December 1, 1995 C-130 aircraft assigned to the 37th Airlift
Sq., Ramstein AB Germany lands at Ancona Airport Italy to be reloaded with
more supplies, in preparation for it's next relief mission into Sarajevo.
bloody conflict, Sarajevo remained a symbolic reminder of UN resolve to
achieve peace in the region thanks to the efforts of professional flight
crews and ground crews of the U.S. Air Force." - Gen.
Ronald R. Fogleman, Chief of Staff, USAF, March 1996
As communism collapsed and the Cold War ended, the Germans tore down the
Berlin Wall and reunited, but in the Balkans, nationalism led to civil
war and the horrors of "ethnic cleansing." When Slovenia and Croatia
declared their independence from Serbian-dominated Yugoslavia, the
Serbians fought to maintain control. To keep the fighting from
spreading, the United Nations imposed an arms embargo and mediated a
In Bosnia-Herzegovina -- home to Bosniacs (Muslims), Croats and Serbians
-- the issue became more complex. Bosniac voters in Bosnia
overwhelmingly voted for independence from Yugoslavia in early 1992. The
Bosnian Serbs boycotted the vote and formed their own government.
Meanwhile, the Bosnian Croats formed their own government. Vicious
fighting between the three factions soon erupted into the Bosnian Civil
On March 3, armed citizens -- Serbs on one side and Bosniacs on the
other -- erected barricades around Sarajevo. The UN arms embargo
prevented the Bosniacs from obtaining weapons, but the Bosnian Serbs
received heavy weapons from the Serbian-controlled Yugoslavian army.
Better armed, Bosnian Serb forces quickly took control over 60 percent
of Bosnia-Herzegovina and encircled Sarajevo. In response, the UN
imposed economic sanctions against Serbia and sent peacekeepers into
Bosnia to aid the delivery of humanitarian relief.
With the roads to Sarajevo controlled by the Bosnian Serbs, airlift
became the only way for humanitarian supplies to reach the 380,000
inhabitants of the besieged city. The multinational UN humanitarian
airlift, Operation Provide Promise began with the arrival of a French
C-130 at Sarajevo airport on July 2, 1992, and it continued for
three-and-a-half more years -- three times longer than the Berlin
Airlift. The USAF played a major role, starting when the first American
C-130 flew into Sarajevo on July 3. Augmented by Active Duty, Air
National Guard and Air Force Reserve units from the United States Air
Forces in Europe provided food, medicine and other relief supplies to
Sarajevo and other areas throughout Bosnia-Herzegovina. In remote areas,
the airlifters airdropped supplies.
Continued Serbian resistance to humanitarian efforts forced the UN to
establish "no-fly" zones over Bosnia and to launch air strikes. Adding
to the pressure on the Bosnian Serbs, the United States mediated an
agreement between the Bosniacs, the Bosnian Croats and the Government of
Croatia to form a federation of Bosniacs and Croats. This agreement
ended the fighting between those factions. Nevertheless, the Bosnian
Serbs remained belligerent and fired on aircraft flying humanitarian
Operation Provide Promise flights. One Italian transport was shot down,
and the crew was killed. When it became too dangerous to land at
Sarajevo Airport, the airlifters airdropped supplies.
At the insistence of the United States, NATO undertook an intensive,
month-long bombing campaign in August 1995. Combined with an all-out
peace effort by the United States, these airstrikes produced the desired
effect. A cease-fire went into effect in October, and peace talks began
at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, on Nov. 1, 1995. These
negotiations produced the framework for peace known as the Dayton Peace
Accords. Operation Provide Promise continued until Jan. 9, 1996. On that
date, the last USAF C-130 brought relief supplies into Sarajevo Airport,
and 10 minutes later, a French C-130 landed with the ceremonial last
pallet of supplies.
Although some supplies slipped in through a secret tunnel under Sarajevo
Airport, airlift operations allowed Sarajevo to survive until the peace
process could work. During the three-and-a-half year operation, the 21
nations supporting Provide Promise flew 12,895 supply missions (4,197 by
USAF) and delivered 160,536 metric tons (62,801.5 by USAF) of
humanitarian goods to Sarajevo. In addition, the USAF airlifters flew
more than 2,200 airdrop sorties across Bosnia.