Escape from Bosnia.
1992 – 95 period…
During the Bosnian War, which led to the creation of the nations of Croatia, Slovenia, and Bosnia & Herzegovina, Bosnian-Serb forces shot all men, brutally raped women and girls, and used them as sex slaves. International media has exposed the plight of all girls and innocents who are caught. NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) intervened in the matter as tens of thousands of legitimate civilians were killed. NATO and U.N. forces have vigorously defended Bosnian and Serbian rebel forces, who are committing human rights abuses and massacres. NATO has declared a no-fly zone over Bosnia & Herzegovina to eliminate the movement of warplanes. NATO’s purpose was to protect civilians from air strikes by Bosnian-Serb armed forces. NATO aircraft used to fly surveillance over Bosnia & Herzegovina to see if the agreement was being followed.
2 June 1995..
Aviano Airbase in northeastern Italy..
Two US Air Force F-16 fighter jets take off on a reconnaissance mission.
Scott O Grady and Bob Wilbur Wright, pilots of 555 Fighter Squadron. They were strictly instructed to keep distance from SAM rings deployed by Bosnian troops throughout the journey. SAM (Surface To Air) missiles were a major security threat to the low-flying F-16 for surveillance.
The sky was overcast. Flying in two-ship formation, the planes slowly approached northwest Bosnia, tearing through the silver clouds. The plane’s surveillance cameras were switched on. Planes roared over the enemy camps, capturing the sights of the ground with clarity. They were flying keeping a proper distance from the missile sites keeping in mind the warning given by the Intelligence Agency. However, a disaster was waiting for them. A little-known missile site was located in the city of Rakonic Grad, a mountain town surrounded by forests. It was a mobile launching platform. Something that can be easily moved from one place to another..!
“Basher 5 one…
“Mud 6, bearing 090…” On
the open radio frequency, Wilbur asked Scott if there was a radar threat. Wilbur asked if he saw anything like that. Scott replied that he didn’t see anything suspicious on his radar. At this time down below, something else was happening…
Serbian soldiers turned off their radar systems because NATO warplanes had already been spotted. It was a trick. They were waiting for the planes to get right up, and if the enemy was just below, the fighter jets’ security systems would have the least ability to pick up the radar signals. Knowing this, Serbian officials waited patiently, setting up nets for the planes to touch down. Fearless planes approached the camp as no warning was received….!!!
Pilots Scott and Wilbur had their surveillance systems inadequate and received additional assistance. NATO’s Airborne Command Center, known as MAGIC, was based somewhere there. It was very useful as it provided timely safety warnings to reconnaissance aircraft.
By this time the planes were right over the SAM-ring.
It happened suddenly…!
Magic alerted planes to radar waves coming from nowhere. The alarm on Scott’s plane’s air warning system blared incessantly…!!
At this exact moment two 2K12 missiles, fired from the missile launcher below after locking onto the target, soared proudly..at speeds approaching Mach 2 – lightning fast, and aimed at the F-16s. Russian-made 2K12 Kub missiles can accelerate to Mach 2.8. That means 2469 km per hour..!
Unfortunately, Scott, who was flying in the clouds, could not see the danger that was approaching him at the speed of lightning.. ! But luckily the missile exploded between the two fighter jets..
Scott describes the incident as follows.
“The propulsion of surface-to-air missiles is sure to travel, leaving behind a trail of white smoke. And so I looked eagerly for one, but my vision was obscured by the clouds. When a missile reaches the range of its proximity fuse, its propulsion stops. The latter will break through the target with insane speed. That too, with twice the speed of my F-16..! I was anxiously staring at my video screen.”
It happened suddenly..
“The light started flashing on my alarm screen. This time the alarm went off louder than before.. It means that I am still being monitored. I felt the adrenalin rush through my blood. A heavy breathing began to haunt me. I suddenly regained my balance and tried to escape with decoy flares. Flares are designed to detect the heat emitted by aircraft and fool incoming missiles that sense the heat but are unable to penetrate the target in a straight line. Explosives are released into the atmosphere. Magnesium pellets are mainly used. These will burn at 2000 degrees Fahrenheit…the heat from their explosion will deflect these missiles.”
“Second Missile in Air..!” Wilbur yelled over the radio but it happened before it reached my ears.
“It felt like a horizon-shaking explosion. A huge explosion rang out shattering my eardrums..!”
“Using the surrounding cloud cover, the second missile hit the bottom of my plane hard. It exploded splitting the plane in two..
“I knew my plane was slowing down. The reason was that the part of the propulsion which was giving thrust from the rear was separated. All this happened in the blink of an eye..!”
“The cockpit was filled with fire and smoke. With trembling hands I pressed the seat eject button. (Seat eject is a technique in which, in the event of an aircraft crash, a rocket motor or an explosive charge causes the pilot in the cockpit to eject through the seat and escape by parachute.) Wait
The bolts around the plane’s cockpit glass came loose. With a loud thud, Scott was thrown out of the chair he was sitting on. Scott saw parts of the burning plane falling as it flipped upside down.
All data stored in the cockpit will be destroyed when the seat eject button is pressed. The system is also designed to prevent them from falling into enemy hands.
While parachuting, Scott looked down and saw Serbian soldiers aiming at him.
On landing, Scott released the parachute’s belt. A survival bag weighing 29 pounds (13 kg) was retrieved from the wreckage and safely ejected. Scott carefully placed each step under the cover of rocks and trees, out of sight of the enemies who were gathering in the nooks and crannies of the forest. A small mistake is enough to fall into the hands of the enemy. Scott knew to expect no mercy from them. They will kill themselves by crushing each organ inch by inch.
Scott received SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape) training to hold out for 17 days even if he entered enemy territory. Accordingly he crawled through the muddy fields ahead. Slowly, Scott made his way into the forest and was very stingy with his survival ration. He kept his soul alive by eating young grasses and greens and young insects. He collected the occasional water in the sponge in his bag.
The Serbian soldiers scoured the forest, but Scott often escaped with only the strength of his life. He had a 9mm pistol in his hand but he knew it would not be of much use. Scott felt a little relieved as night fell. However, he remained sleepless for fear of enemies who would silently pursue him for his life at any moment.
On the third day, Scott woke up to the sound of a helicopter. He barely closed his eyes due to the heavy pressure and the jungle environment. The helicopter was flying low with a deafening sound. Scott huddled against a tree, gasping for breath. He could clearly see the faces of the Serbian soldiers who were warily waiting for an attack. They flew off in the opposite direction, raining bullets wherever they saw movement. The bullets had penetrated very close to where Scott lay.
Around the clock, Serbian military vehicles tore through the silence of the forest in search of Scott.
For six days, holding his life in his hand, holding his breath, the soldier held on in the fierce forest without surrendering to the enemy. In the meantime he tried to make his presence known in the army camp without falling into the eyes of the enemy. The GPS signaling device’s very limited battery had already run out. Fortunately, some of Scott’s intermittent signals were intercepted by NATO aircraft.
After confirming the identity, the mission to rescue Scott began.
June 8 midnight..
Two CH-Sea Stallion helicopters carrying Marine Commandos under the command of Colonel Martin took off from the USS Kearsarge.
Two Supercobra helicopters and AV 8B Harrier fighter jets provided escort.
In the dead of night, the rescue team searched for their soldier. They were quietly followed by another team of EF 111A Ravens, Thunderbolts and an Awax surveillance aircraft. It was a huge group consisting of more than forty planes and helicopters. A team carrying enough weapons to incinerate the area in an instant in case of any unexpected attack.
Two CH-53 Sea Stallions with 51 marines from the 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines within the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit lifted off USS Kearsarge to rescue the pilot. The two helicopters were accompanied by two Marine Corps AH-1W Super cobra helicopter gunships and a pair of Marine Corps AV-8B Harrier jump jets, one piloted by Captain Ronald C. Walkerwicz. These six aircraft had support from identical sets of replacement helicopters and jump jets as well as two Navy EA-6B Prowler electronic warfare planes, two Air Force EF-111A Raven electronic warfare planes, two Marine F/A-18D Hornets, a pair of anti-tank Air Force A-10 Thunderbolts, an SH-60B from USS Ticonderoga (CG-47), and an RAF AWACS E-3D.
At about six-thirty they reached the spot Scott had signaled, and from a height looked over the surroundings.
They saw a smoke signal coming out of the trees in a rocky area. The first lead Stallion helicopter, piloted by Major William Tarbutton, aimed in that direction and flew low. Twenty Marine Corps men rushed in and formed a defensive ring around the signal. Just then, the second helicopter touched the ground.
Suddenly, a man with a pistol outstretched from among the trees rushed towards the helicopter.
It was Scott…!
The sliding door of the helicopter was opened. As fast as they came, the commandos grabbed Scott by his collar and belt and threw him into the chopper.
The others flew in as soon as they laid hands on Scott’s body. After a quick head count, the helicopters immediately flew back in the same direction they had taken off.
All this happened in the moment of closing my eyes..!!
On the way, their surveillance plane detected the presence of a missile in Croatian territory.
The voice of the pilot of the fighter, code named Giraffe, rang out in the cockpit.
“Enemy Missile in Action..”
“Permission to Neutralize..”
“I repeat..Permission to Neutralize..”
Realizing that they are not in its attack range and can easily destroy it if they want, Giraffe’s lead pilot seeks permission to destroy it..!
The captain did not allow it, thinking that it would not cause more problems!
A short time later, three shoulder-launched missiles were fired at them, but they neutralized them at a speed of 282 km/h.
07 : 15 AM
“I repeat.. “Feet wet”
rang out the radio message on USS Kearsarge. That means they are safely within their own naval jurisdiction.
At half past seven, the rescue team landed safely on the ship with Scott in tow.
Cheers rang out in American military centers. With applause they welcomed the brave soldier of their country.
Days later on August 11, another American aircraft, an RQ Predator, was shot down by Serbian troops.
On August 30, a combined force of 15 nations led by the United States stormed Bosnia. A combined air force consisting of 400 aircraft and 5,000 soldiers dropped 1026 bombs like a torrential rain in days. The city of Sarajevo was captured from the Serbs. The Serbian/Bosnian soldiers, who were disheartened by this, gave in to compromise and negotiations.
A heroic return of Scott. O, Grady was honored with the Bronze Medal and Purple Heart by the US Government.
The movie Behind Enemy Lines released in 2001 was based on Grady.