Foreign Testimonies About Chetniks and General Mihalovic
General Mihailovic was a tragic hero of the Serbian people in the Second World War. Serbian people consider him a hero, but there are those who say he is a traitor. The biggest honors for one person cannot come from within his own people, but from the independent foreign observers. Here are quotes taken from the book Patriot or Traitor by David Martin which contain writings and some testimonies about General Mihailovic from the participant who had direct knowledge of his actions. The testimonies were given to the Commission of Inquiry of the committee for the fair trial of General Mihailovic.
Almost from its inception, the Committee for a Fair Trail for Mihailovich operated in close liaison with another organization that came into existence during the first part of April: the National Committee of American Airmen to Aid General Mihailovich and the Serbian People.
During the course of 1944, many hundreds of American airmen flying bombing missions into Romania were shot down over Yugoslavia. Of those who were shot down, substantially more than 500 and perhaps as many as 600 were rescued by the forces of General Mihailovich-frequently after spirited battles with German patrols who raced to meet the descending parachutes. Some 40 of these airmen were evacuated together with the British mission when it was withdrawn from Mihailovich’s headquarters at the end of May 1944. A total of 432 American airmen and several score members of other Allied forces, including 30 Russians, were evacuated by an American Air Crew Rescue operation between August 9 and December 27. At least another 100 American airmen who had been rescued by the Mihailovich forces were guided to Tito’s Partisans and evacuated from their territory when, at different times and in different areas, it became impossible to arrange for any further American landings in Mihailovich territory.
When the news of Mihailovich’s capture broke, on March 25, 1946, scores of these rescued airmen-acting on their own-immediately wrote to their newspapers and to their congressmen, telling the truth as they had seen it, and asking that their government intercede so that they could testify on Mihailovich’s behalf in Belgrade. Hundreds of such letters and related articles appeared in the American press in the weeks following Mihailovich’s capture.
-David Martin, in the introduction to his book Patriot or Traitor:
The Case of General Mihailovich
He clasps the crag with crooked hands…he watches from his mountain
walls, and like a thunderbolt he falls.
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 annouced a year ago that he had conquered Yugoslavia, Draja Mihailovich and his 150,000 guerrillas in the mountains southwest of Belgrad have flung the lie into Hitler’s 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.
-Time magazine, May of 1942
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 Drazha Mihailovich crumpled before the bullets of a Yugoslav firing squad….
History may decide that it is not Tito-who was in safety 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. But Mihailovich fell yesterday in Belgrade.
-New York Times, July 18, 1946
When we landed all of us had the same fear. We had been warned to stay away from Mihailovich’s Chetniks. This came from our Intelligence. It was small wonder we were afraid.
Weeks later we knew the truth. Gen. Mihailovich was no traitor but a patriot-the only people who didn’t think so were the Communists….
The men with me revered Mihailovich. They spoke of him with a deep feeling and told me many times he was the real wartime leader of Yugoslavia. Their faithfulness to his orders was touching.
-New York Journal-American
Evidence has been produced to the effect that airmen landed in different parts of Yugoslavia, which parts were in Chetnik hands, that such airmen were saved not only by people in the Chetnik territory but by direct orders of Mihailovich, that this was in spite of large rewards offered by the Germans if airmen were surrendered to them, and that these airmen during the varied periods of their stays in Yugoslavia saw nothing resembling collaboration of any kind with the Germans. Certianly such evidence must be regarded as material in this case.
-Arthur Garfield Hayes, Chairman of Commission of Inquiry and a member of the committee for the fare trial of Draza Mihailovic
THE WITNESS: And they told us that they had seen us come down and they knew that we were in that area, and if we were not turned in the Germans in reprisal would burn down the nearby village. I took this rather seriously, because I figured they would surely turn me over. But one man said they did not expect to do anything about it. It was informed later that the village was burned down when we had not been returned.
This was rather strange to me, and I asked this particular Serbian who was my guide all the time I was in Serbia, Miodrag Stefanovic-I asked him how come the Chetnicks sacrificed the village just to protect Americans who were actually strangers to them; and he told me that as an American flyer I am more valuable and inflict much more destruction upon the common enemy than 100 or 150 Serbs; he said that was the reason why they did not think anything of sacrificing the town so they can save us and return us to our base to continue our fight against Germany.
-From the testimony of Capt. Daniel Desish, served as American OSS officer in Yugoslavia during World War II
This was a fairly large job, and for it General Mihailovich massed about 2,500 troops from the area surrounding Visegrad, both to the south and the southwest. They met in the mountains just below Visegrad; and on the dawn of October 3rd, I believe, 1943, we launched a dawn attack.
On that occasion we started the attack with mortars, captured mortars, very poor equipment, no sights, using simply a rough sighting to strike at the German bunkers surrounding the town and the German garrison. The Serb artillery men and Chetniks would have to crawl up to the crest of the hill and watch where the mortar shells landed and then turn around and give directions to the men handling the mortar to turn it slightly. In that way, by just checking them, they wiped out several of the bunkers, and eventually a charge was ordered and the town was taken. This is just an approximation, I would guess we killed, oh, 150 or 200 Germans.
-From the testimony of Capt. Walter R. Mansfield, OSS at Mihailovic’s headquarters