The Conclusion of Operation “VLAŠTICA”

All of southern Croatia was liberated following the successful completion of Operation “VLAŠTICA” in the Dubrovnik hinterland on 26 October 1992.

Vlaštica is a 915-metre-high mountain in the Dubrovnik hinterland, from where army units of the Serbian Republic in Bosnia-Herzegovina rained artillery fire upon civilian targets in and around Dubrovnik in 1992. It was imperative to gain control of the mountain and the success of this operation was considered one of the greatest achievements in the southern battlefront during the Homeland War.

The operation was carefully planned over a long period of time. The reconnaissance units of the 4th Guard and the 163rd Dubrovnik Brigade spent three months scouting the terrain and looking for the most passable paths to access. The plan called for the 3rd Battalion of the 4th Guard Brigade to climb to Vlaštica’s summit along its western slope, one company of the 2nd Infantry Battalion of the 163rd Croatian Army Brigade to climb Ilija Peak, and one company of the 1st Infantry Battalion of the 163rd Brigade to climb the southeastern slope to the lower but important elevation of Buvavac. Artillery support for infantry troops was provided by the Croatian Army.

The operation began at 5:00 AM on 22 October 1992 with heavy artillery fire on enemy artillery positions. The enemy was not surprised as Operation “KONAVLE” had begun the previous day and that is why General Janko Bobetko, commander of the Southern Battlefield launched Operation “VLAŠTICA”. According to the agreement signed in Geneva a few weeks earlier, Yugoslav People’s Army (YPA) troops were to leave the area but General Bobetko did not believe in political agreements or the operational capability of United Nations (UN) forces to take control of vacated areas before Serb troops from Bosnia and Herzegovina fill the void left by withdrawing YPA forces.

The units that took part in Operation “VLAŠTICA” synchronized their entrance into battle. Despite negotiating the extremely difficult, almost impassable terrain and great uphill climb and facing strong, well-armed enemy forces at the summit who maintained a constant artillery barrage on Croatian Army units, Croatian forces gained complete control of Vlaštica in only 4 days on 26 October 1992. Once the fighting stopped, an organized collection of captured weapons and equipment left behind by the enemy began.

In the book “Sve moje bitke” (eng. “All My Battles”), General Bobetko described the implementation of his plan as one of his most difficult decisions and the biggest risk he had ever taken in his life. On 29 October 1992, the state leadership led by President Franjo Tuđman visited Dubrovnik and paid tribute to the units who for so many months had liberated southern Croatia with a magnificent military parade in the port of Gruž.

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