At approximately 5:45 AM on 6 December 1991, an artillery attack was launched upon on the Imperial Fortress on the Srđ Hill above Dubrovnik. It happened suddenly because negotiations for a ceasefire from Dubrovnik to Ploče were underway in Cavtat between a Croatian delegation led by Davorin Rudolf and representatives of the Yugoslav People’s Army (YPA) and were expected to be concluded that day.
After the first grenades very precisely struck the guard posts of the Croatian forces, the YPA continued with covering artillery fire for its rapidly approaching infantry that had already reached the upper cable car station in the immediate vicinity of the fortress. At the same time, a tank attack began – one with infantry support from the village of Bosanka in the east and the other from the old fortress of a Strinčjera in the west. The defenders of the “Imperial” fort could not get out due to heavy shelling and the YPA gained positions from which it could control the area around the fort, especially all approaches and openings.
The Belvedere Hotel was targeted from the village of Bosanka and a general alert was sounded in Dubrovnik itself as civilians were killed in the early morning hours in the Gruž and Lapad districts. Defenders of the “Imperial” fort occasionally ventured outside to repel the attack with hand grenades they threw from the upper terrace. The enemy retaliated accordingly and wounded two Croatian soldiers in the process. Croatian forces found themselves trapped and the YPA was ready to break their resistance by using all military means.
In the early morning hours that same day, the YPA moved from the Strinčjera Fort to the Jedarac heights above the Nuncijata city district area and were tasked with preventing the defenders’ attempt to help their comrades on Srđ Hill. The well-fortified enemy opened fire with machine-gun and mortar fire all over Nuncijata and when its defenders retaliated, the enemy retreated to the Strinčjera Fortress.
At the same time on Srđ Hill, an enemy tank approaching from the village of Bosanka opened fire on its own infantry thinking that it was Croatian forces. A small number of Croatian defenders who had used up their ammunition took refuge in the security of the fort while all available forces in Dubrovnik opened fire on the enemy who was exposed on the open plateau of Srđ Hill. In addition to the barrage from Dubrovnik, two groups of Croatian forces moved towards Srđ and had a significant impact on the outcome of the battle. After suffering losses in both manpower and equipment, the YPA finally began to withdraw from the plateau of Srđ Hill at approximately 12:30 PM. It was a great victory achieved through the combined efforts of the Croatian Army, Croatian Defense Forces (CDF) and the “Grof” (Eng: “Count”) Special Police Unit.
Retaliation for the triumph of the Croatian forces on Srđ Hill, which was a turning point in the Battle for Dubrovnik, did not take long. Artillery strikes soon followed throughout the Dubrovnik area and the historic city center was particularly targeted. Within the old town walls, fires in the buildings destroyed by the shelling engulfed old palaces and the traditional gusting Adriatic winds threatened total disaster for the city. Extinguishing the fires was difficult due to a lack of water but the citizens worked through continued shelling and late into the night to put out the fires that engulfed the city.
In addition to the great material damage that resulted from the destruction of Dubrovnik, a total of 14 soldiers and other defenders of the city along with 5 civilians were killed that day, of which the youngest was 18 year old Tonći Skočko.
Graduated with a Master’s Degree in History from the University of Zagreb. He has worked at the Croatian History Museum and as a researcher for the popular TV Calendar program for Croatian Radio and Television. He has authored several books and documentaries about Croatia’s Homeland War and is the creator/producer of the immensely popular “It Happened on this Day – Homeland War” Facebook page as well as the online portal Domovinskirat.hr. Borna also is the host and editor of the daily segment “Patriotic Minutes” on Croatian Catholic Radio. He created CroHis to promote the values of the Homeland War and ensure that the sacrifices of those who defended Croatia’s independence would not be forgotten.