From the diary of Fictus Johnson, Balkan Correspondant, The US Army Journal.
In my short tenure as a junior reporter watching the evnts in Kosovo, I was posted with General O'Mohana and the 101st Airborne in Kosovo. Certain events transpired during my stay in Kosovo which have not been known to the general public to date. After much consultation with my seniors and editors, I have finally taken up some time to come up with a rookies view of some battlefield events.
It all began with Col Balajize of the Kosovan Liberation Force getting his hands on a shipment of US war equipment through a freak raid on a supply train destined for Turkey. Soon , he was able to patch together an army of sorts with veterans hired from the other balkan states, all united in their hatred against the West. When war broke out in Kosovo, Balajize found the oppurtunity he had been waiting for: to humiliate Generals O'Mohana and Sriramius and thereby prove that his tactics were inferior to none. But, as it turned out, the battle turned into a rout with O'Mohana and his 101st Airborne displaying some really cunning tactics on the battlefield without themselves taking much losses.
October 9th, 1999
The 101st was camping near Skopje, under the command of General Ravi O'Mohana, who was also responsible for the southern echelon of US forces of Kosovo. He had requested for and received attack air support from the 36th Attack Chopper sqaudron under General Sriramius. Their mission was to watch and wait for any action from across the mountain ranges of Skopje. Regular excercises were being arranged to keep the troops active and to get a lay of the terrain. For the past two weeks things had remained quiet, but intellligence was getting uneasy reports of an attack in the making. In light of the inteligence report, General Mohana had called for a meeting of all the senior officers in his command bunker. In my role as scribe, I too was called up for what was a very interesting meeting to a student of modern battlefield tactics.
The command bunker was dimly lit. There was virtually no enemy air presence, but the Army insisted on minimizing lighting during the night. I had this strange feeling of sitting in a WW2 air raid bunker, with shadows around and people with tense faces waiting for the meeting to begin. Generals Mohana and Sriramius arrived soon after. O'Mohana was notably cheerful and lively and cracked jokes with his juniors. A map was drawn across the command stand, and Sriramius was marking it with different colours. There was this general feeling that the two Generals had a plan ready, and had had it ready for a long time.O'Mohana stood up, took a look at those assembled and began. "You must all be aware by now that we are in for some fireworks in the next few days, thanks to our opponent, Balajize. I
have received information from trusted sources that he is planning a move on Skopje Junction in a couple of days. As the 101st is the nearest to Skopje, it naturally falls on us to intercept and prevent Balajize from gaining control of the junction"Colonel Joe Fitz spoke out."But General, why Skopje? He could have chosen from a dozen other better positions"
Mohana and Sriramius smiled at this. They knew Balajize, whereas Fitz did not. "Let us say that we have sufficient knowledge of the enemy to estimate his actions" said Sriramius.
"In which case" said Fitz, "we seize the junction, and deny them any chance to recapture it"
"Hmmm." Said O'Mohana, nodding."If you have noticed it colonel, we lack cover and the terrain is hostile. What chances would our boys have, derived of cover?"
Fitz was silent. O'Mohana smiled and turned to Sriramius"What would you do, Sriramius?"
Sriramius thought for a moment and said "I'd suggest that we make our own cover". O'Mohana laughed"Indeed. But how?"
"Decoy. In lack of a natural cover, we could certainly use distraction for our foes. And we'll give them enough to be distracted by."
I had a feeling that we were coming to the key plan. And just then, O'Mohana was spreading the map, and placing coloured pins on it. O'Mohana drew two arcs, starting from behind our lines and converging on the battlefield from the east and west sides. He wrote 101st on the west side and 2nd attack corps(the Tanks, under O'Mohana's own control) on the east side. Standing aside, he allowed all a good view. "Am I making myself clear?"
I took a moment to imagine the real scene. What O'Mohana was proposing was to conduct a pincer attack from the flanks, while keeping the center open and setting up a decoy to keep the enemy confused as to the real plans untill the last possible moment. The paras of the 101st would land on Grenns Hill (see map) led by Sriramius while O'Mohana himself would lead his beloved M-1 Abrams tanks to arrive near the forest facing the hill to the East. The rebels were in for a rude surprise!
Sriramius took a handful of pins and placed them on the northern end. Pointing to the hill, he began: "Our decoy will consist of the surplus trucks procured from Army Command, Kosovo, protected by a couple of units of SAMs. Since the 101st and the 2nd attack corps(Tanks) will be occupied, we have decided to accept the services of - " he paused for effect " - the catering corps who have volunteered for the job". O'Mohana was grinning from ear to ear and the officers were gaping in disbeleif. At this precise moment our chief cook Sean O'Grady marched in red beret and all. He saluted Sriramius smartly and reported in his loud voice "Catering corps ready SIR!". The whole bunker was roaring with laughter even as an indignant O'Grady wondered what there was to laugh at.
O'Mohana patted the chef on the shoulder. "Never mind these people. They are just trying to pull your leg".
O'Grady saluted him also, and marched off. O'Mohana turned to face us again, his face serious. "That is all for now gentlemen. Contact unit Commanding Officers for specific instructions. I want all assembled at their posts at 0400 hrs sharp. Dismissed"
Fog of War
[This part of the report is made up from my interviews with Ramesh, adjutant to Balajize on that fateful day]
The room was empty save for Balajize. He smiled a contented smile. Tomorrow was a great day when his grudges against O'Mohana(there were quite a few of them) would be settled. His guru, the great mystic Kundalini of the orient had promised him divine glory and victory over all his foes through the art of Tantra. Consequent to their first meeting, Kundalini had shown him a wonder or two offhand, and Balajize was impressed. The tactics taught by Kundalini to impress courtesans had backfired, but he was not discouraged. Steady effort would see him through all his endeavours. "Hail Kundalini!"
In a few minutes time, his adjutants and subordinates entered the room. There was Kostunicosa, his Tank man, Daniel Milosevic, the chopper squad leader, Verqueza the stinger team leader, Ramesh, his aide de camp and person in charge of the paras. On that day, Baljize was in a mood to play the role of the master strategist. For effects, he had brought along a copy of Sun Tzu's 'The Art of War' and was reading it in full view of the assembled. As they entered, he nodded at the book, marked the spot with a dog ear and smiling, kept it down. If the junior officers had any doubt of this mans vanity, they vanished.
"Comrades in arms", he began, "I have great pleasure to inform you that I have drawn up a brilliant plan to thwart the intentions of our enemies and gain control of Skopje with the least violence" Many of his subordinates winced. From experience they knew that the more confident their General sounded, the worse the plan would be. They braced for the inevitable to come. Taking their silence for approval, Balajize rambled on "My plan is one of surprising the enemy and hitting him where he least expects it. For this, I have chosen my commander of the Tanks, Gen Kostunicosa" (Who was promptly shocked and dreaded his fate) "He will deliver a punch to the Americans from the rear with one full platoon of tanks!".
"We'll seize the hill and dominate the valley with our elite stinger SAM team"("Elite? us?" wondered the stinger team)"You shall climb the hill (Shock!Climb?) for I'm afraid, there are no trucks to spare, and hold the hill to ward off any enemy who might fly by" At this point, voices started murmuring. The hill was pretty tall, and if the general wanted the team in place in time, he would have to give them some form of transport. But Balajize was not one to listen to "petty logic", and they knew him well enough not to complain. Obviously Baljize was in very high spirits so as to ignore the noise and continue. "I have this gut feeling that O'Mohana and Sriramius will hide their troops in behind the little hill and try to charge us.
Bah! We'll heli-drop our paras in the plains, and with support from our attack choppers and tanks, they'll make mince meat of the Americans. Ha!"
Turning to his Attack chooper squadron leader, he continued "Daniel Milosevic, you are charged with the responsibility of overseeing the paras heli-drop. The paras will be flying low level along the east and west extremes of the battle zone to avoid detection. You should ensure that they reach their destinations safely"
"But sir, the current plan calls for me to oeprate near the hill. How will my team give them cover if they are out of our sight?" Balajize considered Daniel for a while and shook his head. "Daniel my man,"he said, "This is actually meant to make your job easier, for the American radar will not be able to detect them if they fly along the edges of the battle zone."
Daniel shook his head. It was he who would be flying tomorrow, not this fool of a General. "Faith!" he thought "I'll say my prayers extra well and hope for the best..."
Having seen Daniel's pleas being brushed aside, no one else felt like commenting on the plan. Taking a cue from Ramesh, they simply smiled, shook their heads and asked to be excused. Soon, the room was empty again.
The Face of the Enemy
Morning broke over the wild skies of skpoje bringing with it the steady clangour of tracks moving over the road leading to skopje junction. Balajize has mobilized his elite attack tank platoons and was moving in a hurry to reach the destination, skopje junction. Beyond the horizon, troops were running into the transport helicopters which would take them to their destination past the enemy barriers.
Soon, the transports were loaded and the rebel army was moving full ahead to skopje. Balajze had deputed an attack chopper platoon to oversee and lead the advance. Code named team blue, they were already up and scanning the terrain for presence of the enemy. Over the radio could be heard the inspired speech of Balajize to his troops, asking them to 'crush the enemy in his place, and prove to the world that the kosovar rebels are better strategists than old man O'Mohana and his puny troops.' what he conveniently forgot to mention was than O'mohana had routed him in many a skirmish before, and that his own lieutenants doubted his abilities.'Give no quarter, we shall finally revenge the blood of our ancestors...' droned the spirited commander.
In the lead chopper of team blue, Lt. Daniel Milosevic shook his head and switched of the radio. He had heard this many times before, and each time the general would end it with stupid orders. The task force lacked a solid plan and he knew it.It would certainly do better to concentrate on making his tactics perfect at least than expecting balajize to give directions. With such thoughts, he tilted the rotor and lead his chopper out into the plain.
Twenty minutes flying and several scans of the ground later, Daniel was puzzled. He was yet to trace he enemy, even though he was moving past the hill near skopje junction. Where was the enemy? Confused, he drew up to a hover and asked the team blue to stand by. Stabilising, he turned around and locked around. 500 feet below, he could see the battalion stinger team *walking* up the steep hill. He smiled. He could almost hear their curses. Balajize, in his all knowing wisdom had denied them transport, and asked them to take up position atop the hill. "We'd be lucky if they reach there before sundown", he thought. Turning again, he shifted his attention of the distant horizon, and saw the dust cloud. Up on the north, a dust cloud was rising. Even at this distance, he could make out the shapes of several trucks emerging out of the dust, guarded by what looked like SAMS mounted on half tracks.
The enemy was sighted! He took it for motorised infantry and their guard, and immediately dropped and radioed HQ.
Back in the Command tank, Balajize heard the call made by blue one and without much ado, ordered them to sack the trucks. Air borne attacks were one of his favourites in movies, and he expected to see a repetition here. Perhaps he was too busy to realise that movies were a far cry form real life...
The kiss of a SAM
Lt. Daniel and his 'team blue' of attack helicopters flew low and fast towards the trucks. A mile away from the trucks and 200 ft in the air, they could see the trucks clearly. "Reduce speed" Daniel ordered his team mates. "Team blue, take aim!" In his excitement, he had failed to notice that a small mast head radar popped up over the crest of the hill to the north and the small infra red beam which hit his chopper, lighting it up unseen for the SAM below...
Slightly to the left of the unknowing team blue, sgt. Sean O'Grady, chief cook of the 101st Airborne and currently chief SAM operator was also taking aim. He had been surprised to see the choppers approach them in the open but had reacted quickly and decided to make his day. He switched on the infra red, and catching blue one in his sights, smiled and pressed the trigger...
Lt. Daniel was concentrating on blue one. He intended to follow Blue one's missiles with his own, and waited. "Blue one here. Ready to fire". "Then fire!"shouted Daniel.
A split second later the missiles went out, and there was a huge explosion. To Daniel's horror, blue one blew apart!
Down in the SAM, O'Grady smiled an evil smile and took aim again..."God in heaven! The SAMs!" Daniel was dumbstuck. He had forgotten all about them, and now twisted the control lever desparately to get out of the way. Too late, he turned, only to be hit by the second SAM in the rear of the chopper. For an agonising moment Daniel thought that it was all over. But the chopper held having been only nicked by the SAM as it exploded in the vicinity. In a second Daniel had put the chopper into shallow flight and fled for thesafety of Grenn's Hill.
Join the Paras, they said...
A couple of miles to the east, the chinooks carrying the first team of paratroops were cruising blissfully unaware of the fate of team blue, their deemed protectors. So far they had encountered no opposition, and were waiting to appraoch the landing zone. In the cockpit, Captain Jamiel Marques squinted at the dust cloud rising in the north. He could see trucks in the distance. "Where is damned team blue?" Radio silence was in force, and he couldn't raise them till the last minute. On his left side, co pilot Fictiso was having a doubt. "Jamiel, doesn't that look like a SAM Launcher? "
Jamiel was a bit slow on the uptake, and did not hear properly. "Whatddya say? SAM?"
Getting no answer, Jamiel turned at his copilot who was staring out of the window with a look of horror on his face. Jamiel turned, looked out thw window and for the first and last time in his life saw a Surface to Air Missile in flight up close...
General Balajize was standing atop his tank, scanning the horizon with his binoculars. He saw a flash ibn the sky and wondered. "Meteors?" A second later, he realised that he had watched Para 1 fall out of the sky in a ball of fire. He was aghast. "Team blue, report to me" cried he over the radio. Getting no reponse,He feared the worst for team blue. He ordered his tank forward, in the direction of the hill where the stinger team was at the moment headed, asking the rest of the tanks to proceed. Perhaps he would be able to sight team blue from the hill.
My arm for a stinger
General Sriramius leaned forward in his seat and looked out of the cockpit of the low flying sea king helicopter. They had started at dawn and had taken a wide detour to skip the forest and arrive at the flank hill. He could see the low flying advance guard to his front and the rest of the team to his either sides. There were ten platoons of really good soldiers, all of them trained for precisely such missions. In a minute, their advance guard would be on the hill...
It had been a hard climb for the stinger team. Deprived of any transport in the hilly terrain, they had sweated and cursed and climbed to reach the top of Grenns Hill. A few meters from the summit now, they stopped to rest. Suddenly, team commander Verqueza heard the chop of rotors. The plan did not call for choppers on the hill and he was surprised. Even as he watched, out of the thin mist flew out the deadliest flying armada he had ever seen: A full platoon of attack choppers, missiles at the ready. He was witnessing the well tested and trained machines and men of the 36th Attack chopper squadron executing an equally eficient plan. The choppers roared low and came to a hover. From their position hundred feet above the hill, they could see something which Verqueza couldn't: The hovering choppers of Lt Daniel Milosevic and his remaining wingman trying to take cover behind the cliffs of Grenns Hill. In the lead seat, the copilot/Gunman was already targetting the first of the two enemy helicopters. "Range 1500 meters. Targets locked. Ready to fire..." Sriramius shook his head in disgust. "This is not war. Fire..."
Perhaps it was just a coincidence, perhaps it was his isxth sense. In either case Lt.Daniel had this eerie feeling of being watched from behind. He twisted in his seat and, seeing nothing, revolved the helicopter in place. Suddenly he spotted a red pin point of light falling on his cockpit glass canopy. Looking up in fright, he saw his last sight, Gen. Sriramius's lead chopper releasing its missile.
With an explosion that shook the hill side, the IR guided stinger missiles fired from the first chopper of 36th blew Lt. Daniel Milosevic and his partner to kingdom come.
The Eagle has Landed
The entire incident took less than five seconds. Now it was the time for the 101st to prove their mettle.
The giant Chinook transports hovered above the ground at 6 feet, and the machine guns in their doors put out a barrage of supressing machine gun fire. The stinger team was cowed into submission and the few valiant cut down as the choppers sprayed the place with lead.
As the din subsided, Sriramius jumped out of the command chopper and started giving orders. The soldiers were soon securing the perimeter and establishing a command stand. Sriramius looked around, satisfied. It was a good day's work. He fished out a cigar and lighted it. From down the hill, he could hear the tracks of Balajize's command tank rolling towards them.
General Baljize urged the tank onward towards the top of the hill. He could see his stinger team in the distance, waving hands. Nothing was amiss. The tank reached them and he jumped out.
"What is going on here?" he asked Verqueza. Verqueza, still waving, pointed his head mutely in the direction of the crest. Balajize turned and saw the men of the 101st airborne smiling, their M16 assault rifles at the ready. From the midst of the soldiers came out the familiar figure of Sriramius. He was chewing his cigar and seeing Balajize blew out a smoke ring. He greeted Balajize with a smile: "Good Morning General"
Balajize was shocked, dumbfounded and rooted to the spot. His plan, the saint Kundalini, courtesans, O'Mohana everything flashed through his mind in sequence. He knew that the battle was over for him.
Several things happened in the aftermath of the battle. Kostunicosa, the faithful tank commander of Balajize, arrived in the American rear twenty hours later, hungry and tired. He had lost his way and was too tired and cold to fight; he surrendered in exchange for food and shelter.
Gen. Balajize was taken to prison, and spent a few years there. Following the international settlement for Kosovo, he was deported to South Burma, where he is no a marketing sales man.
His Holiness Kundalini was arrested on charges of fraud and misdemeanour. He wqas deported to africa, where he has since taken up investigating the spirituality of Apes.
Generals O'Mohana and Sriramus returned to the US, where Sriramus has taken up fulfilling his desire for a PhD. O'Mohana took a long leave and returned to his favorite haunt, the Himalayas.