Saturday, December 12, 2009

General Draza Mihailovich Awaits the Verdict // Carl Savich on the Mihailovich Trial Coverage in LIFE Magazine July 15, 1946

By Carl Savich

In the July 15, 1946 issue, LIFE magazine reported on the Draza Mihailovich trial in an article entitled “Mihailovich Awaits the Verdict”. LIFE photographer John Phillips took pictures of Draza Mihailovich before the Communist military court, smoking a pipe, drinking a bottle of beer, and lying in his bed in his cell reading a book. In a photo essay entitled “Mihailovich: Chetnik leader fights for his life before open Yugoslav court-martial”, Phillips also photographed a military guard, wearing a cap with the Communist and Soviet red star with a hammer and sickle, bringing lunch to Mihailovich, consisting of ham, mashed potatoes, and cucumbers with bread. LIFE reported that Mihailovich was wearing “GI trousers” and had read 50 books, including Sinclair Lewis’ 1925 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel "Arrowsmith". The photographs showed Mihailovich stoic, calm, and resolute.

LIFE photographer John Phillips was a Tito confidante who had photographed Tito since 1944 when he joined him and his Communist Partisan forces. Phillips had photographed Tito and the Communist leadership in Belgrade in February, 1945 for LIFE magazine, with a photo in a Belgrade “Government” office showing a massive photograph of Joseph Stalin on the wall, higher and larger than the photos of Winston Churchill, FDR, and even Tito himself. It was, in fact, the Russian Red Army that had put Tito and the Communist Partisans in power when Russian troops took the city on October 20, 1944 after German troops withdrew. Tito had awarded a Medal of Merit to Phillips. Phillips later assembled a book in 1983, "Yugoslav Story", published by the Yugoslav government, to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Communist regime.

The so-called trial was a Communist show trial based on the model of the Stalinist show trials of the late 1930s. The proceedings were a travesty of justice and represented “victor’s justice”, or a vindictive revenge against a foe. The trial violated fundamental principles of justice, fairness, and due process. Mihailovich was not allowed to present witnesses in his behalf because the military court refused to allow U.S. and British airmen and witnesses to testify in his behalf. He was not allowed to confront and to cross-examine his accusers. The prosecutor read statements against him which Mihailovich could not rebut or disprove because the witnesses were not produced by the military prosecutors. The Yugoslav Communist regime, allied and supported by the Soviet Union, rejected the diplomatic interventions by the governments of the U.S. and Britain on Mihailovich’s behalf. It was not possible for him to receive a fair trial because Communist leader Josip Broz Tito had already pronounced, even before the trial began, that Mihailovich was guilty: “His crimes are far too big and horrible to permit discussion of whether he is guilty or not.” Mihailovich was “guilty until proven innocent”. The trial was merely a sham and pretense, a judicial or legalized lynching and murder. This was an instance of “victor’s justice”. The only “crime” that Mihailovich was guilty of was that he opposed the Communist and Stalinist dictatorship which Tito imposed on Yugoslavia. At that time, Tito and the Yugoslav Communist regime were allied to and supported by Jospeh Stalin and the Soviet Union.

It was in fact the Russian Red Army that had put the Communist regime in power in Belgrade in October, 1944 when Soviet troops advanced on the city. German forces withdrew, allowing the Soviet Army to install Communist dictator Josip Broz Tito. Yugoslav Communist propaganda falsified history by claiming that it was the Yugoslav Communist Partisans who had driven the German troops out. The Russian troops only provided assistance. This outrageous falsification and phony picture was stage-managed and meticulously manufactured by Communist historians who followed the Communist Party line. It was a classic case of the tail wagging the dog. In fact, the Soviet “liberation” of Belgrade was not much different from the similar Red Army liberations of Warsaw, Bucharest, Budapest, Sofia, Prague, Vienna, and Berlin. In the case with Belgrade, much work was done behind the scenes to make it look like it was the Communist Partisans who were freeing the city from the German troops. This sham was produced to give added legitimacy to the Communsit Partisans and to bolster the Communist dictatorship of Josip Broz Tito, a hardcore Stalinist and Communist. The falsification was needed to create the false impression that it was Tito and the Partisans who had “liberated” Belgrade, and not the Russian Red Army, not by Soviet troops under General Fyodor Tolbukhin, and not by Soviet military forces commanded by Joseph Stalin. It was a classic case of how the Communist dictatorship falsified history and made up events in order to rationalize and to justify a Communist dictatorship, a dictatorship installed and put in power by Soviet troops, by Joseph Stalin.

The Soviet Red Army enters Belgrade,
forcing German troops to retreat.
Yugoslav Communist propaganda falsely claimed
that it was Communist Partisan troops that had taken the city.

Draza Mihailovich first appeared in LIFE magazine on November 24, 1941 in the article “LIFE ’s Reports: ‘Invisible War’ in Yugoslavia” by Harry Zinder and George Maranz in which it was revealed that he was the leader of the Yugoslav resistance in Yugoslavia: “The leader of the invisible Serbian army is Colonel Draja Mihailovich.” In the April 2, 1941 issue “LIFE on the Newsfronts of the World: Hitler Launches his Balkan Offensive against Yugoslavia, Greece and the British Army”, LIFE had reported on the Axis invasion of Yugoslavia and featured a photograph of Ruth Mitchell, who was a supporter of the Chetnik guerrillas. In the article “For the Record: Hangings in Yugoslavia”, LIFE described the guerrillas as “”Chetniks,” a far-flung organization of patriotic Serbs who are sworn to die rather than surrender to their conquerors.” In the November 3, 1941 issue of LIFE, it was reported that the Chetnik guerrillas were engaged in a resistance movement against the Axis forces in German-occupied Yugoslavia: “In Yugoslavia a bloody little war was raging between Chetnik guerrillas and their conquerors.” In the June 10, 1946 issue of LIFE, the magazine reported on the efforts made by U.S. veterans, airmen and OSS members, to gather U.S. support for Mihailovich and to testify at his trial in the story “LIFE’s Reports: Fight for Mihailovich: U.S. Airmen Try to Help Accused Chetnik Leader” by Jeanne Perkins. Excerpts from letters from U.S. airmen rescued by Mihailovich from Axis troops were featured: “Our lives were safeguarded by the Chetniks; we were constantly on the move…. The Chetniks rescued me and my crew from the Germans.” In the August 2, 1948 Letters to the Editor section of LIFE, Robert H. Anderson of Buffalo, New York wrote to correct the historical record on Draza Mihailovich:

 "The Chetniks, led by General Mihailovich, did most of the actual fighting in Serbia against the Axis.”

Anderson cited the book Ally Betrayed by David Martin.

Russian troops on a Soviet T-34 tank enter Belgrade,
October 20, 1944,
 forcing the German troops to withdraw to the northwest.
The Red Army was greeted as “liberators”.

In Undercover: The Men and Women of the Special Operations Executive by Patrick Howarth published in 1980 by Routledge in London, Howarth emphazied on pages 78-79 that Tito was a Stalinist and Communist under the direct control of Joseph Stalin:

Tito was a Moscow-trained revolutionay, who had been imprisoned for subversive activities in pre-war Yugoslavia. The Yugoslav Communist party had been declared illegal, and at the beginning of the Second World War it had only about 8,000 members. Of these Tito, as Secretary-General, was by far the most influential. Among his tasks had been to find recruits for the Spanish Civil War, and as a result he was provided with a trained elite of guerrilla fighters for his later campaigns.

Tito regarded himself as being wholly under Stalin’s orders, and when Germany invaded the Soviet Union in 1941 he waited for instructions. ‘For once, ‘ as Djilas was to write later, ‘Moscow did not delay,’ and Tito began to build up, with exemplary speed and efficiency, a guerrilla force. This force was at all times under communist control, but it was wisely described at first, largely for recruiting purposes, as the National Liberation Partisan Detachments, to be foreshortened after a time to the single word “Partisans’. …

As a revolutionary Tito had no interest in preserving property or the existing social order. … In so far as they served to arouse the anger of the population against the occupation forces Tito rather welcomed enemy reprisals.”

The judicial murder of Mihailovich allowed the Communist dictatorship of Tito to consolidate its power and to take control of Yugoslavia and impose a Communist and Stalinist totalitarian regime.

The cover of the July 15, 1946 issue of LIFE magazine,
with the cover title WELDED WATER GADGETS,
which featured a story on the Draza Mihailovich trial in Belgrade.

The table of contents page featuring “THE WEEK’S EVENTS” story
Mihailovich Awaits the Verdict” on pages 32 and 33.

The original 1946 LIFE magazine caption:
“ON THE WITNESS STAND Mihailovich sits facing
the three Army judges on the dais who will sentence him.
 Two majors, serving as alternate judges, are at far left and the
court secretary is ar far right.
Two Serbs who testified in Mihailovich’s behalf,
 were booed by spectators, many of whom bore wounds
 which Chetnik fighters had inflicted.”

LIFE Captions: “IN HIS CELL he relaxes in his GI trousers,
 smokes and reads one of 50 books, including Arrowsmith, that he has
 finished since his capture in March."

"Below: A 14-year-old boy, displaying Tito medals, cries on the steps
of the courthouse after the judges had made him leave because
he was too young to listen to the evidence about atrocities.”

LIFE Caption Photo Above: “LUNCH of bread, ham, mashed potatoes
and cucumbers is brought to Mihailovich. He may order what he wants.”

LIFE Caption Photo Above:
“DRAZA MIHAILOVICH calmly smokes his pipe and peers from
 behind his thick glasses and wiry beard during his trial in Belgrade.
 These pictures, showing him alert and well, were taken
 by LIFE Photographer John Phillips. They tend to disprove the rumor
that he had been doped with mascaline, a Balkan drug,
to make him admit guilt.”


Aleksandra's Note:

"Macaline", also known as "Mescaline", is a tryptamine - ( a psychedelic acid that causes hallucinations), and it is my firm belief that General Mihailovich was indeed doped with 
mascaline while in the communist prison in Belgrade and that this "rumor" is absolutely true. The Yugo communists were not able to make their case against Mihailovich on any valid or truthful grounds, so they used one of the methods available to them to manufacture "guilt" in the man they fully intended to "find guilty and execute" before the phony trial ever began. 

The LIFE Magazine article "Mihailovich Awaits the Verdict" was published in the July 15, 1946 issue. General Mihailovich was executed by a communist firing squad on July 17, 1946.

Thanks to Carl Savich for the splendid job he always does in his illuminating commentaries.


If you would like to get in touch with me, Aleksandra, please feel free to contact me at


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