The Southern Flank D+13 (22 July, 1987) Part II

Kennedy and Saratoga had moved into the Eastern Mediterranean on the previous night, later than originally planned. COMSIXTHFLT had held them back following their UNREP to goad the Soviets into thinking the two carrier battle groups were going north to the Adriatic instead of deeper into the Med. The enemy, however, did not take the bait. Now the US carrier groups were playing a shell game with Soviet reconnaissance aircraft, RORSATs, and the few surviving enemy attack subs in theater. Hiding in the Mediterranean is no simple task. The sea is a soup bowl constricted by islands, continental landmasses, and chokepoints. But the carriers remained undetected through the day.

As dusk fell, the two carrier groups took station south of Crete. As the night grew darker, Saratoga and Kennedy’s airwings launched missions against targets in Bulgaria. For the aviators from Kennedy, this was a baptism of fire and they acquitted themselves well. For their counterparts from the Saratoga, these missions marked a return to the war following a short period of rest and refit. The first round of attacks were concentrated on airbases, and air defense sites. Strikes later in the evening targeted fuel depots, C3 facilities, and troop concentration. USAF F-111s and F-16s also conducted attacks on similar targets, but the two carrier air wings were the centerpiece of NATO air operations in the Balkans that night.

Croatia was an independent nation at 12:01AM on D+13. The newborn nation officially broke away from the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in the minutes leading up to midnight. People filled the streets of Zagreb and other cities and towns across the country. Spontaneous celebrations erupted that dragged on through the early morning. But joyful Croats weren’t the only ones taking to the street. Croatian Serbs were as well, and their mood was considerably darker than their Croat counterparts. Clashes erupted between opposing groups. Demonstrations and celebrations melded together and became bloody riots. By 0300 the sounds of gunfire, and exploding bombs could be heard all over Zagreb. In eastern Croatia, pro-independence Croats attacked Yugoslavian soldiers who had entered some of the larger towns in the region in the previous days. The single shots, and occasional explosions being heard in Zagreb were firefights in places like Osijek, and Dakovo.

At first light, the column of Yugoslav armor and motorized infantry near Daruvar started moving west towards Zagreb, 86 kilometers away. Off of Dubrovnik, Yugoslav naval vessels shelled the city, as Yugoslav MiG-21 Fishbeds, and J-22s flew low over Zagreb. Only this time they dropped bombs on government buildings.

Late in the morning Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic addressed the nation and called Croatia’s independence declaration an ‘act of the highest treason and sedition’ against the federal republic. He announced a nationwide state of emergency and suspended travel to and from Croatia. The Yugoslavian military was being dispatched to ‘quell the uprising’ and bring the ‘traitorous organizers in Zagreb to justice.’

Fighting continued through the day. The army column moving towards Zagreb found its progress hampered by roadblocks, and attacks by Croats who brandished heavy weapons kept hidden for years. Other bands of Croats spread out across the country, liberating as much weaponry from Territorial Defense Force depots as possible. Croatia had no regular, organized army at the moment, but militias were forming up and the Croatian Police would be the core of this newly formed defense force.

The battles went on through the afternoon and evening, escalating in some areas. In Belgrade, Milosevic was receiving disturbing reports from Slovenia, and Bosnia about pro-independence politicians and activists taking to the streets there. The house of cards that was the Socialist Federal Republic was about to come crashing down and the ramifications might be felt worldwide.

8 Replies to “The Southern Flank D+13 (22 July, 1987) Part II”

  1. Considering I almost wound up there in 1995…. i learned a bit about it. And mess is an understatement.

    My estimate for this area right now where the war is what forces the WP was counting on being available from Yugoslavia is now…. not available…. as they will be neck deep in fighting internally. In what will prove to be a very bloody war.

    Some of the official Army units will purge problems and pick a side when they think they can. And it will be messy. Almost genocidal messy (as was proven seven-ish years later in real life)….

    Once more of the restive states within Yugoslavia jump, it will be full blown madness and it will have some serious implications for other client states of the Warsaw Pact.

    We know the Poles are about to jump, with their forward forces having done so. The Hungarians are another question- 1956 really was not that long ago as far as institutional and cultural memory is concerned. And the Hungarians will remember the help given to them by the Polish.

    Yugoslavia’s collapse into internal pogrom will possibly lead to a cascade effect, I think. AS if the Polish not being enough, of course.

    Events in Yugoslavia and the violent hammering about to start… will result in everything crashing down to some degree by d+16. And I mean everything not Russian or Ost German.

    House of Cards it is. Or is it a Jenga tower?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Jenga tower would be appropriate too. The Soviets really don’t need any more problems in Europe right now. They have no forces to commit to Yugoslavia, Poland could become a major issue, and then there’s the war still raging in Germany.

      I think the Dayton Accords were a good deal back then. Put 1st AD on the ground there and all of that US and NATO firepower kept everyone honest long enough to bring some semblance of peace to the region. Those Yugoslav wars in the early 90s were bitter and bloody.

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  2. Would have been interesting to see how things would have shaken out if after Germany surrendered in WWII if the US/UK would have supported the eastern euro countries in armed uprisings against the Soviets.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The British actually did. Operation Jungle. They dropped agents into the Baltics to link up with anti-Soviet groups. Unfortunately the KGB penetrated the network and most agents were either apprehended or flipped

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  3. True story: around 1995 I was foreman over 120 shipfitters and welders doing new construction. I had this Serbian welder who was just a superstar, 150 feet of weld every 8 hours and it was flawless. He’d been with me for 18 months and was a really good guy. One morning at roll call there’s a disturbance. Seems a new welder showed up…a Croatian. My Serb and the Croat were screaming at each other and it was obvious the civil war was happing right in front of me. I grabbed both by the back of their jackets and shook them a bit and told them to shut up. I told them that they were in America now and people like you came here to get away from that stupid stuff. If you two can’t work together I’’ll fire both of your right now. They ended up being friends of a sort, since they had more in common with each other than they did the rest of us rednecks 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow! Yeah, the hate between Croats and Serbs runs deep and is thick. It goes back so far I doubt either group even remembers why they hate the other. Glad to see you responded decisively. You laid the law down and probably prevented a potential murder. In ’95 Serbs and Croats were slaughtering each other for real in the Balkans.

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