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First Night in Sarajevo

Heroes Remember

First Night in Sarajevo

We'd already been in Croatia for about, roughly I think about three months doing everything and anything from, you know, check points, you know, searching for weapons, or dealing with belligerence on both sides trying to stop the fighting. But when Sarajevo was cooking up, when Bosnia was kind of imploding we were getting daily O groups, daily orders groups on what was going on, what the situation is. We really sat on our butts for about three weeks trying, waiting for the government, waiting for our chain of command to say “Yep, you guys are gonna go.” And when we actually starting making the road move into Sarajevo, it was, you know everything that we had done prior in Croatia, we knew that from what we had seen on TV and from the information that we got with, you know, hundreds of thousands of civilians stuck in this place getting bombarded and shot at all the time, we were, this is what we were really here to do. Is, let’s go and help these people out. It was a huge push to let’s get this done and let’s get there. The very first night, once we got to the airport and November company deployed to what we called Beaver Camp was an old J and A army base. And I’ll never forget, it was almost like the entire November company was in this huge quonset hut with, you know, tin roof and tin walls and all the vehicles were kind of parked there and constantly, never ending machine gun fire going on. Battles going on all around us, just a constant; I used to tell my son, I said it’s almost like the final battle in the movie “Platoon” that’s what it was like the first night in Sarajevo, and we’d look outside and see tracer fire going through the mountains, going through the hills and nothing in us, but it was almost like we just stuck ourselves in the middle of a hornet’s nest and all around us was fighting and constant fire and I can remember purposely sticking my walkman and turning music on to drown out the sounds of the battles around us. Cause we still didn’t have, you know, orders on to exactly what we were going to do. How we were gonna go to the airport. How we were gonna deploy. We were just kind of sequestered there while the chain of command figured things out and all around us (sounds of gunfire) just constant, constant fire fights, constant And then the next day I can remember driving into the airport and there was bodies on the streets. There was fresh evidence of the battles of the night before and it seemed to be, you know you ask, “what was it like being a peacekeeper in Sarajevo?’, our duties and our days were 14, 16 hours long. We’d go to the airport. We’d wait for the supply aircraft to come in and then the UNHCR vehicles got loaded with humanitarian relief supplies and then we’d escort them to certain parts of the city to, you know, unload them into warehouses or what have you and it was surreal kind of driving into the old Olympics stadium where they had the Olympics in 1984 and the place is getting bombed and shot at all the time and, you know, we’re starting to figure out how and the hell are we going to do anything here.

Mr. MacDonald speaks about the explosion and sights of tracer fire that rained down upon them the first night in Sarajevo, witnessing the aftermath of destruction, and dead bodies around the city the next morning.

Ross MacDonald

Mr. Ross MacDonald was born April 4, 1967 in Peterborough, Ontario. His parents immigrated from the United Kingdom to Canada in 1960. After graduating from high school, Ross tried the college life, but because of his interest in the outdoors and strong involvement in sports he decided to join the army. At age 20, he joined the Canadian Armed Forces in Petawawa, Ontario joining 3 Royal Canadian Regiment. As part of his training, Mr. MacDonald travelled and lived in Germany for two years. In 1992, Mr. MacDonald joined 3 RCR November Company Group on a tour to Sarajevo to provide humanitarian aid and supplies to the besieged city. Because of his service, Mr. MacDonald was awarded the Commander-in-Chief Commendation. Due to medical release, Mr. MacDonald left the military, but continued to work with the soldiers needing support under the OSSIS program, a government position he holds today.

Meta Data
Veterans Affairs Canada
Person Interviewed:
Ross MacDonald
War, Conflict or Mission:
Canadian Armed Forces
Royal Canadian Regiment

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