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Rudolf Perešin
Born (1958-03-25)March 25, 1958[1]
Died May 2, 1995(1995-05-02) (aged 37)
Place of birth Jakšinec, Yugoslavia[1]
Place of death Stara Gradiška, Croatia
Burial place Mirogoj Cemetery
Allegiance Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia Yugoslavia (1981–1991)
Croatia Croatia (1991–1995)
Service/branch Jrvpvo.gif Yugoslav Air Force
Hrz.jpg Croatian Air force
Years of service 1981–1995
Rank Staff Brigadier (Brigadier General posthumously)
Unit 21st Fighter Squadron

Croatian War of Independence

  • Order of Duke Domagoj
  • Order of Nikola Šubić Zrinski
  • Order of Ban Jelačić
  • Order of Stjepan Radić
  • Order of Petar Zrinski and Fran Krsto Frankopan with silver Wattle
  • Order of Petar Zrinski and Fran Krsto Frankopan with gold Wattle
  • Homeland War Memorial Medal
  • Homeland's Gratitude Medal
  • Medal Flash
  • Medal for Exceptional Undertakings
  • Rudolf Perešin (March 25, 1958 – May 2, 1995) was a Croatian fighter pilot in the Yugoslav People's Army (JNA) who defected from Željava Air Base to Klagenfurt, Austria in 1991, during a reconnaissance flight because he wanted to help his homeland Croatia during the Croatian War of Independence. He was the first pilot to desert from the JNA. He was shot down in 1995 by Serbian Krajina military forces resulting in his death.


    Perešin was born in the village of Jakšinec, Gornja Stubica near the Croatian capital of Zagreb. He entered Military Pilot Academy in Zadar, Croatia. He graduated in 1981 with outstanding scores at the top of his class as one of the best fighter pilots of the JNA.

    In 1991, as the JNA was preparing for a military campaign in Croatia[citation needed] Perešin decided to defect to help defend his homeland, realizing how risky that plan was. Like all Croatian-born personnel, he was under close phone and visual surveillance by the Serbian Ministry of Interior. That did little to discourage him so on October 25, 1991, he flew over to Klagenfurt, Austria[2] after a brief chase by five Yugoslav MiG-29's flying out of Kraljevo-Lađevci Airport.[citation needed] Although the five MiGs caught up with Rudi, he managed to dodge their radars by flying below 500 meters where airplane radars are ineffective.[citation needed]

    Croats recognize him as one of the greatest heroes of the war, his defection dealing a powerful blow to the morale and political agendas of the enemy while simultaneously giving a huge boost to morale, defiance and pride to Croats, who were fighting for their freedom against seemingly hopeless odds.[citation needed] After landing in Klagenfurt, he explained his action saying: "I am a Croat and I cannot and will not fire upon my Croatia".[citation needed]

    File:Rudi mig spomenik.jpg

    Rudolf Perešin memorial in Gornja Stubica

    On May 2, 1995 while providing close air support to the Croatian Army during Operation Flash he was shot down over Stara Gradiška by anti-aircraft artillery from the military of Serbian Krajina. Perešin remains were not returned until August 4, 1997. On September 15, 1997 Perešin was buried with full military honors in the Mirogoj cemetery, Zagreb.[1][3]

    The MiG-21 aircraft number 26112 he used to defect was transported to the Heeresgeschichtliches Museum (military history museum) in Vienna and briefly shown to the public there.[2] It was publicly displayed in Zeltweg Air Base during the AirPower11 national air show in 2011.[2] As of 2015, the aircraft is still an object of an international ownership dispute, with competing claims from Croatia and Serbia.[2][4]

    Today, the Croatian Air Force Flight School in Zadar and Aeronautical Technical High School in Velika Gorica are both named in his honor.


    1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 "Obilježena 17. obljetnica pogibije stožernog brigadira Rudolfa Perešina" (in Croatian). Croatian Ministry of Defense. May 2, 2012. Retrieved October 6, 2012.  Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "morh" defined multiple times with different content Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "morh" defined multiple times with different content
    2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 "Austrijanci se hvale avionom Rudolfa Perešina" (in Croatian). Hrvatski Telekom. July 2, 2011. Retrieved October 6, 2012. 
    3. (Croatian) Gradska groblja Zagreb: Rudolf Perešin, Mirogoj RKT-111D-I-45
    4. "Legendarni avion Rudolfa Perešina Austrija ne želi vratiti" (in Croatian). Hrvatski Telekom. January 19, 2009. Retrieved October 6, 2012. 

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