Operation Storm ’95, or just the Operation Storm, is the greatest military victory in history of the Croatia. In only 84 hours, some 200 000 soldiers of the Croatian Army had liberated over 10 000 square kilometers of the occupied territory. This operation marked the end of the Homeland War.
Operation Storm was carried out following the several years of unsuccessful attempts by Croatia and international community to reintegrate the occupied territory back into Croatia and bring the close to the war. In fact, Serbs were so set on forming Greater Serbia that they even refused the Z-4 plan which would have given them outright insane levels of autonomy.
Following yet another failed peace initiative, President Franjo Tuđman and his staff met at Brijuni on 31st July 1995. It was on this meeting that decision was made to go forward with the operation.
Croatian offensive began in the early morning hours of 4th of August. Fundamental idea of the operation was to penetrate Serb defenses by simultaneous attacks on multiple directions, and liberate the entire occupied area of northern Dalmatia, Lika, Kordun and Banovina, and reach the internationally recognized border of Croatia with Bosnia. Defensive operations were to be carried out in eastern Slavonia, southern Croatia, and the Bihać enclave.
Key tasks during the first phase of the operation were taking control of the approaches to Knin, passes over Velebit and Ljubovo, as well as penetration along the direction of advance of the 1.gbr (Glibodol – Plitvice – Tržačka Raštela) and 2.gbr (Gora – Banski Grabovac – Obljaj). Main attacks were planned along the directions of Bosansko Grahovo – Knin and Josipdol – Plaški – Tržić with the intention of splitting Serb forces into two, linking up with the 5th Corps of the Army of BiH (ArBiH) and liberating Knin, the center point of Serb rebellion.
Following the penetration of the first line of defense of the rebel Serbs, fresh forces were to be introduced in the second phase of the operation and continue the attack towards the national border. After the early operations of the Croatian Air Force (HRZ) and destruction of the enemy communication systems as well as artillery preparation of the selected targets, Croatian forces moved into action at the same time from the thirty-odd directions over the battlefield 700 kilometers long. Main striking power was provided by the guards brigades supported by the 1st Croatian Guard Brigade (1.HGZ), Special Police Forces of the Ministry of the Interior (MUP) as well as Home Guard and reserve units.
Along the primary direction of the offensive from Dinara towards Knin, striking force was formed from the 4th and 7th Guards Brigade. Units of the 9th Guards Brigade and Special Police Forces were operating from Velebit in the direction of Knin, while 1.HGZ entered deep into the enemy rear by helicopter deployment. To the north, from Kapela and over Slunj, Rakovica, Titova Korenica and Plitvice operated the 1st Guards Brigade. 9th Guards Brigade was tasked with taking Ljubovo and neutralizing the enemy air base in Udbina. These tasks were in the area of responsibility of the Operative Area (ZP – Zborno Područje) Split and ZP Gospić.
Task of ZP Split was to destroy the forces of the 7th Corps of SVK (Serb Army of Krajina) and liberate the occupied area of northern Dalmatia. Forces were divided into four operative groups – Zadar, Šibenik, Sjever (North) and Sinj. The main force was OG North with 4th and 7th Guards Brigade of the Croatian Army. Already on the first day of the Operation Storm, forces of the Operative Area Split had penetrated the first lines of the enemy defences around Knin. As the operation continued, forces of the Operative Area Split pushed the enemy back towards the border with Bosnia and Herzegovina, liberating the entire area of the norhern Dalmatia.
Task of the ZP Gospić was destruction of the forces of the 15th Corps of the Serb Army of Krajina (SVK), cutting off the Serb forces in the wider area of Plitvice lakes, and linking up with the forces of the 5th Corps of the Army of BiH (AbiH). During the second phase the goal was to liberate the entire area of Lika and reach the national border with BiH. Striking force (spearhead) of the ZP Gospić was formed by the 1st and 9th Guards Brigade.
In between the ZP Gospić and ZP Split was zone of responsibility of the Special Forces of MUP RH. Their task was taking control of the wider area of Gračac and St. Rok, as well as capture of the radio relay Ćelavac, the main communications hub of Serb forces. During continuation of the operation, they were to link up with the forces of the Croatian Army (HV) and continue the penetration towards the Croatian border in the area of Donji Lapac.
On the first day of the operation, forces of the Special Police of MUP RH (1500 members and 700 reservists) went into attack from their positions on Velebit, moving along the main and four secondary lines of advance. Area of the attack stretched from Ivine vodice and Sveto brdo in the west to Bukva and Tulove grede in the east. In order to approach Serb positions as much as possible, forces of the Special Police deployed to their starting position overnight on foot, along with their entire logistical and medical support.
Task of the ZP Karlovac was destruction of forces of the 21st Corps of SVK, as well as neutralization of Serb artillery in order to prevent destruction of urban centres and industrial areas in its area of responsibility; liberation of the wider area of Ogulin, Karlovac and Kordun; and prevention of the possible counterattack by Serb forces in the mid-river of Korana and Mrežnica. Following the completion of these tasks, and in cooperation of elements of forces of ZP Zagreb and ZP Gospić, forces of ZP Karlovac were to proceed with liberation of the entirety of Kordun and reach the border with BiH.
Liberation of Banovina was task of units of the ZP (Corps Area / Assembly Area) Zagreb and ZP Bjelovar. Plan was to surround the area of Banovina from several directions. Main striking force of ZP Zagreb in the direction of heavy enemy defences at Petrinja and then to Glina was the 2nd Guards Brigade.
Task was to use the ready forces, reinforcements of the headquarters units of the GS HV (General Headquarters of the Croatian Army) and special forces of the Croatian Police, to destroy the defences of the 39th Corps of SVK, liberate Banovina, link up with the forces of the 5th Corps of ABiH and reach the country border. Operations was to be carried out along the three directions: towards Petrinja, Hrvatska Kostajnica and Glina. In the first phase, the main forces of the Corps Areas were to cut off Petrinja, destroy or force to surrender the surrounded Serb forces, and liberate the city. On the secondary route the forces were to liberate Hrvatska Kostajnica, and in the second phase liberate Glina.
Task of the forces of ZP Bjelovar was to cross Sava, smash the enemy on the right side of the river, and then attack along the direction of Jasenovac – Hrvatska Dubica, liberate Hrvatska Dubica and link up with forces of ZP Zagreb.
Units of the 3rd and 5th Guards Brigade were in the state of heightened readiness in eastern Slavonia, serving under command of ZP Osijek as a mobile reserve in case of attack of enemy units from Serbia. ZP Osijek had a defensive task codenamed Phoenix whose goal was to prevent penetration of Serb forces into eastern Slavonia.
During the Operation Storm, Croatian Air Force provided the air support to ground troops along the directions of attack, ensured air defense coverage of the national territory with focus on Zagreb – Karlovac – Sisak – Kutina and Sinj areas, carried out reconnaissance flights, enabled aerial maneuver by ground troops, and evacuated the wounded. Entirety of the resources of Croatian Air Force were utilized in the operation: 17 MiG-21 fighter aircraft, 3 transport aircraft, 5 attack and 9 transport helicopters, An-2 electronic reconnaissance aircraft, Mi-24 electronic-thermovision reconnaissance aircraft. First strikes were aimed against the fortified Serb positions, positions on dominant locations, communication centres, command posts, warehouses, artillery and armor. Later strikes were focused almost exclusively on close air support to forces in offensive operations.
Croatian Navy spent the operation in the heightened state of readiness, prepared for active defense with focus on antiship, antisubmarine and antimine warfare. Defense on the northern and middle Adriatic was carried by plan Turs-95, while that of southern Adriatic was part of the action Maestral in the southern front.
On the first day of operation Croatian forces had penetrated the enemy lines to depth of between 5 and 15 kilometers, with enemy strongpoints brought under encirclement or semi-encirclement. By the second day of operation, 80% of planned combat tasks had already been completed.
Majority of occupied Croatian settlements had been liberated in first days of the operation, including Hrvatska Kostajnica, Petrinja, Glina, Slunj, Gračac, Obrovac, Drniš. Entrance of forces of 4th and 7th Guards Brigade into Knin on 5th of August meant completion of the most important strategic goal of the Operation Storm, but also of the Homeland War as well. A day later, in the northern part of the battlefield enemy forces of 21st Kordun Corps were forced to sign a surrender.
In 84 hours, 200 000 soldiers engaged in the operation had liberated over 10 000 square kilometers of the occupied territory. Price for this success were 204 dead, 1100 wounded and two missing soldiers and policemen.
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