Tuesday, July 18, 2006



The Obituary of General Mihailovich

as published in

The New York Times

July 18, 1946

The fingers of history, rustling through the pages of the Second World War, may provide an ironic postscript to the scene that took place at dawn yesterday somewhere in the vicinity of Belgrade when General Draza Mihailovich crumpled before the bullets of a Yugoslav firing squad. The record is fairly obvious now. A more complete search and study of the files of the German General Staff, and a historical assessment of the various factors that entered into the successful defense of Moscow by the Red Army during the fall and winter of 1941, may show that the one important factor was the time that was bought for the Russians in the spring of 1941 by Yugoslavia and Mihailovich. On the record written thus far, the Russian-controlled Tito government has taken the life of a man to whom Russia owes a great debt.
The recorded facts of the German attack on Yugoslavia and Soviet Russia in 1941 are these, as testified to by von Paulus, the German commander in Stalingrad, and by Jodl the former German Chief of Staff, before the Allied Tribunal at Nuremberg:

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


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