September 9, 1993 Medak pocket
ANOTHER CRIME WITHOUT PUNISHMENT
In the aggression of the Croatian army in the Medak Pocket , when 88 Serbs have been killed including women and children . Croatia subsequently handed over 52 bodies to Serbian side, while destiny of those wounded and captured remains unknown and that clearly indicates that there was a systematic killing of captured and wounded, - Documentation and Information Center ”Veritas ” releases.
Medački džep .
United Nations in the Medak pocket: unable to accomplish their proclaimed mission
” Veritas ” reminds that the UNPROFOR general – under whose protection was the Serbian population – Jean Cotte was shocked by what he found after eight days long battle; he put in the report that the villages he was passing through were without a single trace of living persons or animals and that “the destruction was complete, systematic and deliberate .”
Written testimony: In 1993, Canadian peacekeepers in Croatia were plunged into the most significant fighting Canada had seen since the Korean War. Their extraordinary heroism was covered up and forgotten. The ghosts of that battlefield have haunted them ever since.
Canadian peacekeepers in Medak Pocket, Croatia, found no peace to keep in September 1993. They engaged the forces of ethnic cleansing in a deadly firefight and drove them from the area under United Nations protection. The soldiers should have returned home as heroes. Instead, they arrived under a cloud of suspicion and silence.
In Medak Pocket, members of the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry did exactly the job they were trained — and ordered — to do. When attacked by the Croat army they returned fire and fought back valiantly to protect Serbian civilians and to save the UN mandate in Croatia. Then they confronted the horrors of the offensive’s aftermath — the annihilation by the Croat army of Serbian villages. The Canadians searched for survivors. There were none.
The soldiers came home haunted by these atrocities, but in the wake of the Somalia affair, Canada had no time for soldiers’ stories of the horrific compromises of battle — the peacekeepers were silenced. In time, the dark secrets of Medak’s horrors drove many of these soldiers to despair, to homelessness and even suicide.
Award-winning journalist Carol Off brings to life this decisive battle of the Canadian Forces. The Ghosts of Medak Pocket is the complete and untold story.
Nonetheless allegations of ” Veritas ,” UN Commission of Experts on 28 December 1994. prepared the report concerning the consequences of the ” Medak Pocket” with the most unprofessional and most shameful suggestion that no one is to be convicted of murder, torture mutilation or other crimes during the operation , because ”no one had ever been identified as responsible for these crimes .”
The Hague Prosecution filed indictment for those crimes against Croatian generals Rahim Ademi (Kosovo Albanian) , Janko Bobetko and Mirko Norac , while investigation against General Peter Stipetić had been suspended.
Bobetko died in 2003 without an sentence.
The trial ” Ademi – Norac ” was handed over to Croatian jurisdiction . Croatia charged them with murder of 28 civilians and five soldiers , and for destruction of 300 different premises , killing of livestock and poisoning wells.
Ghosts of Medak Pocket Part 1/3
Ghosts of Medak Pocket part 2/3
Ghosts of Medak Pocket Part 3/3
The Medak Massacre: Canada 's trial by fire
THE SUNDAY ( TORONTO ) SUN, By SCOTT TAYLOR and BRIAN NOLAN,
November 1, 1998
Untold story of this nation's largest military action since Korean War
During Canada's UN peacekeeping stint in the Balkans, prior to taking a more aggressive role with NATO, some 100 soldiers became casualties, and were often put in impossible situations - taken hostage, mined, fired at, resented, threatened - all the while with imprecise orders on whether they could, couldn't or shouldn't fight back.
Perhaps the closest the Canadians came to war, or battle, was in the Croatian invasion of the Medak Pocket in the Serb-held Krajian area of Croatia in the fall of 1993. Yet, for political reasons, virtually no publicity was given to the Canadians' trial by fire.
Here, in the first of three excerpts of a starling new book focusing on Canada 's UN peacekeeping in the 1990s, is the little-known story of Canada 's role in the battle of the Medak Pocket.
The book, Tested Mettle, published by Esprit de Corps books, is by Scott Taylor and Brian Nolan whose previous book, Tarnished Brass, was a national bestseller.
At 6:05 a.m. , on Sept. 9, 1993 , the Croatian artillery bombardment rolled into the Medak Pocket like a wave of thunder. All along the 25- km valley geysers of earth and flame shot skyward. Lieutenant Tyrone Greene of the 2 PPCLI (Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry) was heading out the door on his way to the morning order's group when he observed a shell explode about 5 km away. He turned to go back inside to report the shot when a 152-mm mortar round impacted behind him and threw the big officer flat.
Seconds later, the rest of the Croat mortar battery opened fire in earnest.
Greene's platoon was to witness firsthand a devastating barrage that would crumble Serb defenses. From the outset, the town of Medak was the primary target for the Croat gunners. It was the Serb headquarters and a vital transportation hub.
Back at battalion headquarters in Gracac, LCol. Jim Calvin anxiously wondered what was happening north in the Medak Pocket. He could feel the ground shake and saw the plumes of smoke.
As the day progressed, Calvin was pressured by his anxious UN commanders in New York to provide them with a clear assessment of the deteriorating situation. He went forward in his APC to liaise with Lt. Greene and ordered the subaltern to set up an observation post to keep track of the battle. For the next three days, the men of Greene's Nine Platoon were the sole eyes and ears of the international community. It was essential that they hold their ground.
That evening, there was a significant shift in the Croat bombardment. The change in the fire plan signified the next phase of the Croat attack: Atop the ridgeline, Croat special forces and dismounted infantry launched a lightning pincer advance, rolling up the surprised Serb pickets in a series of deadly, one-sided firefights. Croatian armour columns then rolled down the valley.
Calvin was constantly calling Lt. Greene for updates as the UN Headquarters tried to plot out the political ramifications of the offensive. Every time Greene radioed in his reports, his position was immediately bombed by Croat mortars. It dawned on the young lieutenant that the Croats were using their radio "direction finding" equipment to zero in on his broadcasts, apparently mistaking his signals for those of the Serbians (who were, in fact, using land-line field telephones to communicate messages).
From then on, Greene only used the radio in emergencies, and tried to switch locations when he did so.
By the evening of Sept. 11, the tide of the battle began shifting as a major Serbian counter-attack was mounting. The gaggle of wounded soldiers and fleeing refugees along the main road in Medak was replaced by determined Serb reinforcements pushing forward into the pocket.
Buses, tanks and even armoured trains began pouring into the region from all over the Krajina. For the next 72 hours, the Serbs and Croats fought a pitched battle. The counter-thrust blunted the Croat offensive and both sides began digging in along their new front lines.
With the combat situation temporarily stalemated on Sept. 14, the UN began to press the warring sides for a ceasefire. International pressure was for the Croatians - clearly the aggressors in this instance - to pull back to the Sept. 9 ceasefire lines. To help force the issue, the Serbs soon demonstrated their resolve to escalate the strategic stakes. On the afternoon of Sept. 14. They launched a Soviet-built Frog missile at the suburbs of the Croatian capital of Zagreb . The heavy-calibre tactical rocket plunged harmlessly into a field, but Croatians quickly agreed to remove their troops from the Medak valley. The "buffer zone" created as the Croats withdrew was to be occupied by UN peacekeepers.
French General Jean Cot, the UN commander in Sector South, knew that for the ceasefire to take hold, oeacekeepers would have to be deployed, quickly and in as much strength as could be mustered. LCol. Jim Calvin and his Patricias were ordered to prepare to advance within the next 24 hours. To reinforce his two rifle companies (Charlie and Delta) which were already in the Medak Pocket, Calvin was to receive two companies of well-equipped mechanized infantry from the French army.
Calvin was uneasy that he might have to forcibly oust the Croat forces. The magnitude of this possibility weighed heavily on him.
At 2 p.m. the next day, Lt. Greene gave the order for his APCs to advance into the killing zone. As they moved forward, the troops could see how close the Serbs had been to losing the town of Medak itself. Battle debris and bodies indicated that the Croats had even established a foothold in the northernmost buildings before being beaten back.
Calvin's plan was for a two-pronged push up the valley. The Canadian companies would provide the left-hand column and the French army the right. Greene's Nine Platoon was the centre of Charlie Company's formation, with Seven Platoon right and Eight Platoon on the far left. Major Dan Drew's Delta Company would follow Charlie's advance and take up position to prevent any subsequent Serbian advances.
On the afternoon of Sept. 15, 1993 , Private Scott Leblanc, an artillery reservist from Nova Scotia , was humping a C-9 light machine gun, as Eight Platoon advanced toward the little village of Sitlik . Off to their right flank, they heard the developing fire fight between Greene's men and the Croat defenders. Leblanc's section, commanded by Sgt. Rod Dearing, had just reached a low hedgerow when Capt. Dan McKillop signaled them to halt. McKillop had heard Greene's situation report on the company radio net and had spotted the Croat rifle pits about 200 metres to their front. The troops began digging in. Fire- team partners took turns shoveling. Leblanc was pumped up as gunfire continued to erupt across the Medak Valley floor and crept ominously closer.
Capt. McKillop yelled to Sgt. Dearing that combat engineers were on the way with heavy equipment to assist with the trench digging. A Croat machine-gun burst cut short McKillop's comments. Dearing took cover behind his APC and started pumping rounds back at the opposite hedgerow. The burly sergeant radiated; his example was infectious. Young Leblanc switched his C-9 to automatic and loosed a long, withering burst toward the Croat muzzle flashes.
At dusk, with the firefights still raging across the valley, Maj. Drew shouted for Warranr Officer Matt Stopford to prepare a section of soldiers. Calvin had received a telephone call from the local Croatian commander, who seemed to want to negotiate a peaceful UN passage of no-man's-land.
The meeting was heated, with Calvin matching his Croat host's bluster and rhetoric. It was agreed that Stopford's and Drew's protection party would remain at the Croatian lines to ensure that the main battle group would cross without incident the next day. Calvin returned to his headquarters while Stopford set up a duty roster for his six soldiers and two APCs deployed in the middle of the road.
Almost immediately the Croats began moving into fire positions around the Canadian detachment. At point blank range, they set up heavy machine guns and Russian-made anti-tank missiles. "I guess we're not going anywhere for a while," quipped Stopford.
Throughout the long night, Stopford remained uneasy about his situation. He could see tracer fire being exchanged between Sgt. Dearing's men and the Croat forces in the village of Sitlik . Despite the intensity of that combat, he was more concerned about the activity of the Croat troops to his immediate front. They appeared to be a special forces unit, unlike anything he'd seen thus far in the Balkans. Well equipped, with an assortment of modern weaponry, these guys were all young, fit and extremely intense. The men Stopford was observing were part of the new Croatian army - equipped and trained by U.S. "advisers."
These Croats were unconcerned by the Canadian presence. Muffled explosions could be heard up the valley and occasional single shots rang out. From a cluster of buildings just to his front, Stopford heard sudden screams, punctuated by a burst of gunfire. A moment of silence followed by raucous laughter.
Moments later, a nearby explosion shook the ground and a farm building burst into flames. Stopford raced back to his APC and radioed headquarters. His voice cracking with emotion, Stopford said the Croats had begun "ethnic cleansing" of the Medak Pocket. "You've got to move now, " he yelled. "They're killing people. We can't wait..."
Four kilometers to the rear, LCol. Calvin didn't need Stopford's report to understand what was happening. Fires were visible everywhere in the valley. He radioed UN headquarters in Zagreb and requested permission to advance immediately. He was ordered to remain in location and gather evidence for use at a future war crime trial.
Stopford was furious. Leaving his APC, he walked towards the Croat position, where the little village was burning furiously. Gunshots still echoed, along with drunken laughter.
A drunken Croat soldier emerged from a building and staggered toward Stopford. A girl could be heard screaming inside the house. Draped on the drunken soldier's head was a pair of blood-soaked panties.
The Canadian stepped forward, chambered a round in his rifle and flicked off the safety catch. Shaking with horror and rage, Stopford wanted to kill the Croat so badly he could taste it. The Croat smiled, threw down his assault rifle and held up his hands - empty now except for the undergarment. To shoot him would be cold-blooded murder. Stopford couldn't do it. As he walked slowly back to his carrier, he could hear the drunken rapist laughing.
As the sun rose over the horizon. It revealed a Medak Valley engulfed in smoke and flames. As the frustrated soldiers of 2PPCLI waited for the order to move forward into the pocket, shots and screams still rang out as the ethnic cleansing continued.
Sharp at noon , Major Drew's Delta Company began to roll forward. The long line of white UN APCs bristled with rifles and machine-guns as infantry rode topside with the cargo hatches open. For the weary, embattled soldiers of Charlie Company, the armoured column with large, blue UN flags fluttering from the radio antenna was a welcoming sight.
However, the Croat defenders weren't impressed. Their special forces company that had deployed behind Stopford's detachment concluded their extra-curricular activities and took up fire positions to block the main road. Somehow the Croatian general's agreement had not been passed along to his forward troops. The Croat company commander was adamant that any attempt to cross his lines would be resisted with "all available force."
Calvin played his one trump card to avoid a slaughter.
About 20 members of the international press had tagged along, anxious to see the Medak battleground. Calvin called an informal press conference at the head of the column and loudly accused the Croats of trying to hide war crimes against the Serb inhabitants.
The Croats started withdrawing back to their old lines, taking with them whatever loot they hadn't destroyed. All livestock had been killed and houses torched.
French reconnaissance troops and the Canadian command element pushed up the valley and soon began to find bodies of Serb civilians, some already decomposing, others freshly slaughtered. In one village, Calvin saw the bodies of two young girls who had been repeatedly raped, tied t ochairs and then set on fire.
Rain fell steadily through the night as those few soldiers who had deployed into no-man's-land waited for a possible counter-attack from either Serbs or Croats. Finally, on the drizzly morning of Sept. 17, teams of UN civilian police arrived to probe the smouldering ruins for murder victims.
Rotting corpses lying out in the open were catalogued, then turned over to the peacekeepers for burial.
The emotional effect on the Canadians was incalculable. They had seen the decomposed bodies and lived with the putrid stench of death, and had helplessly listened to people dying and being killed.
However, as details of the casualties inflicted on the Croat forces by the Canadian "peacekeepers" became known, morale was roused. Officially, the Croats admitted to 27 of their soldiers being killed or wounded by the UN troops in the Medak. Unofficially, the tally was pegged at 30 dead and over 100 wounded.
It was the most severe action Canadian troops had been involved in since the Korean War. Yet they had sustained only four wounded and no one killed.
Senior defence bureaucrats back in Ottawa had no way of predicting the outcome of the engagement in terms of political fallout. To them, there was no point in calling media attention to a situation that might easily backfire. Besides, a general election was underway in Canada with former defence minister Kim Campbell now the prime minister. So Medak was relegated to the memory hole - no publicity, no recriminations, no official record. Except for those soldiers involved, Canada's most lively military action since the Korean War simply never happened.