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The Last People's Hero Of Yugoslavia

The Last People's Hero Of Yugoslavia

Order of the people’s hero (Serbian: Orden Narodnog Heroja) was one of the highest Yugoslav military awards. Established during the Second World War, in 1942, it was awarded for extraordinary heroism and its recipients were well respected in Yugoslav society. The majority of these orders were awarded to Yugoslav partisans for their actions during the Second World War, but there were several examples afterward. 



The last individual who was awarded the order was Yugoslav People’s Army Major Milan Tepić. He was awarded posthumously, for an extraordinary feat during the fight against the enemy during their attack on the YPA barracks in Bjelovar in 1991. He was the only recipient of this order during the Yugoslav wars.



In the early phases of the war in Croatia, Croatian paramilitary forces besieged Yugoslav People's Army barracks throughout the whole country. During the so-called Battle of the Barracks, Croatian forces blockaded the Yugoslav People’s Army barracks, weapons storage depots, and other facilities, aiming to seize the much-needed military vehicles, artillery, weapons, and ammunition. Military complex ‘’Powder magazine’’ near the town of Bjelovar was of great significance for the Yugoslav people's Army in Croatia. It has consisted of three warehouses that stored lethal, material, and technical supplies which were essential for YPA's operations.



 The Croatian attack on the Bjelovar military barracks begun on the 29th of September 1991, and the YPA's garrison quickly surrendered.  The exception was the warehouses that were under the command of major Milan Tepić, who planted explosive charges on all three objects, storing 1800 tonnes of ammunition. Tepić was the only officer left in the barrack, and he resisted the Croatian attack with the help of soldier Stojadin Mirković, who shot from a machine gun on an armored personnel carrier.

The Croatian forces managed to assault the base and diversants demined two of the warehouses, but major Tepić ignited the last charge, blowing up 180 tons of ammunition. The military barracks were destroyed and 11 Croatian soldiers lost their lives. The body of major Milan Tepić was never found, and he was declared a Yugoslav People's Hero on the 19th of November 1991. Republika Srpska's military merit medal was named after him.