Monday, October 02, 2006

Beneath the Veneer of Partisan Propaganda - The Reality of the "Liberation" of Yugoslavia




...Until recently, almost any general history of the Second World War repeated the official justification for the Allied abandonment of General Mihailovich—namely that he and forces were largely inactive against the Italians and Germans or were collaborating with them. Tito’s Partisans, so the argument ran, were supported because they were far more active militarily as evidenced by the fact that they ultimately liberated their country—the only resistance movement to do so. This particular version of wartime events in Yugoslavia is no longer regarded as credible.

In 1989, John Keegan, one of the foremost military historians writing today, published a general history of the Second World War in which he wrote:

Hindsight has also greatly diminished Tito’s achievement. At the end of the war he was widely hailed as the only resistance leader to have liberated his country by guerrilla effort…Realistically, it is now accepted that the liberation of Yugoslavia was the direct result of the arrival of Russian troops in the country in September 1944.

At last, it seems that he scales of history are moving in the right direction, reflecting the cumulative efforts of people like David Martin, Walter Roberts, Nora Beloff, Michael Lees, Prof. Steven Pavlowitch, and others. What is interesting in all of this is that the truth was first written some fifty years ago by American OSS personnel who witnessed what was happening in Yugoslavia. George Musulin, Robert McDowell, Walter Mansfield, Albert Seitz, John Milodragovich, Mike Rajacich, and Nick Lalich all came out of Yugoslavia with very favorable reports on General Mihailovich, but no one paid serious attention to them, The assumption seemed to be that any favorable assessment of Mihailovich must be the result of poor judgment and could certainly not be regarded as objective…

…One might think that if the intelligence coming from OSS officers attached to Nationalist (Mihailovich and other Chetnik leaders) forces was so faulty and biased, then that coming from officers attached to the Partisans would present an entirely different point of view. We now know that was not the case. In fact, officers with the Partisans confirmed much of the intelligence coming from OSS observers with Mihailovich.

Here are a few examples coming from the field reports of OSS personnel attached to Partisan units—reports which have only been declassified for a relatively brief period of time.

On the question of liberation or of liberated territory:

Dan Desich [ALUM] Slovenia: “All the time that I spent in Yugoslavia with the Partisans which was ten months, I never saw where, as far as the Partisans were concerned, they could stand head-to-head with the Germans and have a battle front.”

Major Richard Weil [CALIFORNIA]: “There is no territory anywhere in the country which cannot be entered by enemy troops at will, and with a minimum of resistance.”

Captain John Blatnik [ARROW] admitted that “it is not only possible to have our liberated areas overrun or cut thru by the enemy, but it could be done quickly.”

Captain John Hamilton (Sterling Hayden) [HACIENDA] (Hayden, it should be noted had previously praised the Partisans in the most laudatory terms—suggesting that a few of them could take Parris Island armed only with yo-yos. But listen to what he had to say when he gets into the interior of the country and sees beneath the veneer of Partisan propaganda): “The Partisan movement is not an expression of the people’s will.”

Hamilton characterized Partisan claims of holding “liberated territory” as “pure bunkum.” “Partisan territory is ‘free’ simply because the enemy does not care to use it at the time. When the enemy wants to, he marches in and the Partisans take to the hills.”

Indeed, Richard Weil, whose report was mentioned earlier, told a State Department official that if Tito tried to establish a fixed line the Germans would “knock the hell out of him.” So much for Partisan claims to have liberated Yugoslavia…

Dr. Kirk Ford, Jr.


Dr. Kirk Ford, Jr. is the Chairman of the Department of History and Political Science at Mississippi College in Clinton, Mississippi. He is the author of the book OSS and the Yugoslav Resistance 1943-1945, published by Texas A&M University Press, 1992.

This book is an extensively researched, in-depth, objective and truthful analysis of OSS activity attached to both the Mihailovich forces and the Partisan forces under Marshall Tito. Highly recommended for any honest pursuit of research interests in the area of World War Two Yugoslavia and the role played by the United States in relation to the Yugoslav resistance movement against the Axis forces.

Aleksandra Rebic

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