Clip from Serb television broadcast
reportedly showing destroyed Croatian armor troop carriers
Confusion and near panic has gripped the
countryside as it appears Serbian forces have launched a full scale
invasion of Croatia. Last month, Serbian forces had rolled across the border of
Croatia in order to aid Croatian-Serbian steelworkers who were
conducting a strike at a large steel mill complex just north-west of
Osijek. Now it appears that action was a ruse
as Serbian armored forces departed their previous positions in Croatia
and drove westward across the country on Sept. 29th.
The previously surrounded Croat Infantry
battalion posted near the eastern border has not been heard from since
the attack began and has been given up for lost. Several hours later,
Serbian forces attacked two other Croatian military positions: One at
Slovonski Brod in the south, and the other to the north near the
Hungarian border where a Croatian Guard Brigade had arrived from
Zagreb a mere hour before the attack and had little time to
establish defensive positions. Losses were high, but Croatian military
sources say the unit was pushed back only slightly and was working on holding
the Serbian forces in place.
The region between these two positions was apparently
the mass of Serbian armor was able to pour through the gap. A Croatian Guard
Brigade that had been ordered east to fill this gap had gotten off to a
late start due to bad luck and an inexperienced commander and instead
met the Serbian advance head-on just east of Pakrac in what military
experts called a meeting engagement for which it was unprepared.
Croatian Private Jans Varazdin was a soldier attached to that Brigade
and one look at him said it all. His body was covered in dirt and mud, and
his eyes were haunted by what he experienced when his Brigade was 'annihilated'
by Serbian forces. A white bandage was tightly wrapped around his head
and there was a large bloody spot at the front where he had been wounded.
He spoke in quiet but intense words when he described the carnage that
befell his fellow soldiers as the Serbian armor came out of the trees
from the east:
"We had just arrived at Pakrac from our barracks in the west when
all of a sudden there were tanks that rolled out from the trees to the
east and opened fire. I dropped to the ground as shells and bullets
ripped through my unit. Friends I had known for years lay dying all
around me and our own tanks sat burning. I could hear the screams of the
men inside but there was nothing that could be done to help
Polaroid picture snapped by Pvt. Varazdin
just as his squad came under Serbian artillery fire
"We tried to escape but this caused
a major traffic jam and the Serbian tanks just kept firing into the mess
causing even further death and destruction. I've never seen anything
like it in my life. The enemy tanks kept rolling to the west, firing as
they went, next came heavy artillery fire. Big, heavy rounds dropped
onto the road. I saw one truck literally picked up and sail through the
air by the explosions. It was at this point I got hit by something, I'm
not sure what and that was the last thing I remember."
When asked if he would be willing to go back into the front lines and
continue fighting. His reply was quick in coming:
"Yes I would, this is my country and I will fight to the last to
remain free from Serbian influence."
Elsewhere NATO fighters from the United States 16th Air
in Vincenza Italy, unaware of the Serbian attack westward, continued
their regular patrols in the eastern sector where they encountered and
warded off several groups of Serbian strike aircraft.
Serb military media sources
released this photo showing a Croatian tank that suffered
catastrophic damage in a battle near Pakrac
By the second day of the attack, the Croatian Guard Brigade near the
Hungarian border has reportedly taken heavy losses after a second attack
by Serbian forces supported by massive artillery. One NATO F-16 was
damaged by a SAM during an attempt to locate and destroy this artillery
support. Other pilots reported having to dodge SAMs as well with one pilot
described the SAMs as being the type mounted on top of lightly armored
By late afternoon, NATO was beginning to receive real-time satellite
imagery and targeting data from it's JSTARS, both of which had
previously been deployed to the European theater and directed
specifically at Croatia by the Pentagon. A buildup in logistics will be
needed to strike with any mass, but in the meantime the limited number
of operational squadrons of F-16s have successfully defended against
Serbia's Air Force, shooting down some nine MiGs and chasing off
many others. No losses have been reported on the NATO side of the war.
Elsewhere, following the
battle in which Private Jans Varazdin was wounded, a column of Serbian
armor was reported to be approaching the town of Pakrac located
approximately 80 miles
east of the Croatian capital of Zagreb.
When asked about this in a hasty interview
following the second day of the attack,
the NATO Allied Forces South Commander responded by saying that all available assets
were being tasked with
supporting the Croat defenders in the east until he receives
orders to the contrary . He assured the western press
that air power would be built up in the region over the next few days
NATO would soon be able to deal decisive and devastating blows to
Serbian forces throughout Croatia.