Unveiling the Hidden Valor of Unrecognized Defenders in the Battle of Vukovar: Our Fight Against the Intoxicated Ustashas

Vukovar faced its most challenging days during the fall of 1991, as it bravely defended itself against aggression from the eastern bank of the Danube. The success of the defense on the front lines relied heavily on those stationed in various units and services, including the Technical Company.

Comprised of experts and employees from the Machine Factory and the Maintenance of the Borovo Combine, this unit recognized that it could contribute significantly to Vukovar’s defense by manufacturing and repairing weapons that were lacking among defenders.

Zvonimir Petrić, who turned 40 in 1991, was head of preparation at the Borovo Machine Factory when war broke out. He recalls how initial attacks were met with limited armament, prompting a decision to modify damaged weapons and produce 82 mm mortars. Ten sets of these mortars were made, with all parts except for barrels being produced in-house. The barrels had to be finished at a nearby factory due to lack of precise processing capabilities in their own facility. Later, these parts were used to repair damaged mortars retrieved from the battlefield.

One of their most famous products was the hand-held grenade launcher known as “drunk Ustasha,” which used a trombone bullet to fire grenades from an automatic rifle at long range. Two units within the Technical Company operated under this structure until September when enemy forces discovered their position and attacked them with grenades frequently. Despite this challenge, they continued working until Vukovar’s defense collapsed.

After leaving camp, Petrić spent six months recovering on Hvar with his family before returning home to talk about his experiences during wartime less frequently. He emphasizes that he never regrets not accepting a veteran’s pension because he believes that “the past should be left to the past.” When asked about his memories of working with “drunk Ustashas,” he laughs: “They got so drunk they could throw bombs several hundred meters.”

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