Thursday, August 31, 2006
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 . 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)
Wednesday, August 23, 2006
Captain Nick A. Lalich, left, with General Draza Mihailovich, center, and O.S.S. Radioman Arthur Jibilian, right, preparing to say Good-bye, December 1944, in Bosnia.
Captain Nick A. Lalich, a WWII American O.S.S. Officer, was instrumental in setting up and successfully carrying through the "Halyard Rescue Operation" (Halyard Mission) in Nazi occupied Yugoslavia in 1944, during which over 500 American airmen along with a couple hundred other Allied airmen were safely evacuated from behind enemy lines and returned to their families and their homes. He was an honored speaker at the 50th Anniversary "Halyard Mission Commemoration" on May 31, 1994 which was part of the weeklong D-Day anniversary celebration in Chicago, Illinois. He described for the audience what it was like to be there during those critical months in 1944, reliving for us his rememberance of the greatest rescue of American lives from behind enemy lines in the history of warfare.
Captain Nick A. Lalich:
...I would first like to recognize the following people, those who are here, and those who are not, who have been so active in the cause:
Metropolitan Iriney, Serbian Orthodox Metropolinate, New Gracanica, Illinois; Metropolitan Christopher, Serbian Orthodox Metropolinate, Libertyville, Illinois; Honorary Chairman Mayor Richard Daley, City of Chicago; Colonel Kenneth A. Plummer, Committee Co-Chairman; Rade Rebic, Chairman "Halyard Mission Celebration"; his daughter Aleksandra Rebic; Honorable Congressman Philip M. Crane; the Honorable Edward J. Derwinski; and Major Richard L. Felman, President of the National Committee of American Airmen rescued by General Mihailovich.
I would like to pay tribute and dedicate this presentation to:
General Draza Mihailovich
Captain George "Guv" Musulin
and the American airmen rescued by General Mihailovich
Since the "Halyard Mission" is being celebrated here in Chicago, let me name a few American airmen from the Chicago tri-state area who are being honored:
Major General Donald J. Smith
William L. Rogers
Major Kenneth C. Fulven
Charles Kenneth Gracz
Richard S. Sheehy
Robert I. Wilson
Donald H. Parkenson
David E. La Bissoniere
William A. Crockett
Arthur J. Lund
David J. O'Connell, Jr.
Robert W. Eckman (who died just this last February 5, 1994 who came out with the last group of airmen, Halyard's last evacuation, December 27th, 1944)
During July of 1946, many of these flyers, and many more across the country, flew to Washington, D.C. hoping to persuade Congress and the U.S. State Department to intervene to save Draza Mihailovich from the communist firing squad. They also generated many media news stories favoring the General.
Before I narrate the rescue of the American airmen, starting with the night evacuation of August 9, 1944, I would like to recognize two very important Americans who contributed greatly to the Halyard Mission:
The late Colonel Nick Stepanovich, U.S. Army from nearby Indiana Harbor. Colonel Nick was the one who recommended and helped recruit our American Serbs in the O.S.S. -- we are grateful and proud.
Major George Vujnovich (Ambridge, PA and New York City) who was the O.S.S. chief in Bari, Italy and responsible for selecting and sending into Yugoslavia the Halyard Mission members to Draza Mihailovich.
Now to narrate to you some excerpts from my diary - the dramatic daylight rescue of the American airmen from enemy-occupied Serbia and Bosnia...
August 9 , after the first night evacuation of 48 injured airmen, including our Major Felman, I reminded Captain George Musulin, our leader of the Halyard Mission, that headquarters, Bari, Italy, was going ahead with the daylight evacuation - this morning, August 10th - today, yes, today - of 240 American airmen, from a make-shift airfield at the mountain plateau of Pranjani, near Ravna Gora, only 60 miles southwest of Belgrade, with the German headquarters for the Balkans in Serbia proper.
Back at our headquarters "Gov" Musulin and I caught a few winks plus a bite to eat -- we went over our plans -- all American airmen were ordered to be at the airstrip no later than 8:00 in the morning. We were expecting to arrive at 8:15 a.m. 6 C-47 air transports with 25 P-51 fighter escorts as coverage. At 9:15 a.m. another group of air transports were to arrive with air coverage.
Gosh, I could hardly wait!
The people in the nearby villages were absolutely tops - to think that each of our 240 airmen were given a comfortable lodging with food by the Serbian people. They had faith in our airmen and in the Halyard Mission -- that's what I call real democracy.
We are ready! The field was as inviting as a billiard table - our Chetnik guard was out 8,000 strong. Suddenly, I heard the Brrr-rr of plane engines -- they were coming - 6 C47s with a fighter cover escort of 25 P-51s. What a sight! My God, it was beautiful! The pilots of the 60th troop carrier command.
The fighters buzzed the vicinity of Gornji Milanovac, Chachak, and other nearby German-occupied areas -- everything seemed okay. I let out a sigh of relief and turned to watch. The people were straining their eyes upward, disbelief on their faces - then cheering and waving. They pounded each other on the back so full of emotion! That here was "the greatest show on earth!" And what a show they put on - our American air force.
Six C-47s landed at 8:45 a.m. Twenty airmen went to each plane. We boarded 120 airmen on the first six planes. Then at 9:15 six more planes arrived. The remaining 120 airmen were boarded and off they went!
At last it was over. 12 planes flew away. Gosh, we sure sweated them out. Some 300 peasants had rushed the field to say 'Good-bye' to the American flyers. Flowers were being strewn all over the airfield - the airmen were throwing out their clothing - jackets, shoes, etc. The people were crying - honestly, by far, the greatest day in my life!
During the months of August and early September, the Halyard Mission continued daylight and night evacuations from Pranjani. The count of American airmen, American civilians, Russians, Italians, French and British evacuated was over 380 at that time.
On August 29th, Captain George S. Musulin, leader of the Halyard Mission, was recalled to Bari, Italy to prepare new escape routes and airfields. I, in turn, was put in full charge of the Halyard Mission.
With Tito's communist Partisans making attacks on Draza Mihailovich's forces, the Halyard Mission moved with Draza over the Suvobor Mountain into Mijonica. We proceeded to Koceljevo in Machva to locate a new airstrip. September 17th two C-47s landed at noon to evacuate 24 airmen and Dr. Carpenter and Dr. Mitrani, his two aides and our naval officer, along with O.S.S. photographer J.B. Allin. It was a successful evacuation.
From Koceljevo, we moved toward Bosnia, crossing the Drina River at Badovinci to Medjaci -- on toward the Trebava mountains, picking up American airmen on the way. There we met Father Sava, leader priest of the Chetnik forces for that area of Bosnia.
We moved south toward Doboj, where we could observe the German garrison from a nearby mountain. We then crossed the Sprechna River, moving to Boljanic where we readied a new airstrip for possible evacuations then headed south toward Sarajevo and on to Okruglice, after crossing the Krivaja River at Stog. Colonel McDowell, of the RANGER Intelligence Mission was recalled back to Bari, Italy. The mission and eight American airmen returned to Boljanic where they were evacuated on November 1, 1944. I was told to continue with the Halyard Mission and stay with Draza -- also told to pick up 16 additional American airmen in Visegrad. Instead, the 16 airmen arrived with an escort in Okruglice with our American citizen Bobby Marijanovich of Alquippa, Pennsylvania.
The Halyard Mission was ordered to evacuate -- we now had 16 airmen all in terrible physical shape. In addition, we had received word that 9 more airmen were holding up at Boljanic, waiting for our arrival.
Bari suggested two proposals for our evacuation:
First, have the nine airmen at Boljanic join us at Okruglice, then move to Bugojno, across the Bosna River, then travel to the Adriatic Sea for a pick-up. Second, turn ourselves, the Halyard Mission with our 25 flyers, over to Tito's Partisans. My answer: "No way!" I insisted that, "since you people sent me in - I want you to come and evacuate us - including all the airmen at Boljanic, our last last airstrip." O.S.S. approved!
The 15th Air Force came to get us on December 27th at noon. Two C-47s and a cover of 17 P-51s - the ' 51s' known as "The Black Squadron". They were terrific. All came from Foggia, Italy. It was a successful evacuation.
Now to recall our last day in Okruglice, Bosnia, with Draza Mihailovich:
Before leaving Draza, I told him that O.S.S. headquarters had gotten permission from our State Department, via George Vujnovich, Chief of Operations in Bari, Italy, to bring Draza out of Yugoslavia.
Draza quoted to me from Georges Danton, the leader of the French Revolution:
"You can't," he said, "carry your country out on the sole of your shoes."
He then told me this:
"I was born here on this this soil. I will stay with my people on this soil, and I will be buried in this soil."
[Lalich becomes visibly teary-eyed.]
We left Draza Mihailovich on the 11th of December, 1944, with our American flyers, from the village of Okruglice, not too far from Sarajevo. There, in the pre-morning dawn, during a heavy snowfall, Draza Mihailovich assembled two thousand of his Chetniks for a farewell salute to the 16 flyers of the Halyard Mission, who were leaving Draza's Ravna Gora fighters, the first guerrilla forces in Europe.
There, in front of his troops, we kissed Draza 'good-bye' -- yes, the American airmen, Jibby, and I -- Jibby, of course, being the radio operator. Draza presented me with a "Kama" - a two edged Serbian knife and also a Kama for Captain George Vujnovich.
Draza then tore off his Serbian patch, an insignia he had worn for four years, and gave it to me as an uspomena - a souvenir. It said: "Samo Sloga Srbina Spasava" - "Only Unity Saves the Serbs."
I, in turn, gave Draza my American carbine, I told him he never did receive Allied jets and other material to fight this war. I had a deep sadness in my heart. I could hardly talk. In fact, tears rolled down my cheeks. Believe you me, it was a sad situation.
I thanked Draza for returning to America our American airmen and allies. What else could I say but, "Hvala za sve" - Thank you for everything.
We parted, our airmen, Jibby, and I, waving to Draza. The Chetnik rifles saluted long in the morning.
For the trip back to the Boljanic airstrip, Draza gave us 40 Chetniks, led by "Shane", the champion skier of Yugoslavia - he really knew the mountains in the snow and would help carry us over the hardships - and Major Blagojevich as my liaison officer. We slowly took through the Zvezda planina, over to Stog, across the Krivaja River, across the Ozren mountains, stopping for Serbian Orthodox church services at the monastery, and on to Boljanic where our brave American airmen, Jibby, and I, were evacuated on December 27, 1944.
Slava Chici. The glory to Draza.
--- Standing ovation ---
Note: Captain Nick Lalich passed away on May 11, 2001 in Baltimore, Maryland at the age of 85.
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
STATUS OF ALLIED LIAISON OFFICERS WITH THE PARTISANS in Yugoslavia
From THE MCDOWELL REPORT November 23, 1944
In many communities visited which had at one time or another experienced occupation by Partisan troops [Tito's Yugoslav communist forces], conversations with the Mission staff turned to the presence of Allied Liaison officers with the Partisans. No question was raised as to the reason liaison was maintained. But invariably in communities which had been visited by such liaison officers the question was raised as to why there were so few, or no, contacts on the part of these officers and the local population. Invariably the story was told of efforts to meet and talk with such officers which were frustrated by the Partisans around them. The free manner in which the present misson mingled with the local population emphasized in their minds the apparent fear on the part of the Partisan leaders of the results of the free contacts. In some communities there was a conviction that the officers in British uniform were actually only Partisans trying to pass as British, and that this explained the barrier. There is ample evidence, of course, from both British and American officers that the Partisan commanders in most instances do discourage or forbid personal investigation by liaison officers of the local situation and sentiments. To the undersigned, indeed, it is truly astonishing that this practice on the part of the Partisans -- and the contrasting freedom consistently enjoyed by liaison officers attached to the Nationalists [Mihailovich forces] -- is not given the significance which it deserves. For only those who fear and mistrust public sentiment seek to throttle its free expression. But the point the undersigned wishes to make here is that the Nationalists do recognize the significance of this Partisan practice, and it serves to complete their mistrust of Partisan leaders and their unwillingness to come to terms with them. Repeatedly Nationalists of all classes have insisted to the undersigned --
"If we accept a government by Tito we are lost. The Partisans lie, and the British believe them. The British send officers, but they see and hear nothing. We will be persecuted and killed, and the outside world will know nothing of it."
This conviction on the part of Nationalists is sincere and deep, and it again explains the elevation of the Partisans to the status of most dangerous enemy.
Robert H. McDowell Lt. Col. M.I.
Head of American Intelligence Mission RANGER sent to the Mihailovich forces from August to November 1944
Monday, August 07, 2006
THE U.S. CONGRESSIONAL RECORD
CLEARING THE NAME OF A YUGOSLAV PATRIOT
The Honorable Joe Barton of Texas
In the House of Representatives
Tuesday May 14, 1985
Mr. Barton of Texas: Mr. Speaker, at this period when the international community is reflecting on World War II, new information is surfacing changing how some key figures in that conflict will be remembered in history.
During the past 40 years, a group of American fliers have been attempting to clear the name of a Yugoslav general who saved their lives. We now know there was an organized effort to discredit Gen. Draza Mihailovich as a Nazi collaborator.
The following article from the National Security Record details this new information and sets the record straight on General Mihailovich's heroic accomplishments:
SOVIET DISINFORMATION FORTY YEARS LATER
After four decades, the release of previously classified documents casts light on what may have been one of the most successful Soviet campaigns of disinformation ever conducted. The target was General Draza Mihailovich, leader of Yugoslavia's Chetnik guerrillas who rescued some 512 American airmen during World War II. For years many of those airmen have been trying to clear the name of the anti-communist guerrilla leader who rescued them.
Initially hailed as a hero by the Anglo-American allies for his guerrilla campaign against the Nazis, Mihailovich was abandoned at Russian insistence at the Yalta Conference in favor of Tito, who was leading the communist Partisans in Yugoslavia. After the war Tito executed Mihailovich on charges of collaborating with the Germans. But the American flyers, who lived with the Chetniks until they were evacuated, have been saying that Mihailovich was a Serbian patriot who fought hard against the Nazis in the hope of establishing a democratic government in Yugoslavia.
Now the release of formerly top secret intelligence reports from a team of OSS agents that spent ten weeks in Yugoslavia during World War II, together with the release of formerly classified British documents, confirms that the charges of collaboration were fabricated by Soviet agents. The central figure in this conspiracy was James Klugman, a member of the executive committee of the British Communist Party, considered the most brilliant of the "Cambridge Group" of Soviet agents organized by British master spy Kim Philby.
Early in 1942 Klugman gained assignment to the British Special Operations station in Cairo, where he was responsible for allied intelligence collection in Yugoslavia. In this key position, Klugman controlled intelligence reports from Yugoslavia, systematically suppressing those that were favorable those that were favorable to Mihailovich and the Chetniks. Klugman revised or misdirected airdrops of supplies to Chetnik forces and with the help of Philby in London was instrumental in convincing the British Government that Mihailovich was a collaborator.
Klugman also suppressed reports of the rescue of American flyers by the Chetniks but eventually word of their existence was picked up by a chance radio reception and an OSS mission was sent to evacuate them. In addition to the favorable testimony of the flyers, the official OSS report prepared in 1944 by team leader Lt. Col. Robert H. McDowell, a former university professor of Balkan studies, denies that there was any evidence of Chetnik collaboration and states :
"On the contrary, there was ample evidence the General [Mihailovich], the field commanders and the Nationalist political leaders were filled with a burning hatred for the Germans much beyond that held by British and Americans."
Recent revelations by Milovan Djilas, once Tito's deputy, indicate that the principal aim of Tito's Partisans during World War II, as with communist resistance movements elsewhere, was to win the civil against the nationalist Chetniks. The communist's victory ws sealed when they executed Mihailovich, their rival for national leadership. Yet the disinformation campaign conducted by Klugman and Philby, and perpetuated by the Yugoslav communist government, was so successful that the belief persists 40 years after the war that Gen. Mihailovich was a Nazi collaborator. The surviving American flyers now believe that the declassified documents finally have cleared the name of the Yugoslav patriot who saved them.
Washington D.C. May 14, 1985 Vol. 131 No. 62
Friday, August 04, 2006
MEDITATION ON THE DEATH OF MIHAILOVICH
By Robert Speaight in 'Time and Tide' (London) August 17,1946.
"As I sit writing these lines in the early dawn before a motionless sea, Mihailovich is facing the firing squad. I am not concerned with what the first of the Maquisards is supposed to have done or not to have done; what worries me is that nobody bothers about him...no, I am not going to pray for this world any longer, as it sits crouched on the atomic bomb, yellow with hatred, with its tongue babbling of social justice and its heart empty of love."
Soon after reading this extract from Georges Bernano's article in La Bataille, I came across a paragraph by Jean and Jerome Tharaud which told me that the last book Mihailovich was known to read was a volume of Maupassant. It is tantalizing not to know which story or novel he had chosen or found at hand, but it is not surprising that the tortured and betrayed patriot should have gone to his death bilious with the hatred of humanity. And then, as if in confirmation of his pessimism, I read that The Times gave its imprimatur to the verdict. The gentlemen of fortune who now direct the destinies of Serbia do not believe in an undue preparation for eternity. But there were still twenty-four precious hours during which the remnants of the Christian world could have conveyed its opinion to the man whom convention compels me to call Marshal Tito. The Professors of Printing House Square did not lose a minute -- they told him to go ahead. And so the murder of Draza Mihailovich becomes, like the murder of Jeanne d'Arc, a case for the English conscience.
It may be argued that after Miss Rebecca West's conclusive article in Time and Tide, there is nothing more to be said about Mihailovich. In a sense, that is true; no further argument is necessary. But it is of the essence of this particular judicial murder that men will go on discussing it for a very long time to come and those Englishmen who retain a memory of justice will ask themselves how far they or their fellow-countrymen were responsible. If they have lived through the last few years, it is not difficult to take the questions out of their mouths. Not for the first time, they will say, men have betrayed their friends to placate their enemies; but all the same it was an ironic accident that the Prime Minister who did more than any other single man to save the shreds of European freedom in 1940, should have consumated the most ignoble, the most fatuous, the most gratuitous and certainly one of the most fatal errors in the annals of British diplomacy. Having said this, they will admit that Mr. Churchill at least made the beginnings of an amende honorable-- and for a great man that is already a great deal-- but they will ask what happened to all those other voices that were so loud for liberty in 1940? Why were they so curiously silent, those porte-paroles of the national conscience, before the advance of an atheistic Communism, which, having no use for God, naturally has no use for man?
I am writing this far from home, and it is rueful to reflect that even here , where the Alps rise in their eternal poetry beyond the Lac de Bourget, one can still be asphyxiated by the fumes of English hypocrisy. Perhaps the old voices have spoken. I do not know. Perhaps Mr. Priestley has returned to the microphone. Perhaps Mr. Kingsley Martin has remembered that when Czechoslovakia was murdered at Munich he still still considered murder a capital offence. Perhaps someone has even introduced the thin end of a principle into the foreign policy of The Economist. I am sorry to be so personal. But these were the people who once told us what was what, and their immense public will be curious to know what they think about the murder of Mihailovich. One is beginning to be able to count them on the fingers of two hands -- the Just Men of the Left. Mr. Gollancz, Lord Beveridge, Lord Pakenham, and a few others. They have been alone for all too long. The Labour Party, which has always derived its strength fron English idealism and the English instinct for natural law, has need of some moral breakwaters. In the nature of things--or at least in the nature of politics--Mr. Bevin cannot go on forever. And there is always Dr. Dalton.
These are speculations, but when we enter the realm of certainty to find out what has happened to the English conscience, we discover that The Times approved the verdict. We know very little about the theology of Printing House Square, but somewhere among those panellede rooms there must surely be an altar dedicated to the fait accompli. The memory of The Times, which is more or less the same thing as the memory of mankind, is presumably immune fron the pain of inconvenient reminders; so I shall hardly flutter an editorial hair if I recall the good advice given to the Czechs to sacrifice themselves to the Germans, or to the Poles to sacrifice themselves to the Russians, or to the Greeks and Yugoslavs to hand themselves over to the same benefactors. They are quite simple--the formula of the new realism. Find out which of the Great Powers, at any given moment, is most imminently hostile to the basic principles of European freedom, then persuade all your friends to commit hara-kiri in order that the Power in question may become practically invincible; finally, "having exhausted every reasonable compromise" -- for that is the official meiosis for the betrayal of an Ally--show wide-eyed surprise and an immense moral indignation when your own positions are attacked. These are, in one respect of course, the politics of Bedlam; but they are also are also, viewed at a more profound level, the politics of a fundamental scepticism, and they illustrate very vividly the relation between Truth and Action. Like Pontius Pilate, The Times asks itself the question of "What is truth?" and like Pilate it is careful to wash its hands. But somehow I doubt whether Pilate himself would have welcomed a leading article in approbation of his own sentence on the day when Roman justice succumbed to a show of hands.
The death of Mihailovich will have served its mournful purpose if it makes clear to the most confused intelligence that there have been two wars in Europe and that our Allies of the first are our enemies of the second. The professional revolutionary whom conviction compels me to call Marshal Tito, has explained it to us. The sentence on Mihailovich was a "sentence on international reaction"; after all, this convinced Orthodox Serb had not scrupled to have "certain dealings with the Catholic Church." Very well, we know where we are; but if we are to be saved--for this is indeed a matter of salvation--we must recognize the enemy within the gates of our country, and, even more importantly, within the gates of our own conscience. There is an old formula which tells us the ways in which sin may be committed, cogitatione, locutione, opere et omissone; it is a formula from which there is no escape. Let everyone who has been occupied these last few years with politics or publicity ask himself whether he is wholly innocent of the blood of this just man.
Reprinted from "The World's Verdict" 1947
Wednesday, August 02, 2006
"I salute a brave Officer...who, faithful to the end...met an undeserved death with unflinching courage."
Brigadier Charles D. Armstrong
Brigadier Charles D. Armstrong was a World War Two British Liaison Officer who was the last chief of the British Army Mission to be stationed at the headquarters of General Draza Mihailovich, September 27, 1943-June 1, 1944.
The following tribute to General Mihailovich was from Brigadier Armstrong's rememberance in 1966 honoring the 25th anniversary of the uprising in Yugoslavia and the 20th anniversary year of the General's passing.
Twenty five years ago the Royal Yugoslav Army, knowing inevitable defeat would be their ultimate fate, stood determined to face the German blitzkrieg. This defiance delayed the Germans for [five] weeks in their attack on Russia, sufficient time as it turned out, for the Russian winter to set in and save Moscow. A magnificent victory in defeat for the Royal Yugoslav Army. From the holocaust in Yugoslavia some gallant remnants made their way into the mountains and there, around Draza Mihailovich, a growing army of Chetniks, lacking arms but certainly not courage, planned further resistance to the invader.
By 1942 news of this shadow force was trickling out of the Balkans and we in the West heard that many, who had escaped capture, were now organized into a fighting force under the command of a Colonel Mihailovich. Little else did we know at that time. First Colonel Hudson who was landed from a submarine and later Colonel Bailey made contact with the new leader which resulted in more definate news reaching us.
It was not until the Summer of 1943 in North Africa after completion of that campaign that I was given the opportunity to parachute into General Mihailovich's H.Q.
After three abortive attempts, during which time the General had waiting on the landing ground, my pilot found the dropping zone. This time Mihailovich had retired to bed doubting I would ever arrive.
At our first meeting the next morning I was most courteously welcomed but could not help feeling this quiet, blue eyed and heavily bearded man studying me through thick lensed glasses was pondering the reason I had come.
He had not asked for me. I suppose you might say I had been thrust upon him. Later I sometimes thought he might well ask 'was your journey really necessary?' More especially as I was never able to satisfy his earlier hopes of a speedy and abundant supply of arms for his Chetniks. His frequent requests to me, duly passed on to H.Q. in Cairo, were more often than not met with a reply either that four engined aircraft necessary for the eight hour flight were not available or weather conditions over the Balkans, especially during the Winter months, made flying conditions impossible. For security reasons our respective headquarters were situated in different villages. I therefore only met him by appointment when either he or I had messages or plans to discuss.
The General by now was Commander of all Royalist forces in Yugoslavia, Minister of War in the Government now in exile and had become the focal point for the underground civil administration in Serbia.
Handicapped by lack of a trained military staff, suffering from inadequate means of communications, he appeared to me at all times undismayed and determined to fight on and free his country of all its enemies. I confess I was filled with admiration at the calm way he dealt with his daily problems. I can not have been one of the smallest of these with my requests for positive military action against the Germans.
Unfortunately about now our war aims started to diverge. Ours, a short term policy with requests for action to help in the defeat of the Germans as quickly as was possible. The General on the other hand knew the Allies would win the war, and taking the long term view of the problems, was concerned as to the best way he could conserve his forces in order to be able to win the peace in Yugoslavia.
The Germans, demoniac psychologists that they are, were inflicting fearful retribution on the population in the vicinity of any Chetnik action. As the General's forces were mainly recruited locally and were neither in sufficient strength nor well enough armed to prevent these reprisals, one could appreciate Mihailovich's desire to avoid provocative action leading to reprisals which would seriously discourage his local supporters.
Understandable to us on the spot but unfortunately not war against the Germans as the Allies wished it to be waged.
In the Spring of 1944 I received orders from the C. and C. Middle East to inform General Mihailovich that two named bridges on the German's line of communications were to be destroyed. The General expostulated and demanded arms necessary for these operations be provided. Middle East's reply was 'No bridges destroyed, no arms' to which the General countered 'No arms, no bridges destroyed'. Deadlock ensued. This impasse finally led for the withdrawal of my Mission. It is pleasant now as it was more so then to recall the control Mihailovich had over his forces was such that no retaliatory actions were taken against any of my officers or men scattered throughout Serbia.
This great Patriot was eventually captured by enemies attacking him from all sides. A courageous and loyal servant to his King who gave his all for the Dynasty, and whilst doing so received the unstinted support of his officers and men.
I salute a brave officer of the Royal Yugoslav Army who, faithful to the end in the cause for which he strived, met an undeserved death with unflinching courage.
BRIGADIER CHARLES D. ARMSTRONG
Reprinted from "Tributes to General Mihailovich" 1966 Windsor, Ontario