Remembering the Medak Pocket Battle, 30 years later
September 15, 2022 - Defence Stories
Often considered a forgotten part of our history, the Battle of Medak Pocket is considered by many to be the toughest action faced by Canadian troops during the period between the conflicts in Korea and Afghanistan. Four Canadians were injured during the battle, and Captain Jim Decoste was killed in a vehicle accident during the operation. Many who took part would return home with operational stress injuries.
On September 14, 1993, hundreds of soldiers from the 2nd Battalion Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry were sent to Medak, Croatia, as part of the United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR) mission, to reinforce the one Canadian platoon that was based in the town.
However, when Canadian peacekeepers arrived at the Medak Pocket, which was supposed to be a neutral zone, Croatian forces rained down heavy machine gun and artillery fire. Canadians withstood the assaults by building fortified positions, engaging in battle, and not backing down.
The next day, an impromptu news conference by Canadian commander Lieutenant-Colonel James Calvin pressured Croatians to relent, and the Canadians advanced into the Medak Pocket. With their rapid advance into the Pocket, they found evidence of ethnic cleansing by Croatian forces. Not only did the arrival of Canadians in the area prevent additional killing of Serbian residents, it became one of the best documented cases of ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslavia.
For years after, the battle that occurred in the Medak Pocket went largely unmarked. Then in 2002, the Governor General bestowed the Commander-in-Chief Unit Commendation on the 2nd Battalion Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, in recognition of their heroic actions. Today, the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces remember their sacrifice and commitment to peace and security. We also remember their families, loved ones, and communities who continue to provide crucial support to Canada’s military on the home front.
Those who fought in the Medak Pocket carry the memories and psychological burdens of battle – many were forever changed by the experience. As a Defence Team, it’s our duty to learn about our country’s military history from the people who were there, and who fought to make the world a better place. Lest we forget.
Medak Pocket area platoon house (Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry Museum & Archives)