Organization of the Croatian Defense Forces

The organization, arming, and military training of the Croat community in Bosnia-Herzegovina began in 1991 when the Bosnian Croats realized that they were next on the Serb agenda and that the newly independent Re public of Bosnia-Herzegovina's government, led by Alija Izetbegovic, and its Muslim population were either incapable of or unwilling to take decisive defensive measures against a probable attack by the Bosnian Serbs and their allies.18 At the time, the Muslim-dominated government in Sarajevo was declaring that "it is not our war," and HVO veterans later charged that Izetbegovic was actually cooperating with the Serbs. Even the ABiH's chief of staff, Sefer Halilovic, has expressed disgust with Izetbegovic's coterie of Serbian agents, confidence in the JNA's good intentions, and refusal to take even the most basic steps to organize his country for defense.19 Moreover, the apparent emphasis Izetbegovic placed on Islam as the foundation of the new Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina was taken as a threat to the continued existence and freedom of the Catholic Croat community in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Creation of the HVO

The civilian element of the Croatian Defense Council of the Croatian Community of Herceg-Bosna (HZ HB) was formally established on April 8, 1992, to coordinate the work of the local municipal Bosnian Croat military forces. The civilian element of the HVO was envisioned as the highest executive and administrative authority of the HZ HB's territory, but it was intended as only a temporary expedient, necessary until the RBiH government assumed responsibility for protecting all of the new nation's citizens.20 The legal justification for the formation of an autonomous military force was seen in the provisions of the laws of the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia that authorized the citizens and their civic organizations to organize for their own self-defense when their government could not or would not defend them adequately. Bosnian Croat political leader Mate Boban later claimed that the HVO was formed because "thirteen Croatian villages in the municipality of Trebinje—including Ravno—were destroyed and the Bosnian government did nothing thereafter."21 The creation of the HVO was thus a protective reaction rather than an aggressive step toward the dissolution of the RBiH.

The HVO's military element came into existence formally on May 15, 1992, with the establishment of the HVO Department of Defense, although some elements, including the HVO Main Staff, the Main Logistics Base at Grude, the Military Police, and the Personnel Administration, had been created earlier, and some HVO combat units had already been formed.22 The emerging HVO defense organization generally followed the old JNA Territorial Defense pattern both at the higher (regional) level and at the local level. Figure 2-1 shows the overall organization of the Croatian Defense Council in its developed form.

Inasmuch as the Bosnian Muslims had taken over the old JNA Territorial Defense organization and then allowed the JNA to disarm it, the Bosnian Croats had to set up local defense units from scratch, evolving them from so-called crisis staffs, flowing from the extant Croatian

Fig. 2-1. Organization of the Croatian Defense Council (HVO)

Fig. 2-1. Organization of the Croatian Defense Council (HVO)

Struktur Organigram Kelas

Source: HVO organizational chart (n.a., n.p., n.d.), B D497; organizational chart "Structure of the HZ H-B. 1992-1993" (n.a., n.p., n.d.), B D251. Note that the Military Police and the Security Information Service (SIS) were controlled directly by the HVO Department of Defense, whereas the Special Purpose Units (PPN) were controlled directly by the HQ, HVO Main Staff (in fact by the HVO chief of staff personally).

Democratic Union of Bosnia-Herzegovina (HDZ-BiH) Party and municipal political organizations.23 In April-May, 1992, organization and training activities quickened, and the local HVO crisis staffs were redesignated as Municipal HVO Commands and subordinated to the HVO Main Staff in Mostar.24

The HVO Operative Zones

At first, each political district (opcina) in the HZ HB was responsible for its own defense preparations. Later, the HVO divided responsibility for defense of the territory of Herceg-Bosna among four Operative Zones (OZ), the headquarters of which were at Tomislavgrad, Mostar, Vitez, and Orasje. The OZ boundaries were determined by the existing opcina boundaries rather than by major terrain features, the idea being to keep the HVO military organization parallel to the civilian governmental structure. The key municipalities of Livno, Tomislavgrad, Kupres, Bugojno, Gornji Vakuf (Uskoplje), and Prozor fell in the Operative Zone West Herzegovina and those of Jablanica and Mostar in the Operative Zone East Herzegovina. The principal towns in Operative Zone Central Bosnia, the organization of which is shown in Figure 2-2, were Travnik, Novi Travnik, Vitez, Busovaca, Kiseljak, Zenica, Kakanj, Vares, Zepce, Zavidovici, and Sarajevo. Although effort was made to coordinate the operations of the four OZs, coordination and cooperation between them was never very good.

The territorially based Operative Zone was the principal HVO administrative and operational entity. Roughly equivalent in function to a U.S./North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) corps headquarters, the HVO OZ headquarters controlled a varying number of subordinate tactical brigades and supporting forces but had under its command far fewer combat troops and fewer organic combat support and combat service support units than did a U.S./NATO corps headquarters. Moreover, the HVO OZ headquarters itself was far smaller. The proposed "authorized" staffing for HQ, OZCB, prescribed in November, 1992, called for only forty-one officers and slightly more than sixty enlisted personnel. Even that staffing level was never reached: in April, 1993, the HQ, OZCB, had only twenty-five staff officers—only three of whom had any substantial military training for the tasks they were assigned.25

In July, 1992, the HVO command in central Bosnia established four subordinate territorial commands to control the operations in the various municipalities and later those of the tactical brigades.26 With the redesignation of the Central Bosnia Armed Forces Command as the Operative Zone Central Bosnia, the OZCB commander reorganized the subordinate territorial commands, then also called Operative Zones, and redesignated them as Operative Groups (OG).27 Municipalities subordinate to the old 1st OZ headquartered in Gornji Vakuf were transferred to the Operative Zone Northwest Herzegovina. The new 1st OG (formerly 2d OZ) was given responsibility for the municipalities of Travnik, Novi Travnik, Vitez, Jajce, and Zenica. The 2d OG (formerly 3d OZ) took over the municipalities of Kiseljak, Kresevo, Busovaca, Fojnica, Vares, Kakanj, and Sarajevo. The 3d OG (formerly 4th OZ) was made responsible for the municipalities of Zepce, Zavidovici, Maglaj, Teslic, and Tesanj.

Types of Forces Available to the HVO

The actual military forces available to the commander of the Operative Zone Central Bosnia in 1992-93 were all essentially territorially based static

Fig. 2-2. HVO Third Operative Zone (Central Bosnia)

Fig. 2-2. HVO Third Operative Zone (Central Bosnia)

Ppn Ludvig Pavlovic

Sources:Organigramme of HVO, as of July 20,1993, KC Z1148.2; HQ, BHC, UNPROFOR, Bosnia-Herzegovina Warring Factions, 6th ed.

reserve forces based on the old JNA Territorial Defense model. They ranged from old men armed with shotguns assigned to village defense tasks to organized, uniformed, and well-equipped brigade-sized formations that nevertheless employed part-time soldiers. As time went on, the HVO forces became increasingly better organized and more "professional," but it was not until early 1994, at the very end of the Muslim-Croat conflict, that the HVO began to form the so-called guards brigades—mobile units manned by fulltime professional soldiers.28

Village Guards As fighting spread in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1991 and 1992, the inhabitants of many central Bosnian villages spontaneously formed so-called village guard formations to defend against possible BSA attack and growing criminal mischief. The village guards were local men who served on a volunteer basis, did not wear uniforms, and were armed with a hodgepodge of pistols, shotguns, hunting rifles, and old military weapons.29 For the most part, the village guards were old men, boys, and the disabled, although some able-bodied men did participate when not otherwise engaged. The village guard formations were often multiethnic and included Croats, Muslims, and even some Serbs. Village guards elected their own leaders and served primarily as sentries and a weak reaction force in case of trouble. Although not officially a part of the HVO, the village guards formed a recruiting pool of potential volunteers for HVO military formations. Able-bodied members of the village guards often served voluntarily as members of the "shifts" manning the frontline against the BSA, and many of them were absorbed into the HVO brigades under the control of HQ, OZCB, after the Muslim attacks began in April, 1993. The HVO Home Guard organizations formed in 1993 assumed many of the village guards' area defense functions.

Shifts The OZCB commander relied on local leaders to organize groups of volunteers who agreed to serve repetitive shifts of seven to ten days in the front line against the BSA.30 The shifts were controlled by HQ, OZCB, and consisted of fifty to sixty men from a given area, such as Vitez. The available military weapons were kept on the frontline position and transferred to the relieving shift. The men participating in the shifts were only skimpily supplied with uniforms and other equipment and were considered soldiers only during the time they were actually on shift. Shifts going on duty usually formed up a day or two in advance at some convenient location in their home locality, underwent some refresher training, drew additional equipment, and were then transported to the front line, where they relieved the shift that was on duty.31 Given their limited manpower and armament, the HVO shifts were capable of only very limited local offensive action and were thus for the most part relegated to conducting a static defense in place against the BSA. Following a Muslim attack on HVO frontline troops in the Travnik area in June, 1993, many of the men who had volunteered previously for shift duty were incorporated in the HVO brigades in central Bosnia.

HVO Brigades The core of the HVO's military power in central Bosnia consisted of brigades formed in late 1992 and early 1993. The brigades were reserve formations manned by part-time soldiers who, when not on duty, lived at home and pursued their civilian occupations. Compared to other HVO military elements, the men in the HVO brigades were relatively well-organized, well-armed, and well-equipped but were capable of only limited, local offensive action and were employed primarily to defend their home territory. With the onset of the Muslim-Croat conflict in January 1993, the HVO brigades became the mainstay of the Bosnian Croat defense forces and bore the brunt of the fighting against the ABiH. The HVO brigades were territorially based and took their designation either from a historical personality or the area in which they were located, although two OZCB brigades, the 110th Usora and the 111xp, were numerically designated. Municipal defense forces in the OZCB area of operations were first organized in late November, 1992.32 Initially, nine brigades were proposed, with headquarters to be located in Usora, Travnik (two brigades), Vitez, Zenica, Zepce, Busovaca, Kiseljak, and Vares. A total of thirteen brigades were eventually formed, five of which were destroyed, captured, or disbanded in the course of the Muslim-Croat fighting in the first half of 1993. By July of that year, there were only nine HVO brigades on the active list in the OZCB, as shown in Figure 2-2.

The organization of the HVO brigades was based on a modification of the old JNA Type "R" reserve brigade tables of organization and equipment and had a planned strength of 2,841 officers and enlisted men (OEM), as shown in Figure 2-3.33 However, the authorized strength of HVO tactical units was seldom achieved. For example, in mid-May 1993, the Frankopan Brigade in the Guca Gora-Travnik area had an actual strength of only 1,376 OEM.34 In the fall of 1993, the Viteska Brigade, with four battalions, was one of the larger HVO units, yet it could muster only 2,423 OEM—of whom 80 percent were home guardsmen.35 In early February, 1994, at the very end of the Muslim-Croat conflict, the principal HVO units in the Lasva Valley enclave under the control of HQ, OZCB, included the Stjepan Tomasevic Brigade in Novi Travnik (1,981 OEM); the Viteska Brigade in Vitez (2,909 OEM); the Nikola Subic Zrinski Brigade in Busovaca (2,238 OEM, plus another 1,429 men in the 3d Battalion in Fojnica); and remnants of the Frankopan Brigade (1,214 OEM), the Jure Francetic Brigade (57 OEM), and the Travnicka Brigade (1,074 OEM).36

Essentially light infantry forces, the HVO brigades were normally organized with three or four subordinate infantry battalions and a minimal combat support and combat service support structure, as shown in Figure 2-3. Most of the HVO brigades in the OZCB had three organic infantry battalions; however, the 110th Usora Brigade and the 111xp Brigade each had five battalions and, as noted, the Viteska Brigade had four.37 Each infantry battalion had three infantry companies, a reconnaissance platoon, an antitank platoon, an escort troop (equipped with 120-mm and 82-mm mortars and recoilless rifles), a logistics platoon, and a communications section.38

31 Organization of the Opposing Forces Fig. 2-3. HVO Brigade Stucture,April-May, 1993

Ppn Ludvig Pavlovi

Sources:See HQ, Vitez Brigade, no. 10-123-293, Vitez, Apr. 10,1993, subj: Elements of Extract from the Mobilization Plan—Vitez Brigade, KC Z636.1; commander, Frankopan Brigade, to commander, OZCB, Guca Gora—Travnik, May 17, 1993, subj: (Organization and Strength of Frankopan Brigade), B D246; HQ, Central Bosnia Armed Forces Command, no. 01-4-36/93,Vitez, Apr. 3,1993, subj: Extract from Mobilization Department—Kotromanic Brigade, Kakanj, KC Z597.

Sources:See HQ, Vitez Brigade, no. 10-123-293, Vitez, Apr. 10,1993, subj: Elements of Extract from the Mobilization Plan—Vitez Brigade, KC Z636.1; commander, Frankopan Brigade, to commander, OZCB, Guca Gora—Travnik, May 17, 1993, subj: (Organization and Strength of Frankopan Brigade), B D246; HQ, Central Bosnia Armed Forces Command, no. 01-4-36/93,Vitez, Apr. 3,1993, subj: Extract from Mobilization Department—Kotromanic Brigade, Kakanj, KC Z597.

The HVO Home Guard To supplement the organized HVO brigades' slender resources, in early 1993 the HZ HB government established a Home Guard (HD) organization.39 This territorially based defense force was intended to provide support for the "regular" HVO forces and to provide armed control of territory; protect areas and facilities of special significance to the defense of HVO territory, such as reservoirs and waterworks, power plants, telecommunications facilities, hospitals, factories for the production of food and military goods, and vital storage facilities; to fight infiltrating sabotageterrorist groups; counter enemy air strikes; secure law and order; and prevent any activity aimed at undermining the defense system.40 Each municipality in Herceg-Bosna was ordered to establish an HD command by February 10, 1993, with the mobilization and organization of units to follow. Home Guard companies were to be set up in municipalities with few or no facilities of special significance, HD battalions in municipalities near the frontlines with the BSA or with a large number of special facilities, and an HD regiment in Mostar. An assistant chief of the HVO General Staff in Mostar was appointed to oversee HD activities, and each OZ was instructed to appoint an assistant commander for HD affairs. Home Guard units within a given Operative Zone were to be subordinate to the OZ commander, and in effect provided the extant HVO military forces with a reserve. Zonko Vukovic was named assistant commander for the OZCB's Home Guard, and orders establishing the OZCB's HD units were issued in March, 1993.41

The exigencies of the Muslim-Croat conflict in central Bosnia in 1993 precluded completion of the organization of the Home Guard. Following the conflict's end in February, 1994, and the subsequent creation of the Muslim-Croat Federation Army, the existing HVO brigades were redesignated as Home Guard regiments. The existing HVO brigades in the Vitez Military District (formerly the OZCB) were redesignated as follows:42

Stjepan Tomasevic Brigade Novi Travnik 90th HD Regiment

Francopan Brigade Novi Bila 91st HD Regiment

Viteska Brigade Vitez 92d HD Regiment

Nikola Subic Zrinski Brigade Busovaca 93d HD Regiment

Ban Josip Jelacic Brigade Kiseljak 94th HD Regiment

Bobovac Brigade Vares 96th HD Regiment

110th Usora Brigade Tesanj 110th HD Regiment

111xp Brigade Zepce 111th HD Regiment

A new HVO unit, the 95th HD Regiment, was also created in Kresovo. At the same time, the HVO set up a new General Staff Mobile Command to control the newly formed "professional" guards brigades. The General Staff Mobile Command had its headquarters at Capljina and consisted of the 1st Guards Brigade (Capljina), 2d Guards Brigade (Rodoc Helidrome), 3d Guards Brigade (Vitez), 4th Guards Brigade (Orasje), 116th Special Forces (PPN) Battalion "Ludvig Pavlovic" (Capljina), and the 56th HD Regiment (Konjic).43

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