The Death of war hero Zlatko Krčmar

The Battle of Mašička Šagovina on 19 December 1991 was one of the Croatian Army’s greatest victories on the Nova Gradiška battlefront during the Homeland War. Although they suffered many casualties, Croatian forces managed to defeat the “White Eagles” paramilitaries, Yugoslav People’s Army (YPA) and rebel Serbs and reduce artillery pressure on Nova Gradiška.

The operation was carried out by the 121st Nova Gradiška Brigade with a key role played during the battle by a special unit within the 99th Brigade, then known as the “Dirty Dozen” but later renamed the “Silky”. In addition to nine dead from the 121st Brigade, Jurica Bekić, Miroslav Krpan, Igor Vukas and Zlatko Krčmar of the “Dirty Dozen” were killed in action during the battle.

Zlatko Krčmar was born on 18 March 1968 in Zagreb where he grew with his parents Stjepan and Zdenka, older brother Dražen and younger brother Boris. He was an electrician by profession and was also an excellent basketball player who played for the “Monting” Basketball Club now known as “Zrinjevac”. During the Homeland War, Krčmar was a member of the “Dirty Dozen” combat group within the 99th Brigade with whom he served on the Nova Gradiška battlefront and laid down his life in the Battle of Mašička Šagovina. Interestingly, only a few days earlier he had appendicitis and should have been off-duty during the battle.

After being pinned down in a water-filled trench for four days and nights, he appeared at the front door of his parents’ home at approximately 10:00 PM on Saturday, 14 December 1991, eerily exhausted by a terrible inflammation of the intestines and bowels, dehydrated, exhausted and running a forty degree fever. Nonetheless, at noon the next day he asked to be discharged from the “Fran Mihaljević” Hospital in Zagreb because he had to return to the battlefield to participate in a mission in which he could not abandon his comrades-in-arms.

It’s embarrassing to be sick right now! he told the doctor, who managed to keep him for a few more hours and provide more fluids prior to releasing him at his own risk. A true drama was played out at his parents’ home that same evening:

Dad, how can you not understand? We are going to be liberating a place and I simply must not miss it!

But Zlatko, how can you in your condition? You have to get better!

What kind of Croats are you and mom to say that to me? Do you know what the Chetniks are doing to the Croats in those villages?

But you should be getting treatment! Go back to the hospital!

No Dad, I have to go back to my unit now, nowhere else!

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