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Battle of Logorište
Part of the Croatian War of Independence
Battle of Logorište is located in Croatia
Cro-occup-lines-Jan92.svg
Logorište
Duga Resa

Logorište on the map of Croatia. JNA-held area in late December 1991 is highlighted red.
Date4–6 November 1991
LocationDuga Resa, Croatia
Result Indecisive
Belligerents
 Croatia Yugoslav People's Army Yugoslav People's Army
SAO Krajina SAO Krajina
Commanders and leaders
Croatia Izidor Češnjaj
Croatia Rudolf Brlečić
Croatia Nedjeljko Katušin
Yugoslav People's Army Mirko Raković
Yugoslav People's Army Boro Ercegovac
Strength
unknown 685 (garrison only)
Casualties and losses
31 killed 14 killed
33 wounded
14 killed civilians
14 captured civilians


The Battle of Logorište was fought just to the east of Duga Resa and south of Karlovac, Croatia on 4–6 November 1991, during the Croatian War of Independence. It was a clash between the Croatian National Guard (Zbor narodne garde – ZNG) holding the Yugoslav People's Army (Jugoslovenska Narodna Armija – JNA) Logorište barracks under blockade started in the Battle of the Barracks on one side, and the garrison breaking out of the barracks, supported by JNA and SAO Krajina units deployed to lift blockade of Logorište barracks and other JNA garrisons in Karlovac. The combat ended after a ceasefire was signed in The Hague.

Both sides in the conflict claimed victory, however neither achieved all of its objectives. While the JNA garrison managed to evacuate Logorište barracks, Croatian defences elsewhere held. Particularly heavy fighting was reported in Turanj suburb of Karlovac, identified as the primary axis of the JNA effort. While JNA removed a portion of the weapons and equipment stored in Logorište barracks, the remaining stocks of military supplies were being removed from the barracks for a week after the battle.

Background

In 1990, following the electoral defeat of the government of the Socialist Republic of Croatia, ethnic tensions between Croats and the Croatian Serbs worsened. The Yugoslav People's Army (Jugoslovenska Narodna Armija – JNA) confiscated Croatia's Territorial Defence (Teritorijalna obrana – TO) weapons to minimize resistance.[1] On 17 August, the tensions escalated into an open revolt of the Croatian Serbs,[2] centred on the predominantly Serb-populated areas of the Dalmatian hinterland around Knin,[3] parts of the Lika, Kordun, Banovina and Slavonia.[4]

After two unsuccessful attempts by Serbia, supported by Montenegro and Serbia's provinces of Vojvodina and Kosovo, to obtain the Yugoslav Presidency's approval for a JNA operation to disarm Croatian security forces in January 1991,[5] and a bloodless skirmish between Serb insurgents and Croatian special police in March,[6] the JNA itself, supported by Serbia and its allies, asked the federal Presidency to give it wartime powers and declare a state of emergency. The request was denied on 15 March, and the JNA came under control of Serbian President Slobodan Milošević. Milošević, preferring a campaign to expand Serbia rather than preservation of Yugoslavia, publicly threatened to replace the JNA with a Serbian army and declared that he no longer recognized the authority of the federal Presidency. The threat caused the JNA to gradually abandon plans to preserve Yugoslavia in favour of an expansion of Serbia.[7] By the end of March, the conflict escalated after the first fatalities occurred during an incident at Plitvice Lakes.[8] The JNA stepped in, supporting the insurgents, and prevented Croatian police from intervening.[7] In early April, leaders of the Serb revolt in Croatia declared their intention to integrate the area under their control, named SAO Krajina, with Serbia. This was viewed by the Government of Croatia as an intention to secede from Croatia.[9]

In the beginning of 1991, Croatia had no regular army and in an effort to bolster its defence, the country doubled its police personnel to about 20,000. The most effective part of the force was the 3,000-strong special police who deployed in 12 battalions and adopted a military structure. In addition there were 9,000–10,000 regionally organized reserve police. The reserve police were grouped into 16 battalions and 10 independent companies. The police were armed with small arms only, but a portion of the force was unarmed.[10] In May, the Croatian government responded by forming the Croatian National Guard (Zbor narodne garde – ZNG),[11] but its development was hampered by a United Nations (UN) arms embargo introduced in September.[12] On 12 September, the ZNG was ordered to blockade all JNA facilities it had access to, beginning the Battle of the Barracks.[13]

Prelude

In late September and early October 1991, the blockade of the JNA barracks in and around Karlovac, as well as Croatian defences in the city region were maintained by approximately 900 policemen and ZNG troops. The ZNG troops were assigned to the 110th Infantry Brigade and under-strength 3rd Battalion of the 2nd Guards Brigade.[14] The 110th Infantry Brigade was mobilised to one-third of its planned strength due to lack of available weapons and poor organisation.[15] The 110th Infantry Brigade was commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Rudolf Brlečić.[16]

JNA Stjepan Milašinčić-Seljo barracks in Logorište suburban settlement to the south of Karlovac was in effect one of the largest weapons storage facilities in Croatia. It contained weapons and equipment of the 8th Proletarian Motorised Brigade, the 471st Mixed Antitank Artillery Brigade, elements of the logistics battalion of the 580th Mixed Artillery Brigade, an armoured battalion of the 236th Proletarian Motorised Brigade and 200 tonnes of fuel and stockpiled food assigned to the 944th Logistics Base. In summer of 1990, a mechanised battalion of the 4th Armoured Brigade was moved from Jastrebarsko to Logorište barracks, but it was deployed to Lika since late March 1991, and the battalion left behind approximately 40 men in the barracks.[17] At the same time, fortifications protecting the barracks were improved.[13] Commander of the barracks was Lieutenant Colonel Boro Ercegovac, the commanding officer of the 8th Proletarian Motorised Brigade.[18][13]

The 1st Battalion of the ZNG's 110th Infantry Brigade blockaded the barracks on 19 September, in order to contain the JNA and prevent removal of the weapons from the barracks. The blockade was poorly organised allowing a pair of tanks to leave the barracks and raid a nearby settlement two days later. According to Croatian sources, one of the tanks was destroyed during the raid.[15] In order to relieve blockaded garrisons in Karlovac area, the JNA redeployed the 169th Motorised Brigade from Loznica and three detachments of TO from Vojnić and assigned them to the Operational Group 1 (OG-1).[19] The OG-1 attacked Croatian defences on 4 October and reached the right (eastern) bank of the Korana River on 8 October, stopping its advance. Since the 169th Motorised Brigade virtually fell apart due to inadequate reserve mobilisation, it had to be replaced by the 9th Motorised Brigade brought in from Serbia on 15 October.[14]

Order of battle

According to the JNA, additional 450 troops were deployed to the barracks despite the blockade between 22 October and 4 November. The personnel largely comprised tank crews assigned to the 9th Motorised Brigade and two companies of SAO Krajina TO from Vojnić. The reinforcements arrived across the Korana River running adjacent to the barracks. The movement of the reinforcements led to several skirmishes in the period. By 4 November, the barracks housed a 685-strong garrison.[20] In the second half of October, the 129th and the 137th Infantry Brigades were established in Karlovac and nearby Duga Resa in order to bolster Croatian defences. The two new brigades were assigned areas of responsibility (AORs) on 29 November by Karlovac Operational Zone commanding officer, Colonel Izidor Češnjaj—boundary of the AORs assigned to the 110th and 137th brigades ran just south of the Logorište barracks.[16] The 137th Infantry Brigade was commanded by Major Nedjeljko Katušin.[21] The 110th Infantry Brigade deployed three companies of its 1st Battalion to the north and west of Logorište baracks, while further three companies belonging to the brigade's 3rd Battalion were deployed to the south of the barracks. Further to the south, there were three companies of the 3rd Battalion of the 137th Infantry Brigade facing Korana River. The 1/110th Brigade was supported by two companies of police including an antitank and sniper group of special police reserve troops, commanded by Želimir Feitl, in Sv. Doroteja immediately to the north of the barracks. The 3/137th Brigade was supported by an additional company of police. The 3rd Battalion of the 2nd Guards Brigade was ordered to redeploy to Banovina and most of its troops were either on leave or had already left the area, and only a squad remained in rear of the 137th Infantry Brigade.[22]

Timeline

A location map of the Battle of Logorište

  Korana River
  110th/137th Brigade AOR boundary
  roads

The JNA 5th Military District command instructed the OG-1 to relieve blockaded JNA garrisons in Karlovac and Zagreb areas. In the first stage of the effort, the OG-1 was planned to reach the Kupa River via Turanj, breaking through the ZNG positions, while the second stage of the advance was planned to relieve JNA garrisons blockaded in the city of Karlovac.[19] On 2 November, the OG-1 commenced artillery bombardment in the area of Karlovac—and the bombardment caused the 2nd Battalion of the 110th Infantry Brigade to abandon its positions in Turanj the next day. The abandoned defences were taken over by elements of the brigade's 1st Battalion.[18]

On 3 November, the OG-1 supplemented the orders with instruction for capture of the village of Barilović, to the south of Logorište barracks, and its surroundings in order to facilitate evacuation of Logorište barracks.[21] Anticipating the JNA advance, the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Croatia instructed the Karlovac Operational Zone and the 110th Infantry Brigade to capture Logorište and Jamadol barracks and secure ammunition for the ZNG, whose stocks were running critically low. Brlečić ordered the police force commanded by Feitl to capture the barracks the same night, but Feitl refused to do so. The order was rescinded by Češnjaj.[21] The JNA artillery bombarded Karlovac in the night of 3/4 November.[23] On 3 November, the ZNG was renamed the Croatian Army (Hrvatska vojska – HV).[24]

4 November

Breakout from Logorište barracks started on 4 November, at 7:30 a.m. after an hour-long artillery bombardment and airstrikes against battalion and company command posts. At the same time, the JNA attacked HV defences at Turanj, further to the north, threatening Karlovac. The breakout was directly commanded by chief of staff of the OG-1, Colonel Mirko Raković.[23]

While most of the JNA garrison in Logorište barracks remained in place, a group of 10 to 16 tanks broke out without any significant resistance south towards the villages of Belajske Poljice and Belaj.[23] The armoured force deployed to the south went through Belaj and was only stopped at Gornji Velemerić and approximately 1 kilometre (0.62 miles) north of the village of Carevo Selo by elements of the 2nd Guards Brigade and the 137th Infantry Brigade. The JNA force retreated to Belaj after losing two tanks and mounted another attack along the road to Barilović. The four tanks dispatched to Barilović were also stopped by the 137th Brigade troops before they reached their objective. By the evening, two 137th Infantry Brigade was reinforced by two companies redeployed from Generalski Stol and Erdelj, elements of the 3rd Battalion of the 2nd Guards Brigade, one tank, three armoured personnel carriers (APCs) and an antitank missile system in order to contain the JNA advance. In the night of 4/5 November, directly threatened civilian population was evacuated.[25]

A secondary force of four JNA tanks, supported by infantry, were deployed from Logorište barracks to secure high ground to the north and east of the barracks,[25] and protect the flank of the armoured force in Belaj. According to the HV, the advancing troops were met by the 2nd Company of the 3rd Battalion of the 110th Brigade, supported by a T-55 tank, in Mala Vinica, after the JNA force had already secured their immediate objectives. The JNA lost three tanks and a truck in the clash. According to the JNA, one tank was destroyed and another damaged, forcing the remaining two to retreat to the barracks. The secondary force was limited to within 400 metres (1,300 feet) from Belajske Poljice after the HV managed to secure the Vinica Hill for itself. The HV positions at the Vinica Hill were attacked by Yugoslav Air Force Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21 at 2:00 p.m.[26]

The Karlovac Operational Zone offered no assistance to the 137th Infantry Brigade, directing subordinated units to lift JNA sieges of Slunj and Saborsko and to secure Karlovac–Slunj road instead. This prompted Katušin to request help from Zagreb Operational Zone commander, Colonel Stjepan Mateša. Mateša, a native of Duga Resa himself, ordered the 7th Brigade of Croatian TO to deploy a battalion to Karlovac. The General Staff approved the order and instructed the 8th Brigade of Croatian TO to add one of its own battalions, but no troops were sent by the 8th Brigade.[27]

5 November

The JNA received information of the reinforcements to the 137th Infantry Brigade and abandoned its plan to advance to Barilović and reoriented its efforts to reaching the Korana Bridge in the village of Malići, further down the road from Gornji Velemerić and Carevo Selo where its tanks had been stopped the previous day. The battle resumed in the morning and the JNA tanks supported by the Yugoslav Air Force, artillery and multiple rocket launchers broke through positions held by the 2nd Guards Brigade at 1:00 p.m., and reached Carevo Selo before they were stopped again by the HV. Shortly afterwards, the 2nd Battalion of the 7th Brigade arrived from Zagreb to Duga Resa and attached to the 137th Infantry Brigade. One company of the battalion was deployed to the Vinica Hill, and the second to the west of Carevo Selo, where it relieved the 2nd Guards Brigade troops.[28]

The 110th Infantry Brigade assigned the secondary significance to the fighting around Logorište barracks because it struggled to hold its positions at Turanj where the HV estimated a two-battalion strong attack was in progress, supported by artillery and air force. At 5:00 a.m., positions held at the Vinica Hill were reinforced by addition of the Sports Company, consisting of Zagreb University, Faculty of Kinesiology students, and a platoon of 82-millimetre (3.2 in) mortars to the 3rd Battalion of the 110th Infantry Brigade. The battalion was tasked with blocking the Logorište–Belajske Poljice road, leading south from Logorište barracks,[29] and capturing Belajske Poljice by noon.[30]

Since there were only 40 trained drivers in Logorište barracks, Ercegovac ordered soldiers who never operated military vehicles to drive a in a column which started out from the barracks at 3:30 p.m. under fire. As the column advanced south towards Malići, elements of teh 110th Infantry Brigade retreated from the village of Zastinja on right bank of the Korana River. The evacuating JNA column sustained casualties even though it was supported by the 9th Motorised Brigade and two detachments of the SAO Krajina TO from Vojnić. The SAO Krajina TO were later accused of killing of civilian population in the area.[30]

6 November

On the night of 5/6 November, fighting died down after a comprehensive ceasefire was arranged in The Hague. The lull was used by the 137th Infantry Brigade to extract its troops and civilians encircled near the Korana River east of Malići. The JNA column started moving south again at dawn and reached Malići at approximately 9:00 a.m. The column crossed the Korana River via the existing bridge in the village and a pontoon bridge by 11:00 a.m. and proceeded to Vojnić. Shortly afterwards, Logorište barracks and its surroundings were secured by the HV.[31]

Aftermath

A T-34 tank destroyed in the fighting near Karlovac

Both sides in the battle claimed victory after the fighting ended. The JNA hailed the extraction of the garrison as its greatest success. However, they achieved only a part of their objectives: they failed to secure the area surrounding the barracks or to remove the weapons and equipment located there in its entirety. Furthermore, the planned coordinated advance against Turanj failed. Croatian forces failed in their primary objective—containing the garrison. Nonetheless, JNA threat from Logorište barracks was removed, freeing up the forces previously assigned to the blockade of the barracks, and a large quantity of weapons was captured.[32]

The 137th Infantry Brigade lost 17 killed in the battle, while the 2nd Guards Brigade lost one killed soldier. The 110th Infantry Brigade lost 14 killed and 26 wounded, but the brigade sustained most of the casualties at Turanj rather than Logorište. The JNA lost 14 killed and 33 wounded troops. In addition, 14 civilians were killed and 14 captured and taken away by the JNA and the SAO Krajina TO. One of the prisoners died in captivity, and the rest were exchanged later. Seven of those exchanged had been severely injured, and died shortly after the exchange.[33] The Central Intelligence Agency estimated that the JNA lost most of the tanks previously based in Logorište barracks.[34]

The JNA evacuated 21 T-55 tanks, nine T-34s, an armoured recovery vehicle and an armoured vehicle-launched bridge, ten APCs including an armoured command vehicle, and 50 vehicles carrying military equipment. Elements of the 110th Infantry Brigade entered Logorište barracks in the morning of 6 November and removed a portion of the military hardware remaining in the barracks, before pulling out at 1:00 p.m. after having received information that the JNA is planning an artillery attack on the barracks.[31] The captured equipment continued to be transported from the barracks until 13 November.[35]

Command system failure

Losses and destruction of property caused an outrage in Duga Resa, largely directed at Katušin, who was forced to flee to Karlovac and then to Zagreb Operational Zone headquarters in the morning of 6 November to protect his life.[36] The 110th Infantry Brigade blamed the 137th Brigade for all mistakes made, including breakout from the barracks located in the brigade's own AOR. Češnjaj also denied responsibility and blamed Katušin.[37] Nonetheless, Katušin was supported by the General Staff and soon appointed the commanding officer of the 140th Infantry Brigade based in Jastrebarsko.[38] In fact, Croatian command and control systems failed, especially Karlovac Operational Zone command located in immediate vicinity of the battlefield. The zone recorded hardly any information and issued no instructions to the troops fighting near Logorište.[39] The 110th Infantry Brigade was focused on the fighting at Turanj and paid too little attention to Logorište, while the 137th Infantry Brigade exhibited shortcomings in terms of use of the reinforcements deployed from Zagreb. The JNA command was far more effective, likely because of proximity of the command post probably located at the Šanac Hill, mere 500 metres (1,600 feet) away, affording direct observation of a part of the battlefield.[40]

War crime trial

Croatian authorities charged two former members of the SAO Krajina TO with shooting of two HV soldiers who attempted to surrender to the JNA force on 4 November. One of the two was arrested in October 2010 and tried. He was convicted and sentenced to nine years in prison in November 2013.[41]

Footnotes

  1. Hoare 2010, p. 117.
  2. Hoare 2010, p. 118.
  3. The New York Times 19 August 1990.
  4. ICTY 12 June 2007, p. 44.
  5. Hoare 2010, pp. 118–119.
  6. Ramet 2006, pp. 384–385.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Hoare 2010, p. 119.
  8. The New York Times 3 March 1991.
  9. The New York Times 2 April 1991.
  10. CIA 2002, p. 86.
  11. EECIS 1999, pp. 272–278.
  12. The Independent 10 October 1992.
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 Marijan 2011, p. 455.
  14. 14.0 14.1 Marijan 2011, p. 457.
  15. 15.0 15.1 Marijan 2011, p. 456.
  16. 16.0 16.1 Marijan 2011, p. 459.
  17. Marijan 2011, p. 454.
  18. 18.0 18.1 Marijan 2011, p. 462.
  19. 19.0 19.1 Marijan 2011, pp. 456–457.
  20. Marijan 2011, p. 458.
  21. 21.0 21.1 21.2 Marijan 2011, p. 460.
  22. Marijan 2011, pp. 461–462.
  23. 23.0 23.1 23.2 Marijan 2011, p. 463.
  24. MORH 8 July 2013.
  25. 25.0 25.1 Marijan 2011, p. 465.
  26. Marijan 2011, pp. 465–466.
  27. Marijan 2011, p. 466.
  28. Marijan 2011, p. 467.
  29. Marijan 2011, p. 469.
  30. 30.0 30.1 Marijan 2011, p. 470.
  31. 31.0 31.1 Marijan 2011, p. 471.
  32. Marijan 2011, p. 479.
  33. Marijan 2011, p. 473.
  34. CIA 2002b, p. 228.
  35. Marijan 2011, pp. 471–473.
  36. Marijan 2011, pp. 473–474.
  37. Marijan 2011, p. 474.
  38. Marijan 2011, p. 475.
  39. Marijan 2011, p. 477.
  40. Marijan 2011, p. 478.
  41. Večernji list 7 November 2013.

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