Double Victory: Minorities and Women During World War II
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Mihajlovic, Dragoljub "Draza" (1893–1946)

Yugoslavian army officer and guerrilla leader. Born at Ivanjica, Serbia, in 1893, Dragoljub Mihajlovic, nicknamed "Draza," entered the military academy in Belgrade in 1908 but interrupted his studies to serve with distinction in the 1912–1913 Balkan Wars and World War I. Mihajlovic rose to the rank of colonel and was, for a time, inspector general of fortifications. When the Germans invaded Yugoslavia in April 1941, he organized resistance to the Axis occupation forces in the mountains of western Serbia.

Mihajlovic's Cetniks (Chetniks, named after the Serbian guerrillas who had fought the Turks) were mostly promonarchist Serbs. Mihajlovic was promoted to general in December 1941, and in June 1942, he became minister of war in King Peter II's Yugoslav government-in-exile.

Already reluctant to pursue a vigorous campaign against the Axis occupation forces lest he provoke reprisals against Yugoslav civilians, Mihajlovic correctly understood that a rival resistance group, the procommunist Partisans led by Josip Broz (Tito), posed a greater threat to the restoration of a Serb-dominated monarchy than did the Axis powers, especially as Tito and most of his followers were Croats, the Serbs' traditional rivals for power. Accordingly, Mihajlovic and Tito focused on fighting each other rather than the Germans and Italians, with whom they both also collaborated when it suited their purposes.

At first, the Cetniks enjoyed Allied support, but Mihajlovic was systematically discredited by communist sympathizers among the British. Pressured by Soviet leader Josef Stalin at Tehran, the Allies agreed to shift their support to Tito. In December 1943, the British halted all aid to the Cetniks, and in May 1944, King Peter formed a new government and named Tito as minister of war.

Abandoned by the Allies, the Cetniks were soon overpowered, and Mihajlovic went into hiding. He was captured by the communists on 13 March 1946, tried for collaboration with the Axis powers, and, despite protests by Western governments, executed in Belgrade on 17 July 1946. In March 1948, U.S. President Harry S Truman secretly awarded Mihajlovic the Legion of Merit for rescuing some 500 Allied airmen and for his role in helping to defeat the Axis powers.

Charles R. Shrader


Further Reading
Karchmar, Lucien. Draza Mihailovic and the Rise of the Cetnik Movement, 1941–1942. New York: Garland Publishing, 1988.; Lees, Michael. The Rape of Serbia: The British Role in Tito's Grab for Power, 1943–1944. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1991.; Martin, David. Patriot or Traitor: The Case of General Mikailovich. Palo Alto, CA: Hoover Institution Press, 1978.; Roberts, W. Tito, Mihailovic, and the Allies, 1941–1944. 2nd ed. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1987.; Tomashevich, Jozo. The Chetniks: War and Revolution in Yugoslavia, 1941–1945. Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press, 2001.; Trew, Simon C. Britain, Mihailovic, and the Chetniks, 1941–42. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 1997.
 

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