Thursday, June 10, 2010

Serbia and her people: Always the Target of Bombs / Remembering June 10, 1999

Belgrade, Serbia

Aleksandra's Note: Today, June 10, 2010 marks the 11th anniversary of the end of a 78 day bombing campaign that was waged against Serbia and her people in 1999. Over and over again, Serbia has been the target of those who wish to either "punish" her or to beat her into submission, not on the ground in combat, but from the air. Serbia has known the wrath of both enemies and "allies", which raises the question of what happens when an "ally" becomes the "enemy".

The following testimony comes from Fortier Jones, a young American from Texas who, in 1915, left his studies at Columbia University in New York to join the WWI Relief Effort in Serbia. He arrived in the summer of 1915, in time to get to know the Serbian lands and the Serbian people before the Central Powers, with Germany leading the assault, began pounding Belgrade in October of 1915.  That was the beginning of the "modern" 20th century, and the use of the new kind of "courageous" warfare from the sky was being perfected. At the very end of that same century, Belgrade would again be the target of bombs. The only thing that had changed was that in 1999 it would not be enemy bombs, but allied bombs that would terrorize the Serbian nation and her people.

I know that Serbia will never forget.


Aleksandra Rebic

Bombed building in Belgrade, 1999


By Fortier Jones

"Of course, war is war, but let us get a picture. Suppose on a perfect day in Indian summer you sat in that tiny, flower-filled court with the hospitable mother, Mitar, the handsome, Dushan, the cautious, and Milka, the coquettish. As you romp with the children, you hear distantly a dull clap of thunder, just as if a summer shower were brewing. A second, a third clap, and you walk out to the entrance to scan the sky. It is deep blue and cloudless, but away over the northern part of the city, while you look, as if by magic, beautiful, shiny white cloudlets appear far up in the crystal sky, tiny, soft, fluffy things that look like a baby’s powder-puff, and every time one appears a dull bit of thunder comes to you. For twelve months off and on you have seen this sight. You think of it as a periodic reminder that your nation and the one across the way are at war. You know that heretofore those powder-puffs have been directed at your own guns on the hills behind the city and at the entrenchments down by the river. But there are many things you do not know. You do not know, for instance, that Mackensen is just across the river now with a great Teutonic army outnumbering your own forces five or six to one. You do not know that for weeks the Austrian railways have been piling up mountains of potential powder-puffs behind Semlin, and bringing thousands of ponderous machines designed to throw said puffs not only at the forts and trenches, but at your flower-filled court and its counterparts throughout the city. You do not know that aeroplanes are parked by fifties beyond Semlin, and loaded to capacity with puffs that drop a long, long way and blossom in fire and death wherever they strike. You do not know that from a busy group of men in Berlin an order has gone out to take your city and your nation at any cost, and if you knew these things, it would now be too late. For as you look, in a few brief moments, the thunderstorm rolls up and covers the city, such a thunderstorm as nature, with all her vaunted strength, has never dared to manufacture. Mitar and Dushan and Milka stop their play. Worried, the woman comes out and stands with you. You say the firing is uncommonly heavy today, but it will mean nothing, and as you say this, you notice the powder puffs on the slopes of the hills far short of the forts and over the town itself. High above you to of them suddenly appear, and the storm begins in your region, in the street in front of you, on the homes of your neighbors. With increasing rapidity the rain falls now, five to the minute, ten, fifteen, twenty, twenty-five every sixty seconds, and every drop is from fifty pounds to a quarter of a ton of whirling steel, and in the hollow heart of each are new and strange explosives that, when they strike, shake the windows out of your house.

"Looking toward Semlin, you see the aeroplanes rising in fleets. Some are already over the city, directing the fire of the guns across the river, and others are dropping explosive bombs, incendiary bombs, and darts. In a dozen places already the city is blazing terribly. A thin, shrill, distant sound comes to you and the waiting woman, almost inaudible at first, but quivering like a high violin note. It rises swiftly in a crescendo, and you hear it now tearing down the street on your left, a deafening roar that yet is sharp, snarling, wailing. Two hundred yards away a three story residence is lifted into the air, where it trembles like jelly, and drops, a heap of debris, into the street. Your friend lives there. His wife, his children, are there, or were, until that huge shell came. Milka, Dushan, and Mitar have come in time to see their playmates’ home blown to atoms. Without waiting for anything, you and the quiet, frightened woman seize the children and start out of the city. As you come to the road that winds tortuously to the hills behind the town, you see that it is black with thousands and thousands of men and women dragging along screaming Mitars and Dushans and Milkas. Hovering above this road, which winds interminably on the exposed hillside before it reaches the sheltering crest, flit enemy aeroplanes, and on the dark stream below they are dropping bombs.

"There is no other road. You know you must pass along beneath those aeroplanes. You look at the woman and the children, and wonder who will pay the price. Oh, for a conveyance now! If only the American were here with his automobile, how greatly would he increase the children’s chances! Carriages are passing, but you have no carriage. Railway-trains are still trying to leave the city, but there is literally no room to hang on the trains, and the line is exposed to heavy fire. Only slowly can you go with the children down the street already clogged with debris. Now in front you see a friend with his family, the mother and four children. They are in a coupe, drawn by good horses. How fortunate! The children recognize one another. Milka shouts a greeting. She is frightened, but of course does not realize the danger. Even as she is answered by her playmate in the carriage, all of you are stunned by a terrible blast, and there is no family or carriage or horses any more. There is scarcely any trace of them. The fierce hunger of a ten-inch shell sent to wreck great forts is scarcely appeased by one little family, and, to end its fury, blows a crater many feet across in the street beyond. Along with you, Mitar has realized what is going on, and not the least of the trouble that overwhelms you is to see the knowledge of years drop in a minute on his childish face when those comrades are murdered before his eyes. If he gets out of this inferno and lives a hundred years, he will never shake off that moment. The shell has blown a crater in his soul, and because he is a Serb, that crater will smoke and smolder and blaze until the Southern Slav is free from all which unloosed that shell or until he himself is blown beyond the sway even of Teutonic arms. He grasps his mother’s hand and drags her on.

"Now you are in the outskirts of the city. No word can be spoken because of the constant roar of your own and the enemy’s guns—a roar unfaltering and massive, such as in forty-eight hours sixty thousand huge projectiles alone could spread over the little city. On the road you pass frequently those irregular splotches of murder characteristic of bomb-dropping. Here only one man was blown to pieces by a precious bomb, yonder two women and a child, farther along eight people, men, women, and children lie heaped. Here again only a child was crippled, both feet or a hand gone. It is hard to be accurate when sailing high in the air, hard even for those ‘fearless’ men who with shrapnel bursting around their frail machines calmly drop death upon women and children…"

Fortier Jones


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