The Ghosts of Medak Pocket: The Story of Canada's Secret War


310 pages
Contains Index
ISBN 0-697-31293-5
DDC 949.703





Reviewed by J.L. Granatstein

J.L. Granatstein, Distinguished Research Professor of History Emeritus,
York University, served as Director of the Canadian War Museum from 1998
to 2000. His latest works are Who Killed Canadian History?, Who Killed
the Canadian Military, and Hell’s Cor


A dozen years ago, Canadian “peacekeepers” in Croatia engaged
Croatian troops who were trying to drive Serbs from their territory.
News of the battle was hushed up by Ottawa, worried about the fallout
from the Somalia affair and a coming general election. And the
silence—or cover-up—remained for years. But word eventually trickled
out that the 2nd Battalion of the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light
Infantry had fought and won a battle in a supposed peacekeeping role. In
the military and in the defence community, the term “Medak Pocket”
had meaning, as did its significance for the death of conventional
peacekeeping. No more blue berets and big smiles; now it was peace
enforcement or peace support—which translated into something
approximating war.

Journalist Carol Off explores the Medak action, but the great value of
her work is in laying out the Canadian connections with Croatian
nationalism and the way the PPCLI was formed and fell apart after the
battle. Croatian exiles in Canada helped fund the vile regime that
engaged in ethnic cleansing, something Canadians don’t realize. And
the PPCLI 2nd Battalion, a composite unit heavily made up of reservists,
which conducted itself well in action, all but collapsed into squabbling
and ill-discipline afterwards, its troops, racked with post-traumatic
stress, fighting its officers and NCOs. Nor did matters improve once the
battalion returned home, with the military trying hard to pretend it
didn’t exist. This is not a happy story, but it is an important one.


Off, Carol., “The Ghosts of Medak Pocket: The Story of Canada's Secret War,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 22, 2024,