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The Story Behind THE WARRIORS

By Tom Young

Twenty years ago, Sarajevo burned. From 1992 to 1995, the Bosnian capital endured one of the worst sieges of modern warfare. Before the war in Bosnia ended, more than 100,000 people lost their lives.

In my new military thriller, THE WARRIORS, Air Force officer Michael Parson faces a war criminal who wants to finish what he helped start during the Bosnian conflict. Wealthy arms dealer Viktor Dušić hopes to use a terrorist attack as the match to reignite the flames that ravaged that part of the world two decades ago.

I witnessed that conflict by taking on two vastly different roles—one of them by reporting on the war through the media, and the other by serving in the military.

In Washington, DC, I helped coordinate coverage of the Balkan wars as a producer, editor, and newsroom supervisor for the broadcast division of the Associated Press. As a flight engineer with the Air National Guard, I flew airlift missions in Bosnia and Kosovo on C-130 Hercules cargo planes.

We flew our Herks over shelled villages and besieged towns, sometimes delivering food and medicine, sometimes delivering weapons for NATO combat missions.

Those flights seemed otherworldly, bringing relief supplies to a region where an ethnic group had been targeted for extinction. This kind of thing wasn’t supposed to happen anymore. After the Holocaust, the world had said Never Again. Yet it was happening before our eyes, and the international community was slow to react.

As a journalist, I found the debate in the U.S. frustrating. Whether American politicians supported or opposed action seemed to depend on party affiliation. Academics split hairs over whether it was really genocide. (At that time, there was a macabre newsroom joke about when to use the word “massacre.” Not enough dead? Then here’s the lead: Five people killed in Sarajevo today narrowly avoided being massacred.)

Flashbacks in THE WARRIORS recreate scenes from 1990s headlines, including one of the era’s most poignant stories—the murder of “The Bosnian Romeo and Juliet.” On May 19, 1993, Admira Ismic and Bosko Brkic were shot to death as they attempted to flee over the Vrbanja bridge in Sarajevo. According to reports, Ismic and Brkic had dated for years, and they were buried together. She was a Muslim; he was a Christian.

Iraq and Afghanistan have since eclipsed the Bosnian war in the American consciousness. But to this day, war crimes suspects from the 1990s are being tracked down. To this day, mass graves are being unearthed in Bosnia.

We owe remembrance to those dead, and I hope this novel offers a small reminder.


Tom YoungTom Young has logged more than 4,000 flying hours for the Air National Guard in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo, Bosnia, and elsewhere. His previous novels are THE MULLAH’S STORM, SILENT ENEMY, and THE RENEGADES. Military honors include two Air Medals, three Aerial Achievement Medals, and the Air Force Combat Action Medal. He holds B.A. and M.A. degrees in Mass Communication from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

To learn more about Tom, please visit his website.