The Villagers of Kamenica resisted Tank and Air Attacks and then captured a Pilot from the Yugoslav People’s Army

Many parts of Croatia, including the Ogulin area, became frontlines when the Homeland War began. Although the majority of the population in the former municipality of Ogulin consisted of Croats, a sizeable part of the village of Ogulin itself was inhabited by Serbs who did not accept the authority of the Croatian government.

The conflict intensified in September 1991 when fighting began for control of many YPA bases and warehouses in the area. The first great success was the conquest of two facilities in Ogulin itself followed by battles for those in nearby Skradnik and Oštarije that drew the participation of the Yugoslav Air Force as well.

These battles are especially remembered by the residents of Kamenica, a small village on the bank of the Tounjčica River. On 18 September 1991, machine gunner Josip Broz shot down a MIG 21 YPA fighter jet flown by pilot Goran Mandić. Although he successfully ejected, Mandić injured his leg when he landed and was unable to reach territory occupied by rebel Serb forces. The local villagers of Kamenica soon captured Mandić and after they allowed him to contact his family, he was handed over to authorities in Karlovac and later included as part of a prisoner exchange.

Mandić’s good fortune was evident in the fact that this was the second time he had to eject to avoid a plane crash. His first took place a few years earlier after his plane caught fire during takeoff at Željava airport near Bihać. Interestingly, this was not the first heroic act of the defenders of that small village between Ogulin and Slunj. A few days prior to Mandić’s capture, a small number of defenders repelled an armoured attack on Kamenica and even captured one tank that the YPA had left behind as it retreated during the night. The tank was then taken to Tounj for repairs and utilized by the Croatian Army.

On 19 September, the day after the downing of the MIG 21, the Skradnik barracks were overtaken by Croatian forces but a large warehouse full of weapons and ammunition in Oštarije was blown up by the Yugoslav People’s Army in mid-October after lengthy, unsuccessful negotiations between the combatants. This ended the fighting for the barracks in that area and the frontline became established along the Kamenica – Vojnovac – Kapela Peak axis from where the Croatian forces later launched “OPERATION STORM” in 1995.

Cover photo – Defenders of Kamenica (photo by Dinko Neskusil)

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