The Croatian War of Independence

The war started in 1991 when the YPA, the 3rd largest army in Europe at that time, and Serb paramilitaries attacked Croatia in a bid to force the Government of Croatia to cede large portions of its territory to Serbia. Contrary to all expectations, the nascent Croatian army put up a spirited resistance and denied the invaders freedom of maneuver on all fronts. However, by the end of the first year of the war about one third of Croatian territory was in the hands of YPA and Serb paramilitary formations. In 1992 the Croatian army started to gradually push the invaders back. The war reached its culmination in 1995 when the Croatian army launched Operation Storm and in a matter of weeks broke the back of the Serbian forces in Croatia and liberated most of the occupied territory. The Serbian government, headed by Slobodan Milošević, had no option but to relinquish its imperialistic aspirations in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Croatian War of Independence formally ended with the signing of the Erdut Agreement on November 12 1995.

Foreign Volunteers

It has been confirmed that more than 550 foreign volunteers from more than 40 countries fought on the Croatian side. Of those, 150 were wounded, and more than 90 were killed. Exact numbers are still not known.

More than 1000 foreign nationals from more than 40 countries joined the ranks of the Croatian army (HV), Croatian Defence Forces (HOS) and Croatian Defence Council (HVO). The volunteers belonged to different religions, ethnicities and subscribed to different political ideals and principles.

Most of the volunteers came from the United Kingdom – more than 150. 70 volunteers came from France, 60 from Germany. The Dutch and Hungarian contingents were also numerically strong.

Listing all volunteers by their numbers and countries would take too much space. In addition to the volunteers hailing from the countries mentioned above, men from the following countries participated in the Croatian War of Independence as soldiers in the Croatian army (in alphabetical order): Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Bolivia, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Gambia, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Libya, Lithuania, Norway, Palestine, Poland, Portugal, RSA, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, the Ukraine, USA and Zimbabwe. It has to be pointed out that some of the foreign volunteers had already been living in Croatia, like Zainul Abidin Gaje from Indonesia, Jean-Jacques Roskam from Belgium or Tawfig Suri Tawfig from Palestine. Interestingly enough, the Libyan Ibrahim ”Gadafi” Abushaala was one of the commanders of the defence of Lipik and was posthumously promoted to the rank of Major in the Croatian army.