|Born||26 Apr 1893|
|Died||17 Jul 1946|
Contributor: C. Peter Chen
ww2dbaseDragoljub "Draza" Mihailovic was born in Ivanjica, Serbia, Austria-Hungary. He entered military academy in Serbia in Oct 1910, and was a veteran of the Balkans Wars and WW1. During the inter-war years he became a staff officer in the Yugoslavian Army and served as a military attaché in Sofia, Bulgaria and Prague, Czechoslovakia. For supporting the division of Yugoslavia along ethnic lines he was imprisoned for a month; this would have been the end of his career, but the European tension in the late 1930s meant his military talents would be valued. When the Germans came across the borders, his influence reached a height.
ww2dbaseYugoslavia capitulated in Apr 1941, but small groups continued to fight German occupation. Mihailovic led the monarchist Chetniks. Based out of Ravna Gora, he organized a loosely-connected resistance cells collectively called Chetnik (also spelled Chetnik or Chetniks). While initially aggressive, he realized that the Germans were stronger, thus he soon changed his strategy to limited skirmishes only, avoiding brutal German reprisals and building for the ultimate goal of restoring the Yugoslavian monarchy. On 17 Jun 1942, he was named the Minister of War of the exiled Yugoslavian government; shortly after, he was made the Deputy Commander-in-Chief. For his resistance, a large bounty was placed on his head by the Germans. His Chetniks were receiving British supplies since the fall of 1941, and then American supplies after the US entry into the war; meanwhile, the rival faction, the Communists under Josip Tito, was supported by the Soviet Union. In Nov 1943, the combination of his apparent lack of aggression and the influence of Soviet agents in the governments of the Western Allies led to the British and American decision to switch their support to Tito. Although Mihailovic and the Chetniks would continue to resist against the Germans and provide utmost aid to the Allied military effort (such as aiding downed Allied airmen), he would slowly become vilified by the Western Allies, an unfortunate side effect of the recognition of Tito. Part of it was fabricated in order to contrast him from Tito, but he was to blame as well: In order to secure the position of the Serbs, he and the Chetniks to employ terror tactics on Croats and Muslims, burning down villages and assassinating opposing leaders. Toward the end of the war, fearing the Communists, he went into hiding in eastern Bosnia.
ww2dbaseMihailovic was found and captured by the Communists on 12 Mar 1946. In a show trial, his lack of aggression against the German occupiers was said to result from his collaboration tendencies, and his anti-Communist stance was presented as disloyalty for his country. Some of the American airmen who benefited from his protection during the war attempted to provide him aid, but ultimately that effort achieved little. Mihailovic was found guilty of treason and was executed by firing squad on 17 Jul 1946. US President Harry Truman posthumously awarded Mihailovic the Legion of Merit for his effort in the rescue of American downed airmen, but international situation in the post-WW2 years meant that the award would be classified for years to come.
Gregory Freeman, The Forgotten 500
Last Major Revision: Feb 2006
Dragoljub Mihailovic Timeline
|26 Apr 1893||Dragoljub Mihailovic was born in Ivanjica, Serbia, Austria-Hungary.|
|12 Mar 1946||Dragoljub Mihailovic was found and captured by Yugoslavian Communists in eastern Bosnia.|
|17 Jul 1946||Dragoljub Mihailovic was executed by firing squad in Yugoslavia.|
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Joachim von Ribbentrop, German Foreign Minister, Aug 1939