The Battle of Vukovar – The Greatest Battle of the Homeland War Begins

On 24 August 1991, the first Yugoslav People’s Army (YPA) aircraft shot down in the Homeland War took place near the Đergaj silo on the Vukovar battlefront. Located between the villages of Bršadin and Vukovar, the silo was the target of YPA machine gun fire. This position was secured by members of the 4th Battalion of the 3rd A Brigade of the National Guard. One of their members, Luka Andrijanić who was killed in the battle for Vukovar less than a month later, shot down a Jastreb J-21 aircraft from the 252nd Fighter-Bomber Squadron of the YPA. This event entered the legend of the Homeland War and signaled the beginning of the battle for Vukovar which began the following day.

There was valid suspicion that YPA soldiers were transporting weapons and other military equipment to rebel Serbs and irregular Chetnik paramilitary forces in village of Borovo Selo just outside of Vukovar. At approximately 7:00 AM on 25 August 1991, in accordance with Croatian Commander Blago Zadro’s order to stop and inspect military vehicles supposedly carrying food and bread to Borovo Selo, Croatian soldiers tried to stop a TAM military truck of the Yugoslav People’s Army (YPA) near the position known as “Slon” on Borovska Road. The truck driver ignored the checkpoint and turned onto a dirt road where the vehicle triggered an anti-tank mine and exploded. One soldier was killed and four others were injured in the blast. The YPA complained that Croatian forces had “insidiously” planted an anti-tank mine under the military vehicle and reacted by attacking Aljmaš, Erdut and Dalj yet again. In fact, it’s ferocity matched that of the YPA’s attack on the same villages only less than a month earlier.

The beginning of the battle for Vukovar

The Vukovar Police Station noted that “several tanks and transporters from the YPA barracks took to the streets, most of which went to the village of Borovo Naselje where they took key positions and with all available means first opened heavy fire on the last barricade before the neighbouring village of Borovo as well as all civilian structures and anything that moved, for that matter.”

Some tanks headed towards Bogdanovci and blocked the road from Vinkovci to Vukovar. The assault was soon joined by insurgent Serbs who launched an attack on Borovo Naselje with the support of YPA artillery and the air force. The intense battle lasted until about 1:30 PM. That afternoon three YPA jets attacked the Đergaj silo as they did the previous day and caused severe damage to the structure.

Božo Bionda, a 21-year-old from Videkić Selo near Slunj and member of the Lučko Anti-Terrorist Unit was killed in the fighting at Borovo Naselje. He was among the first who volunteered in the summer of 1990 to serve in the nascent Croatian forces and was a graduate of the initial class of the Croatian Police Academy. There he became good friend with Blago Zadro’s son Robert and both were assigned to their post in Vukovar. After one of the YPA transports situated itself at the intersection of Borovska and Trpinjska Roads during the attack, Bionda tried to take up an opposing position to destroy it. As he ran across a clearing from Industrijska Street, Bionda was hit by a burst of machine gun fire that came from that same transport. One of the bullets struck him in the heart and Bionda was killed instantly.

Božo Bionda

This attack was the prelude to the nearly three-month siege of Vukovar which became a symbol of Croatian resistance during the Homeland War.

Cover photo by Zoran Filipović

Sources
Literature
Marijan, Davor. Obrana i pad Vukovara. Zagreb: Hrvatski institut za povijest, 2013
Strižić, Ivan. Zločin bez kazne (knjiga 2.). Zagreb: Naklada Hrvoje, 2010

Internet
Tanja Belobrajdić: “Božo Bionda – prvi poginuli branitelj Vukovara”, Direktno.hr, accessed on August 11, 2020, direktno.hr/direkt/bozo-bionda-prvi-poginuli-branitelj-vukovara-166319

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