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A Turning Point in History

Heroes Remember

A Turning Point in History

It was a turning point in history period because up until the end of the Cold War during at least my lifetime, most conflicts were between countries and when the wall came down, and there was only one super power left. I equate it a little bit to a dog chasing a school bus. It’s really fun for the dog until he catches it and then he’s gotta do something with it. Well American woke up one day, in 89-90 and said my god we’re the only super power which means we’re the sheriff. And they weren’t particularly comfortable with that, but they didn’t have any choice. It was like parachuting. Once you leave the door you can’t change your mind. You’re going to come down. In March of 1992, dah....UN doesn’t move at the speed of light, six generals are called to New York ,of which I am the junior one, to put together a plan to put 14,000 troops into Croatia and protect the Serbs. Now, most militaries protect democracy. They bloody well don’t practice it and we’re one of those, but the UN's different. So I was elected the spokesman cause I had been on eight other UN missions, just came from commanding one in Central America. None of the other generals had been on UN duty. So they said Lew, you know, you do the briefings. And the security council rejected every one of our recommendations as to where the troops should go and in addition said, “Put your headquarters in Sarajevo.” Hold it just a second, Sarajevo, that’s in Bosnia, Hersokavina. They’re still part of the former Yugoslavia. There are rumblings that they’re gonna request independence, but they’re still part of Yugoslavia and there are mountains. They had the Olympics in ‘84. There’s a single runway. It’s not an airport. It’s a runway. There’s a lot of tension. There’s 44% Muslims, 37% Serbs, 17% Croats. They’re not getting along all that well. So as soon as we put out headquarters there and put our UN flag up, we’re going to be a lightning rod for every problem in Bosnia. They said, “no, no, you’re just the headquarters to run the operation in Croatia”, “yah but, they’ll come to us”, and we had fifty Swedish conscript soldiers as our army. “Shut up and go to Sarajevo!” So we arrived on Friday the 13th of March 1992 and the rest as they say is three weeks later. That’s when the war started.

Major-General MacKenzie provides some historical background as to how he was chosen by the UN to command troops in Croatia and set up headquarters in Sarajevo.

Lewis MacKenzie

Major-General Lewis Mackenzie was born April 30, 1940 in Truro, Nova Scotia and raised in nearby Princeport. He is a graduate of Xavier Junior College, Sydney, Cape Breton and the University of Manitoba. He is a retired general, author and media commentator. General MacKenzie is famous for establishing and commanding Sector Sarajevo’s part of the United Nations Protection Force UNPROFOR in Yugoslavia in 1992. As a result he became the only Canadian, military or civilian, to be awarded a second Meritorious Service Cross. After his many years of service, General MacKenzie retired from the Canadian Forces in 1993. His personal account of his military experiences are written in a book he wrote, “Peacekeeper, Road to Sarajevo”. As well, MacKenzie wrote his second book, “Soldiers Made Me Look Good”. Since retirement, MacKenzie is a regular commentator and in demand as a lecturer in leadership. Major-General MacKenzie continues his role as a leader and a positive influence for the Canadian Youth.

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

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