Croatian Nationalists on Trial for the 1976 Hijacking of TWA Flight 355

U.S. v. Busic, 592 F.2d 13 (2d Cir. 1978)

TWA Flight 355 took off from LaGuardia on September 10, 1976, bound for O’Hare. An hour and a half into the flight, five Croatian nationalists hijacked the plane by claiming to have a bomb on board. They were Slobodan Vlašić, Zvonko Bušić, Julienne Bušić, Peter Matanić, and Frane Pešut.

In order to substantiate their threat, the hijackers placed a bomb at Grand Central Station and told officials where to find it. Police located the device and took it to a firing range for dismantling. The bomb exploded, killing a police officer.

Meanwhile, the hijackers directed Flight 355’s pilot to fly to a Montreal Airport for refueling, and there they outlined their demands: major American newspapers were to publish stories advocating an independent Croatian state. Julienne Bušić handed out fliers to passengers, detailing their mission, as Flight 355 flew from Montreal to Newfoundland. The hijackers selected women, children, and the old and infirm to leave the plane once it landed.  Bušić asked a priest if he would like to go, but he requested to stay.

The plane went from Newfoundland to Iceland, and from Iceland to Paris, where final negotiations failed and the hijackers confessed their on-board bombs were nothing but clay.

Julienne Bušić, Matanić, Pešut, and Vlašić were all released from prison by the late 1980s. Zvonko Bušić remained incarcerated until 2008, when he was deported to Croatia and met on arrival by 500 people, including high-ranking Croatian politicians.