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Tito and his People (4)

Who Is Mikhailovich ?

Historical circumstance threw Colonel Drazha Mikhailovich into a position of power and responsibility, as it did Tito. Unlike Tito, Mikhailovich was neither strong enough nor wise enough to take advantage of circumstances. Nor did he have Tito's driving passion for liberty.

In southwest Yugoslavia was a colonel, Drazha Mikhailovich, who was the highest ranking officer in that district. Most of the others had fled after the surrender of Yugoslavia. Around him several brigades gathered.

Mikhailovich is by no means a brilliant man. At the very beginning, in May and early June of 1941, before there was any real organized Partisan resistance in Yugoslavia, Mikhailovich thought he would continue to resist the Germans and during that time he made several attacks upon them.

It was then that the Mikhailovich legend started rolling. But after five or six weeks of active warfare, Mikhailovich discovered that he was not alone in resisting the enemy. There was another man –Tito, a Communist. He led a Partisan army that was attacking the Nazis and Fascists in every part of the land.

Mikhailovich did not like this, for he hated Communists. He knew nothing about them, had never made any attempt to learn about them – but he hated them. He did not like the idea of Partisan warfare.

In Mikhailovich's rigid military mind there was no place for civilians who bore arms. Mikhailovich realized that the Liberation Front meant the end of dictatorship and if the people willed it, the monarchy too, would go. He approved of the Yugoslav pre-war brand of dictatorship.

So within five weeks after he commenced resistance, Mikhailovich gave orders for his men to fight the Partisans in preference to the Axis. Bitter clashes took place, actual battles in which Mikhailovich's men attacked the Partisans and often murdered the prisoners they took.

At this development, Adolf Hitler smiled and rubbed his hands gleefully. How convenient it was to have Mikhailovich destroy Yugoslav Partisans for him!

Fortunately not all of Mikhailovich's men were as blind as he, for his own son fought under Marshal Tito and his Liberation army. Whole brigades of his men deserted to the Partisan command.

Tito in the meantime, was anxious above all else for Yugoslav unity and made numerous attempts to establish this unity with Mikhailovich in spite of the fact that Mikhailovich had fought against the Partisans.

To these numerous requests for unity, Mikhailovich turned a deaf ear, but when his men started to desert in great numbers he realized that Tito was gaining the confidence of the masses. He agreed to meet him in October, 1941.


Nothing came of their first meeting. For hours Tito argued, and to all his arguments Mikhailovich gave the same reply: "I will not collaborate with Communists. I will not collaborate with Croats, who are the enemies of Serbia."

Actually there had been a fifth column recruited out of the lowest elements of Croatia (the Ustachi), but these were the sworn enemies of the Croatian Partisans, Tito argued. He pointed out that in the Partisan ranks were Serbs and Slovenes as well as Croatians, men and women from every Yugoslav province. He pointed out that the Partisans desired only one thing, the liberation of their nation. He pointed out the bitter and horrible consequences of civil war; but Mikhailovich remained adamant, and the first meeting failed.

In that same month there was a second meeting between Tito and Mikhailovich, and this time Mikhailovich agreed to cease fighting the Partisans – for a price. It is difficult to say whether Mikhailovich came to this meeting determined to betray Tito, or whether he simply took advantage of the opportunity later.

However, here are the circumstances. By now, late in October, Marshal Tito had a powerful striking force, not too large as yet, not yet ready to fight a pitched battle with strong German forces and come out on top, but powerful and well armed.

His headquarters were at Uzice, a town in central Yugoslavia between Serbia and Bosnia. There he had assembled a store of rifles and machine guns; he had some captured armored cars, a few tanks and some artillery. In the town's bank vault he had established a crude factory for reloading cartridges and manufacturing certain small-arm ammunition.

Mikhailovich Betrays Yugoslavia

It was in Uzice that he met Mikhailovich the second time. Mikhailovich knew that the Partisans had captured large stores of arms. His own men were falling away; his new recruits were half armed. So he made this proposal:

He would cease hostilities against Tito. In exchange, Tito would supply him with five thousand rifles, half a million cartridges, and a large amount of money. When Tito heard this proposal he bit his lips and nodded. If it had to be this way, so be it.

Five thousand rifles to Mikhailovich would mean five thousand less for the Partisans, but unity was what they stood for. If five thousand rifles and a money bribe would buy unity, then Mikhailovich should have them.

Mikhailovich's men carried away the rifles and ammunition, and then, a few weeks later, returned with them – only this time to attack Tito's Uzice headquarters. It was as treacherous, as grotesque a betrayal as any the Axis had perpetrated; it was a preview of what Mikhailovich was to attempt later.

Perhaps Tito had expected the betrayal. At any rate, the Partisans beat off the Chetnik attack and late in November, 1941, Tito once again proposed to Mikhailovich that they meet and discuss co-operation instead of civil war. Perhaps with his tongue still in his cheek, Mikhailovich agreed. Tito sent Colonel Dedier to Chachak to meet Mikhailovich and reason with him. While these discussions were going on, Tito received word that a large German force, four full divisions, was advancing on Uzice.

Tito telephoned Dedier and impressed on him that their only hope of withstanding the German attack was to effect an amalgamation of Mikhailovich and Partisan forces.

When Mikhailovich heard this, he shrugged and shook his head. Bluntly, he said that it was no use – his force was hardly able to resist the German attack.

"But the Partisans will fight," Dedier pleaded. "Don't you understand?"

"I understand that it would be folly to resist the Germans," Mikhailovich smiled.

Fortunately this piece of business came to light through an English officer (an officer attached to Mikhailovich by the British) who happened to be at Tito's headquarters when the German attack started. It began a chain of circumstances which resulted in the British transferring the bulk of their support from Mikhailovich to Tito's Partisans.

That day the Stukas struck at Uzice. Wave after wave peeled off over the little town and grimly shattered building after building into rubble. With a grim face, Tito watched his headquarters being destroyed, his men being killed as they fired at the Stukas with rifles and pistols. A little later German tanks were hurled into the devastation the Stukas had left. Tito was one of the last to leave the town, the British officer with him.

Late that night a battered, weary group of Partisan officers gathered at Zlatibar, some twenty miles distant from shattered Uzice. Tito and the British officer were the last to arrive. Their car had been strafed and destroyed. They had lain in a ditch and then travailed almost all of the twenty miles on foot.

When Tito's discouraged officers asked him, "What now?" he answered: "We start again. They will give us no peace now. They understand that we are an army at last."


Stoyan Pribichevich, the London correspondent for Fortune, Time and Life magazines, in an article written for Fortune, investigated the rival claims of the government-in-exile and the Partisans. He brings the following evidence:

One Captain Vaselevich, an officer of Mikhailovich's, captured with some Italians by a Partisan 'escort' in Slovenia, last December, is reported to have testified that Mikhailovich had organized 'White Guards' in Slovenia to fight the Partisans.

"Private Jack Denver, a New Zealander who escaped from a German prison camp near Maribar, in Slovenia, in the winter of 1942, broadcast over the Partisan Free Yugoslavia radio that he had seen Mikhailovich's troops march together with the Italians through the Slovenian capital, Lyublyana.

"During last winter's Axis onslaught in Bosnia the Partisan high command claimed in its communiques the capture of hundreds of Chetniks, together with Italians, stating dates, places of battles and giving names of seized Chetnik commanders.

"In January, 1943 the Partisan Vece President Dr. Ivan Ribar broadcast that large Chetnik units under Commanders Gaich, Yevdj Jevich and Birchanin, had joined the Italian army to raid Partisan villages in Dalmatia and Bosnia and established Chetnik training camps in Crikvenista, Split and other Italian-occupied coastal towns. And throughout this spring fighting in Hercegovina, the Partisan communiques complained of Chetnik attacks and claimed Chetniks among these Axis prisoners."

Pribichevich goes on further in his findings:

"Confidentially, the Yugoslav government officials will concede that Mikhailovich received armaments from the Italians under a secret agreement with General Mario Roatta, former commander of the Italian occupation forces in Yugoslavia. The proviso being that the armaments would not be used against the Italians."

Further, writing in the same issue of Fortune, Stoyan Pribichevich says: "In February the Istanbul correspondent of The London Times reported that Mikhailovich had 'a sort of tacit truce with the Italians'."

The New York Times Reports

Last November, Hanson Baldwin remarked in The New York Times that: "The defenders of General Mikhailovich do nor deny that he may have been in touch with the Italians and Marshal Nedich, but they point out that 'deals' are common in Balkan politics."

He says further: "Two facts have been established: (1) Mikhailovich was not fighting the Italians; (2) Mikhailovich has not disavowed the Chetnik units and commanders who have joined the Axis against their own kin."

In March, 1943, the Yugoslav government in London, officially, almost boastfully, admitted that Mikhailovich was carrying on an anti-Partisan offensive. Some of its members privately admitted to Stoyan Pribichevich, who is of Serbian origin himself, that Mikhailovich had a collaborative pact with the commanders of the Italian forces in the Balkans.

Louis Adamic Reports

Louis Adamic tells us in "My Native Land": "While Mikhailovich was hammering at the Partisans, King Peter and some of the inner clique of the Yugoslav government were in the United States, guests in fact, of the American government. Accompanying the king were two of his adjutants, Foreign Minister Momchilo Ninchich and Minister of the Court Radoye Knezevich, and in Washington they received messages from Mikhailovich that 'The people were exterminating the criminal and communistic Partisans.'

"The king and his entourage were too delighted with the news to be diplomatically silent. They talked about it at receptions given for the 'young sovereign' by organizations like the American Friends of Yugoslavia, whose supporters and members, knowing very little beyond official propaganda, were Mikhailovich and Chetnik enthusiasts."

While the Partisans fought valiantly, Mikhailovich's main line of activity apart from sniping at the Partisans and trying to hamper their movements, was to wireless the Yugoslav government-in-exile the names of hundreds of Yugoslav army officers who had left him and joined the Liberation Front, suggesting that they be stripped immediately of their commissions.

The government naturally complied with his request, at the same time decorating Chetniks who "distinguished" themselves in anti-Partisan operations.

It is now a known fact that Mikhailovich's Chetnik officers were treated for wounds in the Quisling Nedich's Nazi-occupied Belgrade, right under the noses of Hitler's henchmen and they weren't even touched. One of these officers, Major Kuloluch, was even given a medal by the government-in-exile after being visited by the butcher Nedich himself. The latter was responsible for murdering thousands of Yugoslavs. But this didn't mean anything to the government-in-exile.

For acts like this the famous Partisan Colonel Orovich denounced King Peter's government for decorating traitors.

To add insult to injury, Vladimar Milichevich, a former Belgrade police inspector (famous for his specialty in dealing with political figures who were wanted by the reactionary Yugoslav regimes before the war), today is Minister of the Exterior and the Police in the government-in-exile.

General Maitland Wilson Charges

General Maitland Wilson, commander of Allied forces in the Mediterranean, charged openly in the American press in the month of November, 1943, that the Chetniks were helping the Germans in a fruitless attempt to smash the Yugoslav Liberation movement. He said further that he was aware that in certain districts, especially in Dalmatia, people using the name Chetniks were helping the Germans. These people were betraying the interests of their country and made their traitorous actions even more pronounced when they said that their activities were sanctioned by England.

This is, of course, wholly false, and has been proven so by Winston Churchill's famous speech hereinafter quoted and by England's recognition of Marshal Tito and the attaching of a liaison officer to his staff by that country.

General Wilson went on to salute the noble achievements of the forces of liberation and he promised every possible aid from the Allies in keeping with Allied strategy.

In the same statement, General Wilson warned the Chetniks that they will be regarded as traitors to their own people and as enemies of the United Nations if they do not stop giving aid and comfort to the enemy.

Winsion Churchill's Historic Speech

Gradually as a confused world started to hear the truth finally seep out of embattled Yugoslavia, Winston Churchill, opening a war debate in the House of Commons on February 22, 1944, made the following startling pronouncement in the House of Commons that fell like sledge hammer blows on those forces all over the world who were interested in keeping the Mikhailovich myth alive:

"General Mikhailovich, I regret to say, drifted gradually into a position where some of his commanders made accommodations with the Italian and German troops which resulted in their being left alone in certain mountain areas and in return doing very little or nothing against the enemy.

"However, a new and far more formidable champion has appeared on the scene. In the autumn of 1941 Marshal Tito's Partisans began a wild and furious war for existence against the Germans and they wrested weapons from the German hand.

"They grew in numbers rapidly; no reprisals, however bloody, whether of hostages or villages, deterred them; for them it was death or freedom.

"Soon they began to inflict heavy injuries on the Germans and became masters of wide regions, led with great skill and organized on guerrilla principles, they were at once illusive and deadly. They were here. They were there. They were everywhere. Large scale offensives have been launched against them by the Germans but in every case the Partisans even when surrounded, have escaped after inflicting great loss and toll on the enemy.

"The Partisan movement soon outstripped in numbers the forces of General Mikhailovich. Not only Croats and Slovenes but large numbers of Serbians, joined with Marshal Tito and he has at this moment more than a quarter of a million men with him and large quantities of arms taken from the enemy or from the Italians."

And Mr. Churchill went on further to say: "At the present time the followers of Marshal Tito outnumber many fold those of General Mikhailovich who act under the name of the Royal Yugoslav government. Of course, the Partisans of Marshal Tito are the only people who are doing any fighting against the Germans right now."

What stronger evidence can we possibly have than that presented by this great British statesman as late as February, 1944.