Operation Storm

Article

August 12, 2022

Operation Storm (Croatian Operacija Oluja) was the last major battle of the Croatian War of Independence and played a major role in the outcome of the Bosnian War. It was a decisive victory for the Croatian Army (HV), which attacked across the 630-kilometer front against the Serbian Republic of Krajina (RSK), and a strategic victory for the Army of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina (ERBiH). The HV was supported by the advance of the Croatian special police on Velebit Mountain, and by the ERBiH, located in Bihać, reaching the rear of the Army of the Serbian Republic of Krajina (ERSK). The battle, launched to restore Croatian control over 10,400 km² of territory, representing 18.4% of Croatia's claimed territory, and Bosnian control over western Bosnia, was the largest European land combat since World War II. . Operation Storm began in the early hours of August 4, 1995, and was declared complete on the night of August 7, despite significant operations remaining against pockets of resistance that lasted until August 14. Operation Storm was a strategic victory in the Bosnian War, effectively ending the siege of Bihać and putting the HV, Croatian Defense Council (HVO) and ERBiH in a position to alter the balance of military power in Bosnia and Herzegovina through of the subsequent Operation Mistral 2. The operation added to the advances of the HV and HVO in the context of Operation Summer '95, when strategic positions were gained that allowed the rapid capture of the RSK capital, Knin, and the continuous increase in armament and of HV training since the beginning of the Croatian War of Independence, when the RSK was created during the Log Revolution and the intervention of the Yugoslav People's Army (JNA). The operation itself followed a failed United Nations (UN) peacekeeping mission and several diplomatic efforts to resolve the conflict nonviolently. The successful strategy of the HV and ERBiH was the result of a series of improvements in armies and important advances made in ERSK positions that were later exploited by the HV and ERBiH. The attack was not an immediate success at every point, but the seizure of key positions led to the collapse of ARSK's command structure and defensive capability. The capture of Bosansko Grahovo by the HV shortly before Operation Storm, and the special police's advance on Gračac, make Knin's defense almost impossible. At Lika, two brigades quickly cut through the area controlled by the ERSK (which lacked tactical capability and mobile reserve forces), isolating the pockets of resistance, positioning a mobile force for a decisive attack over Karlovac's area of ​​responsibility, and pushing the ERSK to Banovina. The ERSK's defeat in Glina and Petrinja, after a difficult defense, defeated the ERSK unit in Banija as its reserves were arrested by the ERBiH. The Serbian Republic of Krajina depended on the armed forces of Republika Srpska and Yugoslavia as its strategic reserves, but they did not intervene in the battle. The HV and special police suffered between 174 and 211 dead or missing, while the ERSK lost 560 soldiers. Four UN peacekeepers were also killed. The HV captured approximately 4,000 prisoners of war. The number of Serbian civilian deaths is disputed - Croatia claims 214 were killed, while Serbian sources cite 1,192 civilians dead or missing. During and after the offensive, between 150,000–200,000 Serbs—almost the entire Serb population of the territory formerly occupied by the ERSK—fled and various crimes were committed against those who remained. The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) has tried three Croatian generals against war crimes and participation in a criminal board created to force