Croatian Forces take the Strategic Village of Dereza

On 24 December 1991, Croatian forces liberated the village of Dereza on the Pakrac battlefront.

Dereza is a Serb-inhabited village located north of the town of Pakrac. It was a hotbed of Serb extremism and home to rebel Serb leader Veljko Džakula. Apart from the extremism of its inhabitants, Dereza was also known for its strategic importance as its liberation would open the path to Kusonje, another well-known enemy stronghold. Serb rebels from Dereza and Kukunjevac were troublesome for Croatian forces as they constantly invaded the corridor northwest of Pakrac, only nominally under Croatian control due to a lack of troops. Also, attacks from that direction threatened the encirclement of Pakrac which took place on 6 October 1991.

Codenamed “DANDELION”, the operation to liberate Dereza began on 16 December 1991 and due to strong enemy resistance lasted until 24 December. Among the many Croatian units that took part in the attack were the 4th Badljevina Company of the 76th Independent Pakrac Battalion, 54th Independent Čakovec Battalion of the Croatian Army (CA), 1st Company of the 1st Varaždin Battalion of the 104th Brigade of the CA, “Merčep” Special Unit of the Croatian Ministry of the Interior, tank company of the 105th Bjelovar Brigade of the CA , artillery unit of the 104th Brigade and the 122 mm “Iron” Independent battery.

The 127th Virovitica Brigade along with the 77th Independent Grubišno Polje and 52nd Independent Daruvar battalions of the CA marched on Grahovljani along the left flank of attack.

After many unsuccessful attempts, the Badljevina Company entered the hamlet of Velika Dereza on 24 December; the “Merčep” unit, Varaždin company and two platoons of the Independent Ludbreg Company entered Srednja and Mala Dereza which had been liberated the previous day; and remaining Croatian forces took Grahovljani.

These important military victories meant that the Croatian forces had met the preconditions to launch Operation “ALPHA” and liberate the enemy strongholds from Pakrac to Kusonje, Pakrac vineyards, Kragujevac, Gavrinica, Japaga and Šeovica.

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