HE HELPED SAVE MOSCOW
The Obituary of General Mihailovich
as published in
The New York Times
July 18, 1946
Hitler drew his plan for the attack on Russia in December 1940. At that time he hoped to absorb the Balkans without a fight. This would have secured his right flank for the attack on Russia. Mihailovic, then a colonel, was among an influential group in Yugoslavia that resisted an alliance with Germany, overthrew the pro-Nazi Government and installed one favorable to the Allies. When it became evident that Yugoslavia would not yield without a fight, von Paulus tells us, Hitler set the date of the drive on Yugoslavia for March and that against Russia for five weeks later. The attack on Yugoslavia actually was launched on April 6th, 1941.
While Hitler was preparing his move against Yugoslavia, the new Yugoslav Government at once sent emissaries to Moscow seeking a mutual assistance pact. The best that it could get was first, a promise to remain neutral, then a treaty of friendship. The Ribbentrop-Molotov non-aggression pact was still in force then.
The initial German attack on Yugoslavia made swift progress. The Government was driven from Belgrade. In the hills, however, a new Yugoslav hero emerged. Mihailovic, fighting a gallant delaying action, rallied the remnants of the Yugoslav Army and began an open and effective guerrilla resistance to the German Army. Because of this unexpected resistance, the German’s timetable of five weeks between the attack on Yugoslavia and the drive on the Soviets stretched to ten weeks. When it began, June 22nd, it was weakened by the necessity of maintaining several divisions in Yugoslavia to hold that flank.
Everyone knows the rest of the story. Delayed three months beyond the time originally set for the attack, the German Army failed to reach Moscow before the dreaded Russian winter had set in. With the help of winter, the Red Army held the line in front of Moscow. Hundreds of thousands of Germans who had expected to garrison in the shelter of the Russian capital died instead in the icy trenches a few miles away. There is good reason to believe that this – even more than the defense of Stalingrad – was the turning point of the German-Russian conflict.
History may decide that it is not Tito - who was in Belgrade while Mihailovich was fighting in the hills in those early days - but the executed Chetnik leader whose statue should stand in Red Square in Moscow.
Mihailovich fell yesterday in Belgrade.
The New York Times July 18, 1946
Posted under Fair Use provision
Portrait of General Mihailovich
by portrait artist Jim Pollard 1981