He clasps the crag with crooked hands…he watches from his mountain walls, and like a thunderbolt he falls.’
Originalni tekst iz TAJMS-a iz 1942 godine
These words, written of an eagle, today are a far better fit for one of the most amazing commanders of World War II. He is Yugoslavia’s Draja Mihailovich. Ever since Adolf Hitler vaingloriously announced a year ago that he had conquered Yugoslavia, Draja Mihailovich and his 150,000 guerrillas in the mountains southwest of Belgrade have flung the lie in Hitlers teeth. It has been probably the greatest guerrilla operation in history; Last fall Mihailovich kept as many as seven Nazi divisions chasing him through his Sumadija mountains. Mihailovich’s swarming raiders have preserved an ‘Island of Freedom,’ which for a time was 20,000 square miles in area, with a population of 4,000,000.
Mihailovich’s annihilation of Axis detachments, bombing of roads and bridges, breaking of communications and stealing of ammunition have been so widespread that the Nazis had to declare a new state of war in their ‘conquered’ territory. Last October the Nazis even asked for peace. When Mihailovich refused, they priced his head at $1,000,000. When the Nazis desperately needed troops in Russia, they tried to leave Mihailovich to the forces of their Axis partners and stooges. But Italian, Bulgarian and Rumanian soldiers could not deal with him, and the Nazis went back. Only last week the Russians announced that a Nazi division had arrived at Kharkov fresh from Yugoslavia-where it had certainly not been stationed for a rest. Mihailovich’s example has kept all Yugoslavia in a wild anti-Axis ferment. the Axis has resorted to executing untold thousands, but the revolt continues.
Last month the Nazis said they had seized Mihailovich’s wife, two sons and daughter, threatened to execute all relatives of Mihailovich’s army and 16,000 hostages if the General did not surrender within five days. He did not. It is a misfortune that conquered Europe cannot learn detail by detail the effective methods used by the gaunt, hard-bronzed figure of TIME’S cover (painted by one of his compatriots, Vuch Vuchinich). But Draja Mihailovich is completely cut off from the democracies’ press, hemmed in by the Axis forces in Yugoslavia. Rumania, Bulgaria, Albania and Greece. His only direct contact with the world beyond has been through smugglers and a mobile radio transmitter which he concealed somewhere in his mountain fastnesses. Even so, he has already become the great symbol of the unknown thousands of supposedly conquered Europeans who still resist AdoIf Hitler.
As he watches from his mountain walls, he stands for every European saboteur who awaits the moment to jam the machine, plant the bomb or pry up the railroad rail. He has directly inspired others, like Rumanian Patriot Ion Minulescu, who harries the Axis from the Carpathians, and Albanian and Montenegrin guerillas who worry at Italian flanks on the Adriatic coast.
SERB. The once-obscure Balkan officer who has thus far successfully challenged the modern world’s greatest conqueror was born 47 years ago in Chachak, Serbia. His parents died when he was a child, and he was raised by an uncle, a musical Serbian colonel. Draja Mihailovich plays the mandolin excellently. He entered Beograd’s Serbian Military Academy at 15. He has been a lifelong soldier, an officer who got his training under fire. He is also profoundly a Serb. For those who know the Serbs, that fact alone would account for his great-hearted defiance. The blood bath of oppression which for centuries has laved the minarets and green poplars of the Baikans has also watered a glowing military spirit in little Serbian unconquerable will toward freedom. In 1389, a date of horror in Serbian minds, the Turks defeated the Serbs on the plain of Kosovo and slaughtered the cream of Serbian manhood.
For the next four centuries Turkey bore down on Serbia as hard as Adoif Hitler has done, with such devices as impaling mutilation and the roasting of living Serbs on spits. Early in the 19th Century the great Serbian King Kara George fought Turkey with Russian aid, got a limited autonomy with Turkish garrisons still in Serbia. But Napoleon’s advance on Moscow drew away Russian support, and the Turks pressed Serbia hard again. This time Serbia’s Milos Obrenovich made a deal with turkey for recognition. the deal included the assassination of Kara George, and this started an Obrenovich-Kara George dynasty rivalry that was to continue for decades. Serbia’s rulers were often personally weak and depraved, but the Serbs in general grew hard and defiant in the schools of Turkish tyranny and European Realpolitik. They never suffered from the flabbiness that comes with ease. In the First Balkan War (1912), Serbia and her Balkan allies finally ousted Turkey.
In World War I a supposedly exhausted Serbia hurled back two Austrian attacks, was ravaged by typhus and gave way before a third, then fought back again from Salonika. Only a year ago a revolution in Yugoslavia, where the dream of Balkan federation was becoming an actual as well as a political fact, deposed the pro-Nazi regent Prince Paul, and Serbian General Dusan Simovich courageously challenged the juggernaut of AdoIf Hitler. in Draja Mihailovich’s mountains the challenge persists today.
SOLDIER. In 1912, at 19, Mihailovich left the Serbian Military Academy to fight the Turks. Wounded the next year, he returned to school as a sub-lieutenant wearing the Obilich medal for ‘personal courage.’ In 1914 the Austrian attack again broke up school and Mihaiiovich was again wounded, received the Order of the White Eagle. On the eve of the Salonika offensive he rejoined his company and finally returned to Serbia wearing its highest decoration, the Kara George Star with crossed swords. He was sent as military attache to Sofia (1934) and Prague (1936), and is rumored to have been connected with underground movements working against Nazi influence in both Bulgaria and Czechoslovakia. In 1939, as chief of Yugoslavia’s fortifications, he revealed himself as a Balkan De Gaulle, holding that a nation of such limited financial means should not try to build Maginot Lines but should concentrate on mobile and offensive possibilities.
STORIES. Tales about Mihailovich, apocryphal or smuggled out of his mountains, abound in Yugoslav circles. It is said that he has done some of his own espionage, eating with German officers in a tavern where the host, devoted to him, was panicky with fright. Nazi officers are said to have driven up to a farmhouse where Mihaiiovich and friends were staying. When he had convinced the Nazis of his innocence, one of his friends remarked: ‘That was a close one.’ Mihailovich replied: ‘It was close for them, too.’ He pointed to a bush behind which a guerriila machine-gun crew had been ready for the Nazis. The General is also rumored to have done a brisk trade exchanging Italian prisoners for Italian gasoline at the rate of one Italian private for one can of gas, one colonel for 50 cans.
Today Draja Mihailovich seems legendary, but he is a legend with a big basis in fact: the fact that he has kept from five to ten Nazi divisions at a time fighting to conquer the country which they destroyed twelve long months ago.
May 25th, 1942 Time
Reprinted from Time Magazine May 25, 1942;
Cover Photograph of Mihailovich: Yugoslavia’s Unconquered
The Obituary of General Mihailovich as published in The New York Times
July 18, 1946
The fingers of history, rustling through the pages of the Second World War, may provide an ironic postscript to the scene that took place at dawn yesterday somewhere in the vicinity of Belgrade when General Draza Mihailovich crumpled before the bullets of a Yugoslav firing squad. The record is fairly obvious now. A more complete search and study of the files of the German General Staff, and a historical assessment of the various factors that entered into the successful defense of Moscow by the Red Army during the fall and winter of 1941, may show that the one important factor was the time that was bought for the Russians in the spring of 1941 by Yugoslavia and Mihailovich. On the record written thus far, the Russian-controlled Tito government has taken the life of a man to whom Russia owes a great debt.
The recorded facts of the German attack on Yugoslavia and Soviet Russia in 1941 are these, as testified to by von Paulus, the German commander in Stalingrad, and by Jodl the former German Chief of Staff, before the Allied Tribunal at Nuremberg:
Hitler drew his plan for the attack on Russia in December 1940. At that time he hoped to absorb the Balkans without a fight. This would have secured his right flank for the attack on Russia. Mihailovic, then a colonel, was among an influential group in Yugoslavia that resisted an alliance with Germany, overthrew the pro-Nazi Government and installed one favorable to the Allies. When it became evident that Yugoslavia would not yield without a fight, von Paulus tells us, Hitler set the date of the drive on Yugoslavia for March and that against Russia for five weeks later. The attack on Yugoslavia actually was launched on April 6th, 1941.
While Hitler was preparing his move against Yugoslavia, the new Yugoslav Government at once sent emissaries to Moscow seeking a mutual assistance pact. The best that it could get was first, a promise to remain neutral, then a treaty of friendship. The Ribbentrop-Molotov non-aggression pact was still in force then.
The initial German attack on Yugoslavia made swift progress. The Government was driven from Belgrade. In the hills, however, a new Yugoslav hero emerged. Mihailovic, fighting a gallant delaying action, rallied the remnants of the Yugoslav Army and began an open and effective guerrilla resistance to the German Army. Because of this unexpected resistance, the German’s timetable of five weeks between the attack on Yugoslavia and the drive on the Soviets stretched to ten weeks. When it began, June 22nd, it was weakened by the necessity of maintaining several divisions in Yugoslavia to hold that flank.
Everyone knows the rest of the story. Delayed three months beyond the time originally set for the attack, the German Army failed to reach Moscow before the dreaded Russian winter had set in. With the help of winter, the Red Army held the line in front of Moscow. Hundreds of thousands of Germans who had expected to garrison in the shelter of the Russian capital died instead in the icy trenches a few miles away. There is good reason to believe that this – even more than the defense of Stalingrad – was the turning point of the German-Russian conflict.
History may decide that it is not Tito – who was in Belgrade while Mihailovich was fighting in the hills in those early days – but the executed Chetnik leader whose statue should stand in Red Square in Moscow.
Mihailovich fell yesterday in Belgrade.
The New York Times July 18, 1946 Posted under Fair Use provision
Portrait of General Mihailovich by portrait artist Jim Pollard 1981