Thursday, August 31, 2006


From "THE WAR WE LOST: Yugoslavia's Tragedy and Failure of the West"

by Constantin Fotitch

Viking Press 1948


From the Chapter "The President and the Yugoslav Problem"

"One of the principal Axis lines of communication with their armies in North Africa ran through the valleys of the Morava and the Vardar, natural arteries of communication between Central Europe and Salonika, the great Aegean port. The roads and rail lines of this route ran through the heart of Serbia, which was undisputedly under Mihailovich's control and was exposed to acts of sabotage by his Chetniks. Sabotage on Nazi lines of communication was directed against bridges and tunnels, thus putting vital lines out of commission and forcing the Nazis to devote much of their precious time to repairing them. This sabotage was supplemented by no less effective acts of passive resistance by destruction of railroad materials by railroad men belonging to the Mihailovich organization. All sabotage was carried out in accordance with direct instructions from the Allied High Command in the Middle East, and from the government-in-exile, upon request of the British government. Mihailovich reported a series of acts of sabotage carried out from September to December 1942, which greatly impaired the whole Axis system of transporation.

On December 18 he reported: 'We break up some tracks every day at several points in Serbia on the line of Belgrade-Nish-Salonika and on other lines too. There are entire graveyards of damaged cars in the stations. The railroad personnel, inspired with great patriotism, performs its duty and carries out our orders.'

In another report Mihailovich informed the government-in-exile that 'in the month of December 1942 one hundred and twelve out of three hundred and sixty-two locomotives on the Belgrade-Salonika line were thrown out of order by sabotage. All of these locomotives were out of order for several weeks at a time. Of six thousand cars on the normal gauge railway more than 35 percent were out of order only because of sand which had been poured into the oil.'

On December 29 Mihailovich informed the government that 'the action for destruction of the railway yards in Serbia on the Belgrade-Salonika line is yielding excellent results. There is a great standstill in communications.'

But acts of sabotage were followed by brutal acts of reprisal on the part of the Germans. 'A large group of railroad men were shot,' reported Mihailovich on December 18. "Every day the Germans announce a list of of the ones shot in order to frighten the people." General Bader, the Nazi commander in Serbia, issued orders which were posted throughout the country that 'for every destroyed objective one hundred hostages from the nearest vicinity are to be shot immediately.' In carrying out these orders, 'the Germans have been mass-shooting in all parts of Serbia,' Mihailovich reported to the government-in-exile on December 15 [1942]. They were killing innocent peasants accused of being Mihailovich followers.

There is no better testimony regarding the effectiveness of the sabotage against Axis armies in North Africa than Hitler's New Year's message to the German people on January 1, 1944. The Fuhrer, among other things, said:

'The true cause of the difficulties in North Africa and in the Balkans was in reality the persistent attempt at sabotage and paralyzation by the plutocratic enemies.

Their continued sabotage succeeded in stopping supplies to Africa and elsewhere by every new method of passive resistance, thus preventing our soldiers and the Italians standing on their side from receiving the material wherewithal for the conduct of the struggle.'

The effectiveness of Mihailovich's contribution to the Allied campaign in North Africa was confirmed and commended by the highest British military authorities. In a telegram addressed to Mihailovich on August 16, 1942, Admiral Sir Henry Harwood, Commander of the Mediterranean Fleet; General Sir Claude Auchinleck; and Air Marshal Tedder, Commander of the Air Force in the Middle East, said:

'With admiration we are following your directed operations which are of inestimable value to our allied cause.'

On December 1, 1942, the Chief of the Imperial General Staff sent the following greetings to General Mihailovich in connection with Yugoslavia's Unity Day:

'In the name of the British Imperial General Staff I cannot let the twenty-fourth anniversary of the unification of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes into one Kingdom pass without expressing my felicitations for the wonderful undertaking of the Yugoslav Army. I am not thinking only of the forces which have joined the ranks of our army in the Near East in the triumphant hour but also of your undefeatable Chetniks under your command who are fighting night and day under the most difficult war conditions.' "


Constantin Fotitch was the Minister and Ambassador of the Royal Yugoslav government to the United States (1935-44)

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