The hopes of Europe turn to an unlikely place

Wright-Patterson Air Force Base is the biggest employer in Ohio, and one of the most sophisticated military bases in the country. That didn’t necessarily mean they could host a summit of world leaders at a moment’s notice!


a small reference map of Dayton
photo of Col. Garald K. Robinson

Col. Garald K. “Robbie” Robinson, 88th Air Base Wing Commander at that time, had only two weeks to prepare. The base had a venue for the meeting, the Hope Hotel. To walk back to the houses where each delegation was staying, Col. Robinson asked for a beautiful pathway to be constructed between the buildings. That curved concrete walkway is now known as The Peace Walk:

photo of a winding pathway leading towards brick buildings at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base

Above images: courtesy of US Air Force

There were many people who helped make Dayton into a city of peacemaking.

Whether it was providing hospitality at the Hope Hotel, or hosting the dignitaries at important dinners and a symphony, holding vigils at the gates of Wright-Patterson, or simply praying quietly... Daytonians gave their hearts to help the leaders of Eastern Europe to find their way to a peaceful solution and stop the loss of more innocent lives.



Solving conflict through persuasion

While WAR is the way that countries try to settle disputes through the raw power of weapons, the practice of DIPLOMACY is how they resolve things without resorting to violence. Or as Ambassador Frowick once said: “Diplomacy is the art of letting the other guy have your way.”


photo of all of the leaders seated in the negotiating room, centered on Secretary of State Warren Christopher.

Photo ©1995 by Skip Peterson. Used with permission

Diplomacy requires understanding the motivations of the other nations before deciding on the best negotiation techniques.

When Bosnia declared its independence, the opposing factions resorted directly to war, bypassing diplomacy. For three years, Europe’s leaders could not persuade the parties to negotiate due to rising tensions and animosity.

Yet even when countries go to war, the need for diplomacy does not vanish, because peace terms will still have to be negotiated.


T-minus  one – Delegations arrive:11 days later


footage: NBC Newscenter 7, CNN • 30 Oct 1995

Finally, a major breakthrough!3 days later


Tudjman and Milošević agreed to a timetable for the return of the eastern territory back to Croatia. They did insist on sending the terms back to local leaders there, so it could appear as though locals decided on this solution, not the heavy hand of Croatia and Serbia.

This became a spectacular diplomatic win for Tudjman. He regained the territory for Croatia without the outbreak of a separate war, which had almost seemed inevitable.

Day 13:1 week later


A new “American map” for splitting up the territory caused all three presidents to refuse to talk with each other. Holbrooke and his team shuttled among them to negotiate.

At the end of a very long day, Holbrooke sent a message to his boss, Warren Christopher:

“This has become a last warning to get serious. Stopover on your way to Japan, with the clear message that we must have either closure or closedown.”

Source: Richard Holbrooke, To End a War (Random House, 1998)

Day 20 – Time running out:the next morning


President Milošević exploded in anger when he realized that Bosnians were going to negotiate for 55% of the national territory. Milošević insisted that Republika Srpska must retain 49% of the land under any circumstances!

Behind the scenes, it was a mad dash of events... click here to learn more.

footage: NBC Newscenter 7, CNN • 20 Nov 1995

Day 21 – Talks have failed!Then, the last minute


That morning, Holbrooke huddled his staff to thank them for trying, and to begin to shut down the talks.

footage: Channel 2 News, ABC News, CNN • 21 Nov 1995

Suddenly he was summoned to meet Milošević.

Day 21 – OVERTIME:

Serbia made its final offer: to agree to decide the status of Brčko one year later, and the Americans could choose the arbitrator.

Holbrooke raced to Tudjman, who accepted the deal immediately. Holbrooke brought the deal to the Bosnian delegation. They reacted with silence.

Slowly, Holbrooke repeated the details of the deal. He was again met with silence.

Finally, President Izetbegović spoke:

“It is not a just peace,” he said, and paused. “But my people need peace.”

A deal was made! In the next few hours, while the world waited, final decisions were made about refugee voting, the Annex documents, and the location of the last 1% of land.

Source: Richard Holbrooke, To End a War (Random House, 1998)


Signing Ceremony on Nov. 21, 1995next page


Footage: CNN
Fourth page of the Dayton Peace Accord document, bearing the signed initials of Alija Izetbegović, Franjo Tudjman, and Slobodan Milošević

This is the signature page from that ceremony. (Although a typo here refers to Paris, it was indeed initialed in Dayton.) The formal signatures occurred in Paris later, on December 14, 1995.