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Mitrovdan Offensive

Mitrovdan Offensive

Following Croatia’s secession from Yugoslavia and subsequent armed conflict in the newly established republic, all eyes were on Bosnia after the Yugoslav People’s army withdrawal in 1992.


Unsatisfied with their position within the Yugoslav state, the Bosnians looked up to the Croatians and moved towards secession. Being the country’s most diverse republic, Bosnia was ethnically divided between Serbian, Croatian and Bosnian territories, with many areas remaining heavily contested between all sides. After Bosnia’s formal secession, various armies, formations and other fighting elements sprung up all across the country. To combat the joint threat of Croatian and Bosnian forces in the region, Serbian territories and communities formed the Republic of Srpska and the Army of the Republic of Srpska (VRS). The army was hastily formed from discharged servicemen of the former Yugoslav People’s Army and was all-round well-armed, equipped and clothed.


Having realised the seriousness of the enemy forces, joint Croatian and Bosnian forces opted for a surprise attack along the positions of the VRS’ Nevesinja brigade, with the goal of definitively driving the VRS out of the Neretva region, which would provide a foothold for further offensive operations in Herzegovina.


The subsequent battle was to become known as the Mitrovdan (St. Demetrius day) Offensive among the Serbian defenders, while the Croatian side codenamed the operation “Bura” (Tempest).


The Serbian side was defended by the Nevesinja Brigade, 4-5.000 men strong, while the attacking side was made up of the Croatian defence council (HVO), Croatian defence forces (HOS) and the forces of the regular Bosnian army (ARBiH). Outnumbered and outgunned, the defenders stood little chance of fighting off the attackers.


Joint Croatian and Bosnian forces commenced attack early in the morning on November 8th, with heavy artillery bombardment in hopes of completely decimating Serbian positions. The shelling lasted for 6 hours before the attackers sent their infantry forward, whom the defenders met with stiff resistance across the entire 100km long front line.

Combat operations saw heavy deployment and use of commando-saboteur units by the attackers. These units were tasked with harassing and severing the defenders’ lines of communication.

Much of the Orthodox Serbian forces had been away from the front due to celebrations of St. Demetrius day, which meant that the lines were being actively reinforced as the fighting went on.

VRS’ Regional command in Herzegovina documented the last frontal assault had commenced on November 12th, just before noon and reported total absence of combat operations on the 15th, which is considered the end of the operation. Having suffered heavy losses, the attackers called off all offensive operations and opted for a defensive stance instead.


The consequences and legacy of the battle are significant. The Croatian and Bosnian forces broke their alliance in the region shortly after the battle and continued fighting each other until the end of the war, while the Serbian side celebrated a miraculous victory and a successful defence of the newly formed republic. The region of Herzegovina remained safe until the second Mitrovdan offensive by the Bosnian Army in 1994.


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