The Velebit Mountain Company of the Croatian Army

The Velebit Mountain Company was founded in 1991 when a group of experienced mountaineers, alpinists and speleologists began to mobilize around Jerko Kirigin in the Croatian Mountaineering Association. They all had two things in common – a love for the mountains and love for their Croatian homeland. These two loves took them to Velebit Mountain in the fall of 1991 because they wanted to defend the Homeland where they felt they would be most effective.

The initial roll call of the company, including members of the Lovinac Police at Paklenica Mountain Lodge, November 1991

Although they were on Velebit already in September and helped refugees from the Lovinac area to cross the mountain range to Starigrad on the coast, the company’s first combat experience on Velebit took place on 11 November 1991 as recalled by unit member Dragutin “Rus” Baruškin in the monograph of the Velebit Mountain Company:

I remember that the bus was driven by a young man from the region of Zagorje and that the police explained for him to take the route via Rijeka. However, as it was St. Martin’s Day, he decided to return home and celebrate and ended up driving us through Perušić, Gospić and Karlobag to Starigrad. Our police escorts from Zagreb arrived at the destination before us and went crazy when they found out that he drove us through such dangerous areas. For example, little did we know that when we drove on the road through Lički Osik we were practically on the frontline. We were lucky to arrive without any incident.

Raising the flag of the Republic of Croatia at Paklenica Mountain Lodge, November 1991

The next day, the group headed to the Paklenica Mountain Lodge, which soon became their base of operations.

Mr. Jerko Kirigin gathered a few of us commanders and we went to see from which points we could move on the Lika region, that is, reconnoiter the Lika battlefield. We determined that the logistics base would be the mountain lodge in Paklenica in the Paklenica National Park with outposts at Buljma and Ivine Vodice. The Buljma Pass was a natural connection between Lika and the sea just as was Ivine Vodice towards Sveto Brdo.

Ivan Host, Deputy Commander

In addition to holding positions above the occupied Lika region, members of the company also conducted reconnaissance missions. Host further described how they found traces of the enemy already during their first mission:

For example, when we arrived at Buljma we headed towards Marasovac and Lika, a beautiful plateau on Velebit Mountain a few kilometres above sea level. We began to reconnoiter and make outposts at Raduč and Medak towards Gospić and all the villages that the Serbs had under control in the Lika region. There we found a “nest”, an encampment they kept until the weather got worse. Of course, when the temperature started to drop, they disappeared. They left some newspapers and things… a three-day-old copy of “Politika” from Serbia was waiting for us.

Ivan Host, Deputy Commander
Members of the 1st and 2nd Platoon, Velebit Mountain Company at Paklenica Mountain Lodge, November 1991

Cover photo – Patrol seen at the highest Velebit ridge until the Golovrh: observing of the area towards the city of Gospić, February 1992

Sources
Literature
Tomislav Šulj, Planinska satnija Velebit. Zagreb: Despot infinitus, 2018

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