldiers. Around 19:00, members of 81.gb encountered resistance of Serb forces in reinforced platoon strength in the area of Dabrovac way, which was destroyed by 20:00 and Serbs forced to withdraw. Croatian forces lost two dead and four wounded Guards soldiers, while Serbs had lost around a dozen. In the area of Dabrovac way the members of 2nd Company of 81.gb organized defense and prepared for continuation of combat operations.

Third company of 81.gb was attacking along the direction of s. Širinci – Kresevac forest – s. Cage. First Serb resistance was encountered at the foot of the Lika hill and Stari gaj forest. After pushing back the Serb units, Croatian forces by 12:20 reached the road s. Širinci – s. Ratkovac. Advances had been slowed down by leftovers of Serb forces, with commander of fire support group of 3rd Company of 81.gb dying in one clash. Croatian forces continued the advance towards the Kresevac forest. There, they encountered strong resistance by Serb forces but managed to push them back with help of artillery support. Having pushed Serb forces back towards village of Cage they reached the Dabrovac road, where they organized defences and prepared for continuation of operations. After the first day, units of 81.gb had reached the line of graveyard in village of Smrtić – northern part of village of Ratkovac – Dabrovac way. Commander of 81.gb was colonel Renato Romić.

On the southern part of Nova Gradiška direction, units of 80.gb had at 5:00 taken the line s.Pivare – southern part of Prašnik forest. At 5:30 the unit started the attack. Units of the 1st Company of 80.gb had by 7:30 crossed the Nova Sava canal and destroyed the resistance point of Serb forces at the pumping station south of the Nova Sava canal. Destruction of this point prevented potential penetration of Serb forces from the direction of Donja Varoš and bridge over the Nova Sava canal towards Pivare.

Prašnik forest

Units of the 2nd Company of 80.gb with diversant group of GS HV had reached the edge of the Prašnik forest (cca. 300 meters from the bridge on the Nova Sava canal) where they encountered Serb resistance, reinforced by an M53/59 Praga self-propelled AA gun and a tank. These Serb forces managed to stop Croatian advance and prevent them from taking control of the bridge over Nova Sava canal. Serb positions were still difficult, as despite not having control of the bridge itself, Croatian forces still controlled the area around the bridge. Croatian artillery and air force prevented Serb attempts at bringing in reinforcements over the bridge.

Because the attack of Croatian forces towards Novi Varoš was not going on according to the plan, commander of the operation at the direction East, brigadier Luka Džanko, decided that 2nd Company of 80.gb along with units of 2nd Battalion of 121.dp will liberate Novi Varoš and cut off the communication Novi Varoš – Okučani. By 20:30 members of the 2nd Company of 80.gb entered into first houses in Novi Varoš from southern side, while the elements of 2nd Battalion of 121.dp entered the first houses in Novi Varoš from northern side. Due to strong resistance of Serb forces defending the communication line of Okučani – Stara Gradiška, Croatian units failed to link up in Novi Varoš and cut off the communication line. Units of 80.gb were commanded by Captain Nedjeljko Dujić.

To the left of the 80.gb was the 1st Company of 123rd Brigade of HV, which had in early morning hours come to the line s.Mačkovac – s.Davor near the river Sava in order to organize defense against eventual attack of Serb forces from BiH and allow the 1st Battalion 121.dp to regroup and engage in the attack along another direction.

Members of the Special Police units of MUP RH from Sector A (eastern direction) were attacking from the area Kik (tt 820) – Čadak – s.Širinci towards the Serb forces in the area of Ivanovac – s.Bobare – s.Čaprginci – s.Trnakovac. Members of the police units left for their starting positions at 3:00 on 1st May 1995. Around 6:00 in the morning, members of Special Police Forces units (SJP) Šimini anđeli pakla (“Šime’s Hell’s Angels”), Ose (“Wasps”), Krpelj (“Tick”) and Orao (“Eagle”), reinforced with artillery-rocket battery and anti-air defense of the Police Department (PU) of Brod-Posavina and escorted by medical teams, arrived north of village of Širinci from where they went to attack towards Gradina east of Čaprginci. Following the strong resistance by Serb forces from fortified bunkers in the area of Gradina and Golubovac, members of the special police units had pushed Serb forces back from that area and by 18:30 reached the village of Čaprginci from its eastern side. One member of SJP Šimini anđeli died in the combat.

At the achieved line, Croatian forces organized the defense and and prepared for following combat operations. Members of SJP Orao made camp near village of Bobare. Members of ATJ Lučko and SJP Trenk operated in the area of Kik (tt 820) towards the object Ivanovac. Ivanovac was the location of the Special Police unit of SAO Western Slavonia. Members of the Croatian police managed to establish a half-encirclement around Ivanovac, but could not capture it due to stiff resistance of Serb forces. In these operations three Croatian police officers died – two from SJP Trenk and one from ATJ Lučko. After this, members of the police retreated and attempted to break Serb resistance with artillery, but were not successful.

Significant role during the first day of operations had been played by the UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) platoon. UAVs had spent hours in the air, observing Serb attempts at deployment of their artillery. This allowed Croatian artillery to disable Serb 105 mm howitzer battalion near Stara Gradiška.

After the first day of combat operations in the Operation Flash, Croatian forces in direction East had reached the line of Južni Prašnik – Gornje brdo – s.Dragalić – s.Medari – s.Smrtić – stream Dabovac – s.Čaprginci – Ivanovac. Units of the Special Police of MUP HR achieved a major success by linking up from the direction of Novska and Nova Gradiška in the area of village Benkovac Okučanski. With this, the occupied area had been cut, and forces of the 18th Corps of SVK split into two. Croatian Army (HV) had also gained control of the road Stara Gradiška – Okučani, which meant that Serb forces could not bring reinforcements from Bosnia and Herzegovina across Sava.

However, at the Nova Gradiška line of attack, Serb forces had managed to organize the second line of defense and stop the planned advance of Croatian forces at that area, and so Croatian command in Nova Gradiška decided to introduce new forces. At 19 hours the order was given to engage tactical group of 3.gbr for the attack the next day, in direction of Vunduk’s hill – Orašje – Gornji Bogićevci – Kosovac. The group consisted of 2nd Infantry Battalion reinforced with elements of 3rd Infantry Battalion, Reconnaissance Company, as well as elements of the logistics and communications units of 3.gbr. Units of 3.gbr in the direction East were commanded by brigadier Mladen Kruljac. During the night, this tactical group was brought to the area of Šagovina Cernička – Vunduk’s hill. Alongside this tactical group, at Novi Grad direction was also engaged 2nd Battalion of 5.gbr reinforced with tank platoon of armored battalion of 5.gbr, which was supposed to operate at the primary direction of the attack (village Gorice – forest Podložje – forest Prašnik – Pustara) alongside the already present units of 4th Battalion of 5.gbr and 121.dp. Commander of the 4th Battalion of 5.gbr was Colonel Mirko Brekalo, while tanks of 5.gbr were commanded by Major Dragon Salaj. These units of 5.gbr from 3:00 to 4:00 at 2nd May had carried out a march along the direction of Strmac – Nova Gradiška – s. Visoka Greda – s. Gorice, and arrived to the area predicted for the beginning of the attack.

At the second day of the Operation Flash, 2nd May 1995., Croatian forces continued attacking at direction East. Units of 1st Battalion of 121.dp began the attack from the crossroads in Medari towards Trnava, and from the village of Poljane towards Dragalić. By 10:00 members of the battalion had taken complete control of the villages of Medari, Dragalić and Trnava, and had linked up with the tactical group of 3.gbr before together reaching the canal Draževac and s.Smrtić. Soon after arrived OMS of the 105th Brigade of HV, although one platoon short. OMS joined the elements of 121.dp and units of the tactical group of 3.gbr in continuation of operations towards Okučani. Croatian forces had afterwards entered Gornji Bogićevci and Kosovac without resistance, before continuing towards Okučani which they entered at 13:20.

First Company of the 2nd Battalion and the reconnaissance platoon of the 121.dp captured phaesantry in the morning hours of 2nd May before linking up with units of 80.gb and entering northern part of the village of Novi Varoš. After Serb units began a breakthrough from Okučani towards Stara Gradiška, Croatian forces withdrew to the edge of the Prašnik forest from where they placed retreating Serb forces under infantry fire.

At the southern part of the Nova Gradiška direction the units of the 80.gb were reinforced during the night of 1st to 2nd May by 3rd Company of the 5th Battalion of 5..gbr and the pioneer platoon of the 34th Engineering Battalion which had the task of blocking the path between the bridge on the Nova Sava canal and village of Novi Varoš. Members of the 2nd Company of 80.gb and 5.gbr held the southern part of s.Novi Varoš, but because Serb forces had started pulling out in the early morning towards Stara Gradiška, Croatian forces were forced under heavy pressure to retreat to the edge of the Prašnik forest. Commander of the reconnaissance platoon and four scouts were killed in the attempt to stop the penetration of the armor and infantry of 18th Corps of SVK. After Croatian forces pulled back, retreating Serb troops were bombarded by Croatian artillery. However, as Serb army was followed by Serb civilians, no attempt was made to actually block its way so as not to endanger the civilians. After that, around 16:00, units of 80.gb had again entered Novi Varoš and cleared the terrain of the of Serb forces towards the bridge on the Nova Sava canal. After this, members of 2nd Company of 80.gb returned to s.Pivare. Members of 1st Company of 80.gb entered s.Donji Varoš and by 22:00 reached the bridge over river Sava. There, they linked up with units of 4th Battalion of 5.gbr, which were in front of Stara Gradiška, and with units of the 34th Engineering Battalion (inžb) which were blocking a bridge over Sava from the direction of Bosanska Gradiška. Reconnaissance platoon 121.dp entered the village of Uskoci and Stara Gradiška in the evening hours.

Units of the reinforced 2nd Battalion of the 5.gbr, around 6:00 with artillery support, began the attack in direction s.Gorice – forest Podložje – forest Prašnik – Pustara. After a minor pause due to encountering a minefield, in which four members of the unit had been wounded, members of 5.gbr continued the advance without encountering Serb resistance, and reached the line nadvožnjak – Pustara. After that units of 5.gbr continued the advance along the direction Pustara – s. Novi Varoš – bridge on Nova Sava canal. Croatian forces had two wounded, and by the nightfall they reached the line of Nova Sava canal where they organized defense.

Units of 4th Battalion of 5.gbr, one company short, that morning launched the attack from s. Gorica towards Donji Bogićevci. Having liberated Donji Bogićevci, units of 5.gbr linked up with units of 265.ids in the northern area of the Prašnik forest, and continued the attack in the area of the highway, reaching the area of the new loop and the toll booth. Following this the members of the 4th battalion of 5.gbr continued the advance towards Stara Gradiška, where they arrived in the afternoon hours and linked up with members of 80.gbr.

Tactical group of 3.gbr had on the second day of the operation begin the attack at 8:15 at direction of Vunduk’s hill – s.Orašje – s.Gornji Bogićevci – s.Kosovac. After 10 hours, units of 3.gbr entered the village of Trnava where they linked up with members of the 121st Brigade of HV, together reaching the Draževac canal. Afterwards, these units were joined by two tank platoons of the 105th Brigade of HV. These units continued advancing towards Okučani, entering the villages of Gornje Bogićevice and Kosovac around 12:00. Serb forces offered no resistance at the first line of defense, but instead were engaged in disorganized retreat, offering only sporadic resistance. After this, members of the 3.gbr, 121.dp and the 105th brigade of HV continued their advance towards Okučani, which they entered at around 13:20. At around 17:00 at 2nd May, forces of 3.gbr engaged in the operation Flash began to retreat from the western Slavonia into their native area.

During the 2nd May, units of 81.gb continued with their attack along the direction of hill Čelar – s.Cage – Okučani, while a part of the unit attacked on the direction of s.Smrtić – s.Orašje – s.Trnava. Along with this, units of the 81.gb were tasked with introducing the tactical group of 3.gbr into attack in a direction of s. Šagovina Cernička – s. Orašje – s. Gornji Bogićevci – Okučani. At 6:00 in the morning units of 81.gb, reinforced with a tank platoon of 123rd brigade of HV, penetrated from area of s. Smrtić to area of s. Orašje, after which at around 11:00 they entered s. Trnava where they linked up with forces of 3.gbr. After this the members of the 1st Company of 81.gb continued the attack along the right flank of the units of 3.gbr and 1st Company of 121.dp along the direction of Blatuše – hill Smiran, entering Okučane at 13:20 alongside units of 3.gbr. Croatian advance in this direction was quick as Serb forces were in a disarray.

Members of the 2nd Company and the reconnaissance platoon of 81.gb were attacking from the area of Dabrovac way along the line of Kesar’s house – Čelar hill – Devil’s hill, and reached the road Okučani – s. Cage. Serb resistance was sporadic and limited to small groups of soldiers. Having reached the road Okučani – s. Cage, members of 81.gb left a portion of forces to blockade it while the rest moved towards the center of Okučani where they linked up with units of 1st Company of 81.gb.

Members of the 3rd Company of 81.gb attacked from the area of Dabrovac way and towards Grad – southern slopes of Vinogradi – southern part of s.Cage. Part of the unit reached the road c.Cage – Okučani in the southern part of s.Cage, where they linked up with the members of Special Police of MUP RH. After this they searched the western slopes of the Čelar hill, and together with members of 2nd Company of 81.gb reached the road s. Cage – Okučani, cutting it off at the level of the economy road. During the search of Okučani, one member of the battalion was killed and one wounded in an ambush. Members of 81.gb spent the night at the reached positions.

Units of the Special Police of MUP RH continued combat operations at the line reached the previous day. Around 8:00 Croatian units achieved full control of Trnakovac village as well as the road Trnakovac – Donji Rogolji, as well as the village of Bobare. Around 12 hours members of the special police liberated the villages of Gornji and Donji Rogolji. During the afternoon the Combined forces of the Special Police took control of the northern part of fortified positions at Ivanovac with support of the artillery-rocket group of the Special Police. Wider area under control of special police forces was searched and cleaned of broken elements of Serb units.At 14:00 the forward command post (IZM) of the sector East was transferred from village of Šagovina Cernička to village of Šagovina Mašićka. Special police forces were gradually relieved by the regular police, and instead tasked with destroying Serb forces in the area of Ivanovci and Omanovci.

Cleanup of Liberated Area

Following the second day of the operation Flash, Croatian forces at the direction East had mostly finished their task. Serb forces still remained in the area of Ivanovci, as well as on the wider area of Omanovci in the direction North. Combined forces of the military police were introduced to the wider area of Okučani immediately after combat operations, as Croatian forces still had to clear the area from the remnants of Serb forces.

Minor combat operations continued in the direction East during 3rd May 1995. In morning hours, units of the 2nd Battalion of 5.gbr continued the attack towards Gornja Varoš and Stara Gradiška. Serb forces were offering no resistance in this area, and so by 9:00 units of the 5.gbr had reached Sava river along the line of Gornji Varoš – Stara Gradiška, establishing there the line of defense. Members of the 4th Battalion of 5.gbr entered Stara Gradiška during morning hours, and soon after the border defense was taken over by the units of 121.dp while units of 5.gbr were withdrawn to their barracks. At around 11:00 units of 81.gb were also withdrawn, turning their positions over to 121.dp. During the night from 3rd to 4th of May, members of the Saboteur Platoon of GS HV and the engineering platoon of 34.inžb prepared the bridge over Sava in Stara Gradiška for demolition should Serb forces from Bosnia and Herzegovina attack.

Units of the 81.gb were deployed in the wider area of Okučani, with the task of providing immediate security of the settlement itself as well as the road s. Borovac – s. Lađevac – Okučani – s. Kosovac, as well as discovering and destroying remaining Serb forces.

By around 9:00 of 3rd of May, units of the Special Police had taken control of all Serb resistance points at Ivanovac. After formation of the Common Headquarters of the Joint Forces of Special Police at Bijele Stijene, Special Police forces regrouped and organized an assault on Serb forces at Omanovac area. Main direction of the attack was towards Omanovac itself, while the secondary attack was aimed against Hajdučka kosa. By evening hours Croatian forces had reached the object of Omanovac, but the nightfall meant that the well-fortified object could not be taken, so the attack was put off for the next morning. Attacking at 5th of May at 6:00, Special Police forces took control of the object without much difficulty. Some of Serb troops ran away while the rest surrendered. With this, the last strongpoint of Serb forces in the western Slavonia had been taken.

Croatian Air Force had also participated in the Operation Flash, with its fixed and rotary wing aircraft carrying out a total of 71 flights from 1st to 4th May 1995. Primary targets were Serb command posts and fortified positions, as well as bridges over Nova Sava canal and the river of Sava in Stara Gradiška. During combat operations, one MiG-21 aircraft was shot down, while one MiG-21 fighter and two Mi-24 attack helicopters were damaged. Lost MiG-21 had been piloted by Rudolf Perešin and shot down at around 13 hours of 2nd May 1995. near Stara Gradiška by anti-aircraft artillery deployed in village of Kozinci, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Serb Rebels Refuse Croatian Rule

Croatian military-police operation Flash was one of the best and most humanely carried out operations of Croatian forces. There was no systematic and planned terror over civilian population during or after the operation, with only cases of violence towards civilians being a work of individuals. Both during and after the operation, Croatian military and civil authorities had taken measures to protect civilians and prevent any harm, and several Croatian soldiers were arrested by the Military Police for inappropriate behavior.

Majority of rebel Serbs left Western Slavonia before arrival of the Croatian Army (HV). Majority of Serbs from the area of Pakrac left self-initiatively during May and June of 1995. Rebel Serbs that were released from prison also overwhelmingly left Croatia for Serbia upon their release. Aside from the fear of Croatian government, which had been promoted by Belgrade with their myths about the Ustashi, dominant factor was in fact a simple refusal to live under any kind of Croatian government. This is best illustrated by Milan Martić, speaking in Knin in February 1994., about the Z-4 plan which had been proposed and basically gave Serbs everything they wanted except for the establishment of Greater Serbia: “Should we accept our own death? Life in Croatia would be worse than any war. Life in Croatia – that wouldn’t be life.”. By the end of May of 1995., some 1500 Serbs had remained in the liberated area.

Milan Martić

During June and July of 1995., UNCRO organized the operation “Safe Passage”, enabling Serbs to leave if they wished to.

Knowing that they cannot defend themselves, Serbs of Western Slavonia sought aid from Knin, Bosnian Serbs, and even the Yugoslav Army (JNA). Trying to help, Headquarters of SVK ordered mobilization, and at 1st May in 8:40 it ordered raising the combat readiness and deployment of help. According to the plan, 11th Corps was to send two battalions, while other corps of SVK (7th, 15th, 21st and 39th) were to send two companies (“četa”). As time was at premium, attack was ordered for 2nd May 1995. at 3:00, but it was abandoned due to the fact that insufficient number of troops had shown up and those that did were not combat capable. The only help that Serbs of Western Slavonia received was the arrival of small groups and units, such as “Cigina Grupa” (Roma’s Group) from Omarska which participated in fighting around Nova Varoš, “Minđušari” from Knin, unit headed by a secretary of SUP Glina and the unit “Ljute”. Assistance by military and police forces from other areas of RSK was minor, which negatively impacted morale of Serbs in Western Slavonia who had been promised the arrival of many thousands of troops.

Significant help was expected from Bosnian Serbs. In fact, it was believed that the unfavorable strategic position completely precluded defense of the Western Slavonia unless the Army of Republic of Serbia (VRS) actively participated in it. But the illusion of any assistance by VRS was shattered on 1st of May 1995. On that day, general Momir Talić, commander of the 1st Corps of VRS stated that the war in Croatia has nothing to do with them and so the 1st Corps will stand aside. In fact, VRS even reneged on providing the promised air support from air bases at Mahovljani and Udbina.

Another significant problem faced by the rebel Serbs was lack of artillery support. While there were some 155 mm pieces in Draksenić, a battery of 105 mm cannons in Rogolji and a battery in village of Bobare, the only regular artillery support was provided by a batters of 105 mm cannons which had disobeyed orders of BiH Serb command and provided support from the area of village of Lipovača in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Waiting for the assistance of the Army of Yugoslavia (JA) proved futile. The lack of help from Belgrade left rebel Serbs feeling betrayed and left out to hang by the government. They were also hurt by the fact that TV Belgrade focused on reporting about the celebrations of 1st May all across Yugoslavia instead o reporting on fighting in Croatia. Additional cause for consternation was FR Yugoslavia’s influence over the commander of 11th Corps of SVK, general Dušan Lončar. General Lončar refused to carry out the order of the commander of SVK, general Milan Čeleketić, to bombard Osijek and Vinkovci and also to carry out the attack in the direction of Mirkovci – Županja, both of which were major elements of Serb war plan.

After the significant military defeat suffered by RSK, president of RSK Milan Martić sent a letter on 4th May 1995. to president of Republic of Serbia, Slobodan Milošević. In it, he complained that the “tragedy which had hit Serb people with the newest aggression of Croatia against Western Slavonia has heavy and inconceivable consequences to the solution of the entire Serb question. Not only was the territory lost and hundreds of civilians died, thing that in this moment of horror makes uneasines even greater is the widespread belief that Serb question had been betrayed by Serbs themselves. All across Krajina there are rumors of its surrender, people with disbelief say that we had been forgotten by Serbia and Republika Srpska. In many villages and cities people are packing their things and preparing for an exodus.”.

Bombardment of Zagreb

Realizing that military assistance was not forthcoming, and faced with a major military defeat, rebel Serbs turned to terrorist methods. Over two days, 2nd and 3rd of May, they bombarded a number of cities across Croatia, with Zagreb being the most significant target, leading to 7 dead and 176 wounded in the city. Decision to bombard Zagreb was made by the General Headquarters in agreement with Milan Martić, and already on 1st May at 17:15 order was given to raise preparedness of the section “Orkan”. Martić had announced the possibility of bombardment already in his speech of 10th February 1995., saying that “Nobody can prevent us from bombarding Zagreb, Osijek, Vinkovci, Zadar, Karlovac, Split… to have the plan of action and prepare for its complete and certain realization”. Although bombardment of various civilian targets had been a key point of the Serb plan of active defense and the “revenge doctrine”, after their defeat and wanting to justify their crimes, rebel Serbs offered various explanations of “targeting military targets only”.

Parallel with the conflicts, and with help and intermediation of the members of UNCRO, were ongoing negotiations between the representatives of Republic of Croatia and Serb rebels. Croatia had accepted the negotiations due to a strong pressure of the international community, and negotiations began on 1st May 1995. around 16:15 on Pleso. Croatian delegation was comprised of Hrvoje Šarinić, general Zvonimir Červenko, Vesna Škare-Ožbolt and Smiljan Reljić. Serb delegation consisted of Borislav Mikelić, general Dušan Lončar and Ilija Prijić. Also present were representatives of UNCRO and the international community. Serb and UNCRO representatives requested cessation of combat operations and retreat of Croatian forces to their starting positions. Special delegate of the secretary of the UN for Yugoslavia, Yasushi Akashi, proposed an agreement of five points which essentially granted all of Serbs’ wishes. Serb delegation naturally accepted the proposal while Croatian delegation rejected it. After failure of the negotiations the Serb delegation left Zagreb, which allowed Serb forces to begin targeting “vital targets” all across Croatia. This prevented a ceasefire, and Croatian attack continued. As Serb delegation was not able to come to continuation of the negotiations which were supposed to happen on 2nd May at Pleso, a verbal agreement was instead made on 3rd may with the help of Akashi, which was to be signed later. According to it, combat operations were to cease by 3rd May 1995. at 16:00.

Croatian Forces at National Border

In the operation Flash, according to Croatian data, Croatian forces lost 42 dead and 162 wounded, while Serb losses were estimated at 350 to 450 dead and 1000 to 1200 wounded. According to the data of the Croatian Helsinki Committee (HHO) for human rights from 2002., all civilian victims had been killed or died during the operation itself, with a total of 83 dead Serb civilians. Serb documents are incomplete and basically useless in establishing any facts about casualties caused by the operation.

Having liberated the target area, Croatian forces shifted to a defensive posture. Based on the orders of the representative of the Chief of the General Staff of HV from 8th May, beginning with 10th May 1995. at 00:00, operational command of units from direction West and East in the zone right: s. Trebež – Kutina – Garešnica and left: s. Davor – s. Brestovac Požeški – Voćin – Virovitica, was taken over by the Command of the Operative Area (ZP) Bjelovar. Command itself was in Bjelovac while the Forward Command Post was in Okučani. Under its operational command were units: 125.dp, 3/104. br HV, 52. dp, 105. br HV, 3/123. br HV, 121. dp, TV from okmb/1.gbr in strength of 3 T-55 tanks, TS/123.br HV, TRS West comprised of: HB 2/16.trbr, 4 H-155, SVLR “Grad” from 16.trbr; and TRS East comprised of: tv/18td (3 T-130), Hv/18.td (3 H-155) and Potrb/13.POtrd.

Defense of the state border at Sava, now under authority of the Operative Area Bjelovar, was split into sectors West and East. Sector West stretched from Trebež to the mouth of the Veliki Strug canal into Sava, and in depth from Novska to Donji Rajić. Defense of the sector was the task of 125.dp and other units which had happened to be in the area, among whom was a tank platoon from 1.gbr which was returned to its parent unit on 15th May. Sector East, under command of 121.dp, covered the area from the mouth of Veliki Strug canal into river Sava to village of Davor, and in depth from Borovac to Petrovo Selo.

As the situation calmed down, by mid-May majority of the listed units were demobilized or pulled back to barracks, and their tasks taken over by the Ministry of the Interior.

Operation Flash had liberated 600 square kilometers of Croatian territory in Western Slavonia. Units of HV and SJP MUP under command of GS HV had shown a high degree of coordination, training and readiness for carrying out complex offensive actions. These capabilities will be utilized only a short while later in the Operation Storm and final liberation of majority of occupied areas of the Republic of Croatia.

Croatian forcesSerb forces
Total strength16 3744 770
Support Artillery
T-130 mm64
H-155 mm96
TH-152 mm12
H-122 mm12
LRL 128 mm20
MB-120 mm8115
ZIS 76 mm126
BI 76 mm56
SO 76 mm5
Antitank Artillery
POLK 9K1122
POLK 9K11110
POLO 9P1221
POLO 9P1331

Units that had participated in the operation:

  • 81. sgb
  • 80. sgb
  • 121. dp
  • 5. gbr (4. b)
  • 3. gbr (2. b)
  • 123. br (1. b)
  • 105. br (Oms)
  • 265. IDs
  • platoon bpl
  • 18. td
  • 34. inžb
  • 202. PZO br (4. trb PZO)
  • 256. s communications
  • 312. LoB
  • SS MUP
  • 125. dp
  • 3. gbr (1.b + OMs, battery n 122 mm, battery SV BR – platoon h 122 mm)
  • 1. gbrn (2.b)
  • 52. dp
  • 105. br HV
  • 2. gbr (OMs)
  • 1. HGZ
  • 13. potrd
  • 104. br
  • 16. trb (bat h 155 mm; 2. div)
  • 127. br (bat ZIS 76 mm)
  • 123. br (platoon h 105 mm; bat ZIS)
  • platoon bpl
  • 312. LoB
  • 202. br PZO (4. trb PZO)
  • 1. stb PZO 57/2 mm
  • SS MUP

List of abbreviations:

  • ATJ – antiterrorist unit
  • BiH – Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • br – brigade
  • BVP – Infantry Fighting Vehicle
  • dp – Home Guard Regiment
  • EU – European Union
  • gb – Guards Battalion
  • gbr – Guards Brigade
  • GS – General Headquarters
  • HGZ – Croatian Guards Corps
  • HHO – Croatian Helsinki Committee
  • HRZ – Croatian Air Force
  • HV – Croatian Army
  • HVO – Croatian Council of Defense
  • ids – Scout-Saboteur Company
  • inžb – Engineering Battalion
  • IZM – Forward Command Post
  • JNA – Yugoslav People’s Army
  • km – kilometre
  • LAD PVO – Light Artillery Battalion of Anti-Air Defense
  • map – Mixed Artillery Regiment
  • MTS – material-technical resources
  • MUP – Ministry of the Interior
  • okmb – Armored-Mechanized Battalion
  • OMS – Armored-Mechanized Company; Armored-Mechanized Forces
  • OZ – Operational Zone
  • pb – Infantry Battalion
  • pbr – Infantry Brigade
  • PoB – Logistics Base (literally: Background Base)
  • POtrd – Anti-Tank Artillery-Rocket Brigade
  • Ps – Infantry Company
  • PZO – Anti-Air Defense
  • RDB – State Security Service
  • RSK – Republic of Serbian Krajina
  • s. – village
  • SAO – Serb Autonomous Region (Oblast)
  • SFRJ – Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia
  • SJP – Special Unit of Police
  • SUP – Secretariat of Internal Affairs
  • SVK – Serb Army of Krajina
  • SVLR – Self-Propelled Multi-Barrelled Rocket Launcher
  • td – Artillery Battalion
  • MPOAD – Mixed Antitank Artillery Battalion
  • TO – Territorial Defense
  • trbr – Artillery-Rocket Brigade
  • TRS – Artillery-Rocket Group
  • TS – Tactical Group
  • tt – trigonometric point
  • tv – Tank Platoon
  • UN – United Nations
  • UNCRO – United Nations Confidence Restoration Operation in Croatia
  • UNPA – United Nations Protected Area
  • VJ – Army of Yugoslavia
  • VRS – Army of Republika Srpska
  • ZP – Operative Area; Corps Area
  • ZZP – Command of Operative Area

2 thoughts on “Operation Flash 1995 – Part 2

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