Operation Corridor 92
|Operation Corridor 92|
|Part of the Bosnian War|
The objectives of Operation Corridor 92 on the map of Bosnia and Herzegovina
| Republika Srpska
Republic of Serbian Krajina
|Commanders and leaders|
| Momir Talić
|40,800–54,660 soldiers||5,000–20,000 soldiers|
|Casualties and losses|
|116 civilians killed in Slavonski Brod, Croatia|
Operation Corridor 92 (Serbian: Операција Коридор 92, Operacija Koridor 92) was an operation conducted during the Bosnian War by the Army of Republika Srpska (VRS) against the forces of the Croatian Defence Council (HVO) and the Croatian Army (HV) in northern Bosnia and Herzegovina between 24 July and 6 October 1992. The objective of the offensive was to re-establish a road link between the city of Banja Luka in the west of the country and the eastern parts of the territory controlled by the Bosnian Serbs. The offensive was prompted by the capture of Derventa by the HV and the HVO – a move that blocked the single overland road between the VRS-controlled territories.
The VRS successfully recaptured Derventa and pushed the HVO and the HV north, capturing several towns in the process. In the second phase of the offensive, the VRS reached the Sava River, the border with Croatia, and destroyed a bridgehead held by the HV and the HVO at Bosanski Brod. Such an outcome sparked a controversy whether the outcome of the battle was a result of a political arrangement involving a trade of land, or a purely military one. The offensive involved more than 60,000 troops and resulted in heavy casualties for all sides, especially the HVO.
As the Yugoslav People's Army (Jugoslovenska narodna armija – JNA) withdrew from Croatia following the acceptance and start of implementation of the Vance plan, it was reorganised into a new Bosnian Serb army and later renamed the Army of Republika Srpska (Vojska Republike Srpske – VRS). This reorganisation followed the declaration of the Serbian Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina on 9 January 1992, ahead of the 29 February – 1 March 1992 referendum on the independence of Bosnia and Herzegovina. This declaration would later be cited by the Bosnian Serbs as a pretext for the Bosnian War. Bosnian Serbs began fortifying the capital, Sarajevo, and other areas on 1 March. On the following day, the first fatalities of the war were recorded in Sarajevo and Doboj. In the final days of March, Bosnian Serb forces bombarded Bosanski Brod with artillery, drawing a border crossing by the HV 108th Brigade in response. On 4 April, Serb artillery began shelling Sarajevo.
The JNA and the VRS in Bosnia and Herzegovina faced the Army of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina (Armija Republike Bosne i Hercegovine – ARBiH) and the Croatian Defence Council (Hrvatsko vijeće obrane – HVO), reporting to the Bosniak-dominated central government and the Bosnian Croat leadership respectively, as well as the HV, which occasionally supported HVO operations. In late April, the VRS was able to deploy 200,000 troops, hundreds of tanks, armoured personnel carriers (APCs) and artillery pieces. The HVO and the Croatian Defence Forces (Hrvatske obrambene snage – HOS) could field approximately 25,000 soldiers and a handful of heavy weapons, while the ARBiH was largely unprepared with nearly 100,000 troops, small arms for less than a half of their number and virtually no heavy weapons. Arming of the various forces was hampered by a UN arms embargo introduced in September 1991. By mid-May 1992, the VRS controlled approximately 60 percent of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Following its successful defence of Bosanski Brod in March, the HVO, reinforced by HV troops, pushed the JNA and the VRS south from the town and captured the towns of Modriča and Derventa by the end of May. The capture of Derventa also severed the last road available to the Bosnian Serbs spanning VRS-controlled western Bosnia around Banja Luka and the VRS-held territory in the east of the country, adjacent to Serbia. That prevented the supply of Banja Luka as well as the bulk of the Republic of Serbian Krajina (RSK)—Croatian Serb-held territory in Croatia since the initial phase of the Croatian War of Independence.
Loss of the road link caused substantial supply problems in Banja Luka and the surrounding area. The reported deaths of twelve newborn babies in Banja Luka hospital due to the shortage of incubator bottled oxygen were cited as an immediate cause for the VRS to counterattack against the HVO and the HV. Borisav Jović, a contemporary high-ranking Serbian official and member of the Yugoslav Presidency, claims the incident was a piece of wartime propaganda. Banja Luka was virtually self-reliant in that respect, having two bottled oxygen production plants in its immediate vicinity. At the same time, the VRS and the JNA captured Doboj and Bosanski Šamac to the east and south of the HVO/HV advance. In June, the VRS 1st Krajina Corps initiated preliminary operations against the HVO/HV held area around Derventa, attempting to improve VRS positions needed to launch a major attack there. By 20 July, the VRS captured the villages of Kotorsko and Johovac north of Doboj and achieved the main objective of the preliminary advance.
Order of Battle
According to Croatian author Jerko Zovak, the VRS deployed 40,800 troops at the beginning of Operation Corridor 92, and the force increased in number to 54,660 by the end of the initial phase of the offensive. The VRS tasked the 1st Krajina Corps with the main effort of the offensive. The corps and the operation were under command of General Momir Talić. The RSK contributed troops to the VRS offensive. The RSK troops were commanded by then RSK Interior Minister Milan Martić directly.
According to Zovak, the HVO and the HV had 20,000 troops in the region at the outset of the VRS offensive, but the troop levels declined to about 5,000 by October. Those forces were commanded by HV Major General Petar Stipetić. The troops under his command, organised as Operational Group Posavina, included the 101st and 103rd Brigades of the HVO and elements of a large number of HV units. According to Stipetić, those included the bulk of the 108th Infantry Brigade based in Slavonski Brod, and fragments of the 109th, 111th, 123rd, and 127th Brigades based in Vinkovci, Rijeka, Požega and Virovitica, as well as several Osijek-based units. The 3rd Guards Brigade was also instructed to deploy to Bosanski Brod, but the order was cancelled before the unit had been moved. The piecemeal nature of the deployment, and refusal of further units to fight in the area, was a consequence of the Croatian Defence Minister Gojko Šušak's order that only volunteers may be deployed to Bosnia and Herzegovina. According to Stipetić, a parallel chain of command existed in respect of the 108th Infantry Brigade, which remained under control of civilian authorities in Slavonski Brod, the Croatian city just across the Sava from Bosanski Brod.
On 24 June, the 1st Krajina Corps of the VRS began the offensive codenamed Operation Corridor 92. Its first objective was to advance sufficiently to break through the HVO and HV-held positions between Modriča and Gradačac, and link up with the East Bosnian Corps. The secondary effort consisted of attacks towards Derventa and Bosanski Brod. The first objective was achieved after two days of heavy combat on 26 June. Afterwards, the VRS advanced towards Modriča and captured the town on 28 June. The secondary advances, facing considerably stiffer resistance by the HVO and the HV, gained little ground.
The second phase of the offensive was launched on 4 July. It comprised VRS advances towards Derventa, Bosanski Brod and Odžak, aiming to reach the Sava and thereby the border with Croatia, north of the three towns. Derventa was quickly captured on 4–5 July and the VRS continued to roll back the HVO and the HV troops. On 12 July, the VRS captured Odžak and arrived at the riverside near the town two days later. By that time, VRS troops had advanced 10 to 15 kilometres (6.2 to 9.3 miles), and reached within 10 kilometres (6.2 miles) of Bosanski Brod. The HVO and the HV were reduced to a bridgehead around the town.
In August and September, the VRS launched several attacks against the Bosanski Brod bridgehead for little gain. In mid-September, the HVO and the ARBiH deployed near Brčko, further to the east, attacked the same East–West road the VRS aimed to secure through Operation Corridor 92. The counterattack managed to capture a section of the road south of Orašje, at the eastern end of the Brčko corridor. However, the VRS restored its control of the road quickly thereafter.
Another push against Bosanski Brod was launched on 27 September. The advance initially had moderate success, until the VRS changed the sector of the bridgehead where the 1st Krajina Corps applied the greatest effort of the offensive on 4 October. The move managed to disrupt the HVO and HV defences and the VRS achieved a breakthrough—capturing Bosanski Brod on 6 October. The HV and the HVO managed to withdraw troops and their equipment in an orderly fashion. The bridge spanning the Sava between the town and Slavonski Brod was demolished on 7 October.
In mid-October and early November, the HVO briefly cut the Brčko corridor south of Orašje two more times. In turn, the VRS launched a major offensive against the HVO-held bridgehead at Orašje. After some initial success, the VRS offensive failed and the HVO drove the attacking force back to positions held prior to the advance. Aiming to improve security of the Brčko corridor, the VRS 1st Krajina Corps and East Bosnian Corps units turned south of Brčko, and advanced 2 to 3 kilometres (1.2 to 1.9 miles) against defences held by the HVO and the ARBiH there. That last push had widened the Brčko corridor to just 3 kilometers at its narrowest point.
During the offensive, which captured 760 square kilometres (290 square miles) of territory, the VRS and its allies had 413 killed and 1,509 wounded troops. According to Zovak, the HV sustained losses of 343 killed and 1,996 wounded, while the HVO lost 918 killed and 4,254 injured personnel in April–October fighting in the region. In the same period, the city of Slavonski Brod sustained VRS artillery and aerial bombardment. A total of 11,651 artillery shells, 14 9K52 Luna-M rockets and 130 aircraft bombs were fired against the city, killing 116 civilians. According to German historian Marie-Janine Calic, the VRS carried out ethnic cleansing during the battle in order to break any resistance by the local population and claim the area of high strategic importance it termed the "corridor of life".
Stipetić blamed the 108th Infantry Brigade for the collapse of the Bosanski Brod bridgehead and the failure of the defence. He claimed the brigade had been pulled back from the battlefield by civilian authorities in Slavoniski Brod and thought the outcome of the battle was predetermined by the Graz agreement of the Bosnian Serb and Bosnian Croat leaders, Radovan Karadžić and Mate Boban. His view regarding the Graz agreement is echoed by British historian Marko Attila Hoare, who claims that the area conceded by the Croats during Operation Corridor 92 was traded for western Herzegovina. While some sources have proposed that the area was traded for the JNA-held Prevlaka Peninsula near Dubrovnik, a Central Intelligence Agency analysis concluded that there is no direct evidence of such arrangements.
Conversely, Croatian historian Davor Marijan concluded that the battle was too complex for the HV and especially for the HVO. He also pointed out that the HV and the HVO suffered from poor command structures and poor intelligence – failing to note the presence of the 16th Motorised and the 1st Armoured Brigades of the VRS early on. Marijan also claims the HV had demobilised ten infantry brigades shortly before the battle. His view is supported by Colonel General Novica Simić, commander of the VRS 16th Motorised Brigade, assigned to the Tactical Group 1 established by 1st Krajina Corps to carry out the offensive.
In 2001–03, three Bosnian Serb officials were tried by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia for war crimes committed after the capture of Bosanski Šamac. The defendants, Blagoje Simić, Miroslav Tadić and Simo Zarić were charged with unlawful arrest, detention, beatings, torture, forced labour, deportation and forcible transfer. The three were convicted, and the convictions upheld in the appeals process. Simić was sentenced to 15 years in prison, Tadić and Zarić received prison terms of eight and six years respectively.
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