The Armed Marine Detachment – The Heroes who broke the Blockade of Dubrovnik

Only a few days after the Dubrovnik Armed Marine Detachment was founded, the first boat of this legendary unit set sail on 23 September 1991.

As a volunteer unit under the command of Aljoša Nikolić, who was its co-founder with Miljenko Bratoš and Rudi Butković, the Dubrovnik Armed Marine Detachment played a significant role in the defense of the Croatian city. It had 7 fast ships by mid-October as speedboats seized from smugglers in the port of Gruž were adapted for military use. The first armed speedboat was named “Sveti Vlaho” in honour of the patron saint of Dubrovnik.

The task of the unit was to break the naval blockade of Dubrovnik and to establish a sea corridor for the supply of food, medicine, weapons, ammunition and everything else necessary for the successful defense of the city and normalization of life for its inhabitants. Speedboats were used to transport the wounded and soldiers who came from different areas of Croatia to help defend Dubrovnik. The Armed Marine Detachment was the lifeblood of the city and sustained its tortured defenders and inhabitants during the siege of Dubrovnik.

Over the course of its operations, detachment members covered 52,000 nautical miles, transported approximately 6,000 soldiers and civilians, two hundred wounded and carried more than 2,000 tons of various cargo such as weapons, ammunition, fuel, food and medicine. It did not lose a single ship even though it absorbed heavy fire when it broke the enemy blockade.

This unit played a particularly important role in the defense of the Elaphiti Islands northwest of Dubrovnik. In addition to local inhabitants, the islands took in refugees and displaced persons and was constantly targeted by the Yugoslav People’s Army (YPA). Of a total of 117 personnel, 5 members of the Armed Marine Detachment were killed in the line of duty.

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