University of North Carolina at Asheville









Sabotaža: The Special Operations Executive's Involvement


in the Yugoslav Civil War and Josip Broz Tito's Rise to Power"









A Senior Thesis Submitted to the Faculty of the

Department of History in Candidacy for the

Degree of Bachelor of Arts in History










Brian Laverdue









Asheville, North Carolina

November 22, 2005


When one thinks of World War II, one likely thinks of the major battles such as D-Day or the Battle of the Bulge, or one may think of the many heroic soldiers and pilots who fought valiantly against the forces of the Axis powers.  Of course, World War II was much more than epic battles and heinous tragedies, but many important players and operations are neglected by history books because they lack the glory of D-Day or the shock of a concentration camp.  One such area that does not receive much attention from World War II scholars is the Balkans, a moderately-sized region north of Greece and across the Adriatic Sea from Italy.  Although the Balkans captured headlines several years ago with revelations of ethnic cleansing of Muslims in a small region called Kosovo, most Westerners have little knowledge of the Balkans’ past or the region’s role in the fight against Hitler and Nazi Germany.  True, the Balkans never witnessed an epic battle along the lines of the Battle of the Bulge or the assault on Okinawa, but the Balkans nevertheless saw their share of action, albeit “shadowy” action.    Some of the most important participants in the Balkans during World War II were not regular, uniformed soldiers; instead, many were covert intelligence agents and special operations troops.  Out of all the Allies, Britain was most active in the region and had her interests in the Balkans represented by the Special Operations Executive (SOE).  However, the SOE was not the sole British participant in Yugoslavian affairs; rather, the Balkans served as the battleground for political power struggles between the SOE, the Foreign Office, and Prime Minister Winston Churchill.  Initially, dissension and confusion among SOE’s agents and leaders and tension between the SOE, the Foreign Office, and Prime Minister Winston Churchill over the nature and leadership of the Yugoslavian resistance groups led Britain to adopt a piecemeal lackluster support plan for the Chetniks. As accusations of Nazi collaboration emerged, the British government gradually lost faith in the Chetniks, and ultimately the British contributed to the decline of the Gen. Dragoljlub Draža Mihailović’s Chetniks by suspending their material aid, using the SOE to bolster the Partisans, and helping Josip Broz Tito emerge as the pre-eminent rebel and eventual leader of post-war Yugoslavia.

Unlike the Allied powers of Britain and France, Yugoslavia was not always destined to become a battlefield during World War II.  According Ilija Jukić, the assistant foreign minister for the Yugoslav government-in-exile (YGE) during the war, Hitler initially did not want to occupy the Balkans because he wanted to maintain access to the regions’ crops and raw materials.[1]  Hitler’s plans for the Balkans brought him into conflict with Mussolini, who wanted to claim the Balkans for Italy.  In The Fall of Yugoslavia, Jukić reports that “[i]tem 7 of Mussolini’s war directives, dated May 30 [1939], stated that Germany and Italy were to occupy the whole of the Balkans and the Danube Basin”.[2]  However, Hitler and Mussolini were not the only ones to argue over the fate of Yugoslavia.  In the beginning of the war, Britain did not wish to jeopardize Italy’s neutrality at that time; therefore, Britain wanted to stay out of the Balkans for fear of antagonizing Mussolini.[3]  On the other hand, as early as 1939 the French proposed opening a Balkan front to distract Nazi forces from operations against Western Europe.[4]  The Allies’ first argument over the fate of Yugoslavia ended with an agreement on 11 December 1939 not to provoke Italy by entering the Balkans;[5] unfortunately, as the war progressed Hitler changed his mind and the Balkans joined the rest of Europe as a site of warfare and bloodshed early on the morning of 6 April 1941.[6] 

Although one may think that a quick invasion and fragmentation of Yugoslavia would effectively end its relevance in the war, Yugoslavia in fact became one of the most contested regions thanks to the resistance movements led by General Mihailović and his archrival Josip Broz Tito, and because of increased Allied interest in the region and its rebels.  Following the defeat of the Second Army, Col. Mihailović led the few soldiers who remained alive and loyal to the government across the Drina River on 29 April 1941 to start a new front.[7]  Eventually, after almost being wiped out by German troops in Užice on 6 May,[8] Col. Mihailović and his followers arrived at their new headquaters of Ravna Gora, a plain located in the mountains fifteen miles north of Čačak.[9]  Once in Ravna Gora, Col. Mihailović began to organize what would later become the pro-royalist Chetnik movement.  One should note that Col. Mihailović’s Chetniks were but one group out of many; the term “chetnik” roughly translates as “rebel” and the use of the term dates back to guerilla bands that fought against the Turks during Serbia’s struggle for independence in the 1800s.[10]  Officially, Col. Mihailović called his organization the Chetnik Detachments of the Yugoslav Army in an effort to identify his soldiers as being part of the regular army, to issue directives in the name of the Yugoslav government-in-exile (YGE), and to inspire his rural base of support with past glories associated with earlier “Chetniks.”[11]  Subsequent to the gathering of more volunteers and the formation of a political wing commanded by Dragiša Vasić, Col. Mihailović  and his men “must have hoped that given sufficient time and British assistance, they would be able to implement their plans for an eventual uprising in Serbia without fear of substantial interference from domestic rivals.”[12]  Unfortunately for the Chetniks, another rebel group led by Josip Broz Tito soon appeared and it not only offered resistance to the Chetniks but also a second choice for the Allied Powers.

On 2 June 1941, Hitler initiated Operation “Barbarossa,” an operation with the intended goal of conquering his one-time ally, the Soviet Union.  The repercussions of the operation were felt throughout the European Theater, but Yugoslavia in particular was the area outside the Soviet Union most affected by Hitler’s moves.  Ilija Jukić records in his memoirs that on 2 June, “Tito told his followers that the Soviet Union’s war was their war, and that the first prerequisite for the success of the uprising was the destruction of the old administrative machinery in Yugoslavia.”[13]  Tito’s statement not only foreshadowed his future campaign against the Axis Powers, but also his opposition to the restoration of the YGE and his hopes for a post-war communist government.  Meanwhile, Stalin broadcast a call on 3 July for all European Communists to start insurrection movements; the next day, Tito’s Partisans conducted their first assaults against the occupying forces.[14]  Immediately following Stalin’s plea on 4 July, the Politburo of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia (CPY) agreed to mount a rebellion throughout the country.[15]  The Communist-led insurrection had so much initial success that by August of 1941, Hitler grew impatient with General Milan Nedić, the puppet ruler of what remained of Serbia, and directed the Wehrmacht Commander, Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel, to take control of the situation.[16]  In an effort to pacify the region, Field Marshal Keitel issued a directive that would later prove to have a significant impact on Mihailović’s willingness to engage the Germans.  According to Jukić, the directive stated the following: “In order to nip the agitation in the bud the harshest methods must be employed immediately…The death penalty for 50 to 100 Communists must be considered an appropriate atonement for the life of a German soldier”.[17]  Naturally, the Germans did not limit this punitive action solely to the Communists; instead, it was applied to any and all people or groups that caused trouble and the other Axis occupiers adopted similar policies. 

The creation of the Chetniks and the Partisans served to pique the interest of the Allied Powers, particularly Britain, because the Allies primarily viewed the rebel groups as a means to harass the Germans and keep precious Axis resources and soldiers from other European battlefields.  Even though the Partisans were arguably the most active force in the beginning and throughout the insurgency, the British spy agency called the Special Operations Executive (SOE), at first favored the Chetniks led by Mihailović.  However, the SOE was not the only government agency with a stake in the region; the Foreign Office and Prime Minister Winston Churchill developed their own opinions of the situation in Yugoslavia and how best to handle the insurgency.  For his part, Prime Minister Churchill initially did not favor the Chetniks or the Partisans; instead, he simply wanted to support any resistance movements in Yugoslavia.  Churchill’s opinion is evident in a letter dated 28 May 1941, in which he states, “I regard it as a matter of State policy that the Yugoslavs shall be aided to the utmost possible…”[18]  Clearly, Churchill, at this point, wanted only to help any group resisting the Axis.  The Foreign Office, an agency that later quarreled with the SOE over which group to support, originally backed the SOE’s pro-Chetnik stance on the grounds that a post-war Communist government led by Tito would not accommodate Britain’s long-term interests in the region.[19] Ultimately, the disputes between the SOE and the Foreign office led to policies and actions that intentionally and accidentally, set up the Chetniks for failure and gave Tito the power to form his post-war dictatorship of Yugoslavia.

While Britain had a long history of spying and subversive operations in Yugoslavia dating from the 1930s, the creation of the SOE and the commencement of its activities in the Balkans represented a more serious interest in the region’s potential value in the war.  In conjunction with SOE activities, the formation of rebel groups fit nicely into Britain’s post-World War I strategy of unconventional warfare as a means to victory.  Simon Trew argues that since the British credited their World War I victory to their successful blockade of Germany, the British government believed they could also win World War II with unconventional techniques, such as psychological warfare and sabotage.[20]  With that policy in mind, the British government, through the SOE, wished to use Yugoslavia’s own people as an instrument of war.  On 26 June 1941, Col. Bill Bailey, the SOE officer in charge of the Balkans, set forth the basic plan of Britain’s involvement for the duration of the war.[21]  In the memorandum, Bailey states, “Ours is the task of ensuring that the potential striking force of the Yugoslav people under the German heel is so organized as to render maximum service when the time for action arrives.  It is Yugoslavia’s duty to be the vanguard of the revolt of oppressed peoples.”[22]  Over the course of the next four years, Britain would follow through with their promise to help, but the help was marginal at best thanks to poor communication, confusion on the ground, and maneuvers by pro-Partisan elements to discredit Mihailović in the eyes of Prime Minister Churchill and the YGE.

Before the British could begin to help the Chetniks, the Allies and the YGE had to re-establish lines of communication with operatives within the Balkans.  To achieve that task, SOE prepared a Wireless Telegraphy (W/T) team consisting of two Montenegrin officers, one Montenegrin wireless operator, and SOE’s liaison officer, Captain Duane (“Bill”) Hudson.[23]  The Foreign Office, which was under the leadership of Anthony Eden, supported Capt. Hudson’s mission, but the department had misgivings about the newly-created SOE’s capabilities and fears that Hudson’s mission could have serious political repercussions.[24]  Officially Capt. Hudson’s mission may have been limited to establishing communication, but Capt. Hudson revealed after the war that his mission was much more involved.  In 1946, Capt. Hudson stated, “I was sent into occupied Yugoslavia in September 1941… to report on any Yugoslavian groups that I might find offering resistance.  I was furthermore instructed to co-ordinate the efforts of such groups…and to make arrangements for…British military supplies…”[25]  As soon as Hudson and his team arrived at Ravna Gora on 25 October 1941, Mihailović immediately saw their presence as a signal that Britain supported him exclusively.[26]  While Britain was interested in the Chetniks, Capt. Hudson’s presence was not a signal that Britain backed Mihailović; as stated by Hudson above, his mission was only a scouting operation to gather information about the capabilities of the Chetniks and he was not tasked with ordering large-scale offensive operations against the occupying forces.  Unfortunately, Mihailović’s misguided understanding of Hudson’s mission led to activities that later led to Britain’s abandonment of the Chetniks.  On 26 October Mihailović, with the assumption of having Britain’s endorsement and a desire to be the only champion of the Serbian people, ordered his forces to attack the Partisan headquaters at Užice despite receiving orders relayed by Hudson from the YGE that “a rebellion would not be tolerated, that the struggle should be waged for Yugoslavia.”[27]   Mihailović’s desire to be the sole recipient of British aid also led him to collaborate with Yugoslav puppet-government of Milan Nedić in order to secure arms and to work together to defeat the Partisans, thus becoming the only Yugoslav rebel faction.[28]

Capt. Hudson quickly assessed the Chetniks’ position as one of survival; Gen. Mihailović appreciated the cause and support of the Allies but had more pressing concerns to resolve before attacking the Germans, namely the protection of his fellow Serbs and the destruction of the Partisans.  Hudson reported back to SOE Cairo that brutal German reprisals and massacres of Serbs by the NDH caused Mihailović to fear ethnic extinction more that the Nazis.[29]  In fact, the earlier directive issued by Field Marshal Keitel to kill fifty rebels for every German generated such an overwhelming reluctance to fight that Capt. Hudson sent the following message on 15 November:

When I press for continuous large-scale sabotage, the General [Mihailović] and his entourage reply that a million Serbs have already been killed in the fight against the Axis and that they cannot risk reprisals; they emphasize they will not depart from this standpoint for the sake of any outside interest.[30]


When Mihailović finally entered the fray, he did so against the only against his enemies, the Partisans.  After Mihailović decided to attack the Partisans in a move to consolidate his power, Hudson authorized the first of many halts of British supplies to the Chetniks.[31]  Hudson halted supplies because Mihailović was not fighting the right enemy; the British wanted him engage in sabotage operations against the Axis, not battle fellow Yugoslavs.  However, Hudson’s reports also demonstrate a significant break between himself and SOE policy; in truth, Hudson violated SOE policy and harmed the Chetnik movement as a result of his own actions.

As stated earlier in a memo by Col. Bailey, official SOE policy as of 1941 was not to encourage large-scale rebellious actions, such as the full-scale sorties called for by Capt. Hudson.  In the memorandum issued 26 June 1941, Col. Bailey explicitly states that SOE missions in the Balkans, namely Capt. Hudson’s, were in country only “to investigate the possibility of building up new organizations…eventually so as to…ensure their coordination with similar work…and avoid…useless sacrifice.”[32]  If Hudson had remained true to the policy, then Mihailović’s reluctance to fight the Germans was in accordance with established SOE policy.  Why then did Capt. Hudson urge Mihailović to conduct operations which clearly were against the wishes and policies of the SOE?  Scholars do not know why Hudson urged such activities, but he likely did not do so out of malice.  Unlike later SOE officials, no evidence exists of Hudson being a member or sympathizer with the Communist party or the Partisans.  The most likely explanation for Hudson overstepping his authority relates back to his original task, the establishment of a communication network.  When Hudson arrived in Yugoslavia on 20 September 1941, he brought two radio sets, one a Mark III set weighing fifty-five pounds that could not run on battery power and a “J” set that with a range of three hundred miles and battery-life of thirty minutes.[33]  Hudson lost the Mark III in less than two months, [34] and Hudson and his team abandoned the “J” set while fleeing from a battle on 20 October.[35] With that situation in mind, one can easily imagine the difficulty Hudson had in learning about Chetnik operations throughout the country and in receiving orders from SOE Cairo when he did not possess his own radio.  More likely than not, Hudson demanded larger attacks from Mihailović on the assumption that his superiors in Cairo would want a more active resistance movement if only they could contact him more regularly.  Unfortunately for the Chetniks, Hudson’s confusion over his duties, his overzealous initiative, and his subsequent admonition for Mihailović’s failure to carry out missions that were against SOE policy resulted in two significant consequences: the British started to view Mihailović as an ineffective leader and some Chetniks turned to the Italians and Croatians for supplies.

Regardless of why Hudson wanted more action from the Chetniks, his decision to halt supplies based upon his perceived inactivity of Mihailović had grave implications on the Mihailović’s relationship vis-ŕ-vis the British and the Axis.  The lack of supplies did not serve to alter Mihailović’s order; in fact, the lack of supplies only forced him into a more desperate situation that made him both unable to carry out attacks against the Nazis and more willing to collaborate with the occupying armies.  However, SOE London did not yet wish to give up on Mihailović in the autumn of 1941 because SOE London did not want to undermine the authority of the YGE or make the resistance look like a Soviet-engineered rebellion.[36]  Foreign Minister Eden also wrote to Churchill and advocated continued support of the Chetniks “‘in order to prevent anarchy and Communist chaos after the war.’”[37]  Although that was the official position of the SOE through most of 1942 according to F. W. D. Deakin, a pivotal SOE agent, the collaborationist activities tied to Mihailović and his unwillingness to act against the Italians in anticipation of the Allied landings on Sicily greatly agitated SOE Cairo. [38]  Ilija Jukić relates that during 1942 as the Allies made gains in North Africa, which finished successfully on May 7, the Chetniks refused to engage the Italians units in Yugoslavia.[39]  SOE Cairo wanted Gen. Mihailović to keep the Italian army in Yugoslavia occupied in order to soften the defenses of the Italian mainland in the advance of the Anglo-American landings,[40]  but Jukić quotes reports from Hudson in August 1942 that claim “‘Mihailovic had done virtually nothing against the Axis for nine months’” because Mihailović feared attacks on Italians would result in the “‘cessation of Italian food supplies for the Četniks.’”[41]  Whether or not the Chetniks under Mihailović’s command received help from the Italians at this time remains unclear, but Hudson’s accusations of inactivity and collaboration placed a seed of doubt in SOE, and SOE Cairo sent in Col. Bailey to verify the Yugoslav situation.

Following Capt. Hudson in December 1942, the SOE sent Col. S. W. (“Bill”) Bailey to report on the Chetniks and encourage them to engage in large-scale operations against the Axis forces; however, Col. Bailey instead issued a scathing report that accused the Chetniks of both collaboration with the Axis and a pre-occupation with destroying the Partisans first.  Col. Bailey’s mission, which began on 25 December 1942, came at a time when the SOE was confused—the Chetniks were not complying with new British demands to fight the Axis and appeared to be collaborating with the Italians, but the Partisans, the so-called “enemies” were reportedly having much success with their anti-German attacks.[42]  Through his reports back to SOE Cairo, Col. Bailey began to send reports that clarified the situation within Yugoslavia.  In his earliest reports, Bailey criticized Chetnik officers as being “lazy and inept” and he supported Hudson’s claim that Mihailović’s first goal was the destruction of the Communists.[43]  However, Bailey did not endorse the complete halt on supplies like his predecessor.  Instead, Bailey recognized that while Mihailović fought against the Partisans, the most egregious assaults and collaborationist activities were committed by Chetniks outside of Mihailović-controlled Serbia and with only dubious connections to his chain-of-command.[44]  On Bailey’s advice, SOE Cairo consented in late 1942 to a shift, albeit slight shift, from their policy of exclusive support for the Chetniks.  In an effort to separate the two opposing rebel groups, SOE Cairo now favored the division of the Balkans into spheres of influence—the Chetniks would take Serbia, the region with the highest concentration of true anti-Axis forces, and the Partisans would move into Croatia.[45]  Although SOE was not abandoning the Chetniks, their willingness not only to divide Yugoslavia into different spheres of influence but also to give some support to the Partisans showed cracks in SOE’s previous goal of uniting all rebels under one leader, Gen. Mihailović.

In 1943 relations between Gen. Mihailović and the SOE continued to sour; in fact, relations deteriorated to the point that Britain issued a clear set of demands in return for future aid.  In March 1943, Hudson and Bailey both grew weary of Gen. Mihailović ignoring their constant exhortations for more attacks against the Axis occupiers, and they expressed their frustration in a telegram to SOE Cairo with the following message: “The time has come to treat Mihailović firmly.  He must be made to realize that we can make or break him.  In return for [military aid], we demand frank and sincere cooperation.”[46]  In the face of such observations, many within the British government felt they could no longer afford to waste time with Mihailović; therefore, Foreign Minsiter Anthony Eden demanded action on the part of the YGE to force their minister of war to conform to the Allied consensus.[47] 

On May 7 1943, Eden petitioned YGE Prime Minister Slobodan Jovanović to issue a list of conditions that Mihailović would have to meet for continued assistance from Britain.[48]  The conditions transmitted to Mihailović included an order to cooperate with Britain by means of Col. Bailey, to make every effort to work with the Partisans or to avoid them altogether, and to make his primary objective resistance against the Nazis.[49]  Still the British response was not limited solely to a terse memo issued by Foreign Minister Eden; instead, Prime Minister Churchill established a new British policy towards Yugoslavia in a heated exchange with Fitzroy Maclean, an SOE agent, in July 1943.[50] Churchill’s exact words were not recorded, but Maclean later recounted the conversation in the following terms:

…he said, as the whole of Western Civilization was threatened by the Nazi menace, we [Britain] could not afford to let our attention be diverted from the immediate issue by considerations of long-term policy…My [Maclean’s] task was simply to find out who was killing the most Germans and suggest means by which we could help them kill more.  Politics must be a secondary consideration.[51]

Maclean’s conversation with Churchill clearly demonstrates the confusion and miscommunication prevalent at all levels of the British government in regards to the Yugoslav rebellion.  On the one hand, many agents in the SOE and Foreign Minister Eden operated in summer 1943 with idea that Britain still intended to support the Chetniks, as long as Gen. Mihailović agreed to Eden’s conditions.  On the other hand, Prime Minister Churchill and Maclean, his point man in the Balkans, were essentially resigned to championing Tito since Churchill thought the Partisans were the most effective Nazi killers and that the Chetniks were ineffectual at best and traitorous at worst.  Unfortunately, the two sides could not yet reach a consensus on the appropriate British response, and Mihailović, through little fault of his own, continued to add to the confusion by seeking help from the Italians.

While Mihailović agreed to the stipulations, he was, to a limited extent, stuck between the proverbial rock and a hard place; a lack of sufficient supplies from Britain and clear lines of communication forced local Chetnik leaders outside of Mihailović’s direct control to seek deals with occupiers, particularly the Italians, for such basics as food.[52]  If Mihailović acquiesced to British demands, he would antagonize local Chetniks leaders and the Italians in exchange for what would likely paltry aid from the British.  Britain remained committed to the Chetniks in public rhetoric, but the SOE continually failed to provide essential military equipment and public encouragement to Mihailović over the course of the war due partly to its inability to field a capable air support.  Although data is not available for Hudson’s early missions, Heather Williams notes that the air support for SOE agents and the Chetniks was almost non-existent for most of 1942; the SOE only had four Liberators available for its operations in the Balkans.[53]  Furthermore, the SOE agents’ chronic inability to transmit information because of equipment breakdowns meant that the pilots often did not know where to drop supplies, which resulted in countless supply drops either missing the Chetniks or falling into enemy hands.[54]  Actually, the miscommunication was so terrible that by May 1942 the SOE conducted “a total of nine sorties…and SOE had no idea if even this modest amount of material had actually come into Mihailović’s hands.”[55]  King Peter tried to alleviate the poor state of air support and ensure shipments to his Minister of War by attempting to purchase four Flying Fortresses from the United States in 1942; however, the SOE and Foreign Office (FO) blocked the sale because they feared American involvement at the time would only worsen the situation.[56]  By 1943, the quality of air support deteriorated to such a low point that Hudson sent a scathing message to SOE Cairo on 22 September 1943 which read:

I have been waiting one and half years for battle dress size 6 ft, waiting at least 7 months for boots size 11 and riding breeches size 6 ft and large great coat.  All repeatedly asked for.  It was not funny last year when in lieu of above you sent me my tennis trousers and silk pajamas, nor this year when you sent your stunted five foot five outfits.  In fact ever since you sent me in from Cairo with bum W/T equipment your supply dept has been just plain lousy.[57]


The problems detailed by Hudson are only a sample of the troubles routinely faced by the SOE agents and Mihailović.  Unfortunately, the supply problems fostered the Chetniks’ collaborations with the Italians, NDH, and Nedić because they had no other means to obtain essential materials.  Walter R. Roberts, a former Counselor for Press and Cultural Affairs at the American Embassy in Belgrade, studied the civil war and found that two local Chetnik commanders, Dobrosav Jevdjević in Hercegovina and Pop (Father) Momčilo Djujić in Dalmatia, brokered deals with the Italians for clothing and food on the condition that they not attack Italians troops.[58] Even though no one is sure if Mihailović approved of the deals or even had any level of contact with those two commanders, reports of such collaborations resulted in greater British hostility and even fewer supply drops as a punishment for collaboration.  The cycle of poor communication, uneven air support, Chetnik collaboration with the Axis, and punishment for collaboration continued throughout the war until the British developed a more efficient program to aid the Partisans.

In light of Gen. Mihailović’s inability to meet British demands for military action and reports of Chetnik collaboration with the Axis, the SOE slowly warmed to Churchill’s idea of assisting Josip Broz Tito and the Partisans.  While the Partisans had supporters within the SOE and FO almost since the beginning of the war, the public SOE support of the Partisans did not begin in earnest until the “Typical” mission led by F. W. D. Deakin parachuted into the Partisan headquaters located within Montenegro’s Durmitor mountain range on 27 May 1943.[59]  According to Deakin, his mission was to coordinate Partisan attacks against Axis lines of communication in Yugoslavia and report to SOE Cairo on the military situation within Partisan-held territory.[60]  SOE had an inclination to support the Partisans prior to the “Typical” mission, Deakin became one of the most influential agents in regards to the development of future assistance to the Partisans.  One of the main reasons Deakin was so instrumental was because he filed reports with SOE Cairo detailing massacres of the Partisans by the Chetniks and of Chetnik collaboration with the Germans and Italians.  Deakin, like other SOE and OSS agents, could not communicate with his fellow agents by W/ T; therefore, his primary source of information was Vlatko Velebit, the Partisan liaison officer to Deakin’s mission.[61]  Velebit often brought Deakin captured German and Italian documents outlining their collaboration with the Chetniks; of course, Velebit neglected to reveal his participation in Partisan-German negotiations for collaboration that had occurred a mere two months before Deakin arrived.[62]  Unaware of the Partisans’ collaboration, Deakin dutifully reported back to SOE Cairo of the atrocities attributed to Gen. Mihailović, whereupon SOE Cairo became even more concerned about Mihailović’s commitment to the Allied cause.  The full weight of Deakin’s reports did not manifest itself until the end of 1943; however, his reports did influence the SOE’s next major step towards backing Tito and abandoning Gen. Mihailović.

To understand fully the reasons why Deakin was so influential, one must examine both his past and the situation at SOE Cairo in 1943.  Scholars, such as David Martin, argue that Deakin, despite his dubious sources, had greater credibility than Bailey and Hudson because he was a close friend of Prime Minister Winston Churchill.[63]  Deakin admits in his memoirs, “I had been a friend of his [Churchill’s] in peace time and helped him with his biography of Marlborough” and Deakin discloses that he could bypass SOE handlers and send and receive telegrams directly from Churchill simply under the guise of “friendly correspondence.”[64]  Although scholars cannot know how much the personal correspondence affected Churchill’s decision to favor the communists, Deakin clearly had the opportunity to be much more influential with Churchill than Bailey or Hudson.  The other reason why Deakin’s reports had more impact upon the events of 1943 and the overall policy towards the Balkans was due to the pro-Communist sentiments prevalent throughout the leadership of SOE Cairo at the time. 

Beginning in October 1942, the chief of Yugoslav operations at SOE Cairo was Basil Davidson, who, according to David Martin, “…endorsed enthusiastically all the Titoist ‘liberal’ and ‘democratic’ pretensions and showed an undeviating anti-Mihailovich bias.”[65]  Furthermore, Davidson’s assistant, Major James Klugmann, was a known Communist.  In 1933, Maj. Klugmann joined the Communist Party, to which he remained a member until his death in 1977, and he even became an editor of Marxism Today after the war.  In fact, Franklin Lindsey, a top Balkan agent for America’s Office of Strategic Services, reveals in memoirs, Beacons in the Night: With the OSS and Tito’s Partisans in Wartime Yugoslavia, that James Klugmann was a suspected Soviet agent.[66]  Prior to the outbreak of war, a group of students at Cambridge University formed a pro-Communist club and five of the members became some of the Soviet Union’s best moles in the British government.[67]  In his memoirs, Lindsey states, “James Klugmann was a key member of this Cambridge group and was an acknowledged Communist;” however, Lindsey admits that two investigations could not prove whether Klugmann was an active Soviet spy during his tenure with SOE Cairo.[68]  With that said, Lindsey, himself an influential agent during the war, does not believe Klugmann alone was responsible for the shift towards Tito.  Instead, Lindsey argues that the most damage done by Klugmann was limited to highlighting what was already obvious by 1943—the Partisans were the best equipped and most determined anti-Axis force in the Balkans.[69]  Given the pro-Communist sentiments of the two of the most senior Balkan policy-makers, the shift towards the Partisans could very well have been influenced by the personal philosophies of Davidson and Klugmann.  However, given the widespread pro-Partisan sentiments throughout many agencies of the British government, scholars will likely never know how many Balkan policies were a direct result of any actions by Davidson and Klugmann.

Soon after the insertion of Deakin as the first major SOE liaison into the Partisan camp, the SOE sought an opportunity to strengthen the Partisans at the sacrifice of the Chetniks; the SOE found their chance to bolster the Partisans with the surrender of Italy.  On 8 September 1943, Deakin, along with other SOE agents, received a message over their W/ Ts from SOE Cairo instructing them to negotiate the surrender of the Italian divisions nearest to their position.[70]  Col. Bailey, who was still with the Chetniks, traveled with Lukačević, a local commander, to Berane, Montenegro where he successfully negotiated the capitulation of the Venezia Division to the Allies.  The surrender to the Allies, as opposed to the Chetniks, is an important distinction because the surrender placed the Italians under the Allied command and denied the Chetniks the opportunity to take the Italian war matériel.[71]  If the British were serious about helping the Chetniks become a more powerful force in the Balkans then the British should have allowed the Chetniks to seize the Italian arms.  Instead, after the Venezia Division surrendered SOE Cairo decided to recall both Bailey and Deakin to their respective headquaters with orders to receive a new commander, Fitzroy Maclean.[72]  The timing of SOE’s decision to send in new commanders is suspect because as soon as Bailey left Berane, a town located within the Chetnik-occupied Lim Valley, Partisan Commander Peko Dapčević of the Second Proletarian Division, led a large number of Partisan troops into the valley to secure the weapons of the Venezia Division.[73]  The Partisans quickly overwhelmed the Chetniks and General Oxilia, the commanding officer of the Venezia Division, was forced to surrender his weapons to the Partisans.[74]  Although that may seem like bad luck, the Partisans were privy to one significant piece of information of which Mihailović was unaware; the Italians announced their surrender on 3 September, five days before Britain alerted the Chetniks of the surrender.[75]  Those extra five days allowed Peko Dapčević to mobilize enough troops to impose Partisan control over the former Italian-held regions.  Furthermore, unconfirmed rumors also place British agents with Peko Dapčević; in fact, some evidence suggests that Major Hunter of the Fungus mission was responsible for convincing the Italians that the Partisans were the true representatives of the Allied command.[76]   Scholars will likely never know whether the British failed to inform the Chetniks intentionally or not, but given the pro-Communist leadership at SOE Cairo, the hub through which all messages passed, certainly makes a deliberate set-up plausible.  However, what is known is that by alerting the Partisans of the surrender, the British helped the Partisans become a much stronger force than ever before.  As of October 1943, the Partisans controlled the soldiers and equipment of five of the fifteen Italians garrisoned in the Balkans,[77] and the Chetniks, left embarrassed and weakened by Partisan victories, were only weeks away from complete abandonment.

Following the victory at Berane, the Partisans found themselves in a position of both power and esteem.  Prior to the Italian surrender the Partisans could barely muster 20, 000 troops; however, Jukić reports that the “Garibaldi Division,” a unit composed of Italian prisoners-of-war, and new volunteers from Dalmatia and Croatia swelled Tito’s ranks to 140, 000 troops.[78]  More importantly though, the Partisans now enjoyed full recognition by the British government as evidenced by the disruptive arrival of Fitzroy Maclean on 17 September 1943.[79]  Deakin, the former liaison officer to the Partisans, goes so far as to admit, “Fitzroy Maclean was the personal representative of the Prime Minister and his arrival marked implicitly the de facto recognition of the Yugoslav National Liberation Army [Partisans] as a military force fulfilling a significant role in South-Eastern  Europe.”[80]  Although he only remained in country until 5 October, Maclean amassed a great amount of personal insight into Tito and his inner circle and on numerous field reports from his subordinates of Partisan actions against the Germans.[81]  Among Maclean’s most significant observation are his personal accounts of the fanaticism and of the inevitability of the Partisans’ success.  In Eastern Approaches, one of his memoirs, Maclean envisions the Partisans as being the inevitable champion in the Balkans because unlike the reluctant Chetniks, “…Communist leaders furnished the Partisans with the singleness of purpose, the ruthless determination, the merciless discipline, without which they could not have survived, still less succeeded, in their [revolution].”[82]  Needless to say, Maclean was impressed by the tenacity of the Partisans, and in reports he contrasted the Partisans’ willingness to sacrifice in battle with the Chetniks’ desire to preserve Serbian patriotism by eliminating the Communists.[83]  These observations, combined with information from his field agents, resulted in the so-called “Blockbuster” report, whose name conveys the significance of its impact on British Balkan policy.

On 5 November 1943 in Cairo, Fitzroy Maclean delivered the “Blockbuster” report to Foreign Minister Eden,[84] and once disseminated throughout the British government, the report set off a series of events that culminated with the end of British aid to the Chetniks and the official recognition of Josip Broz Tito and his Partisans as Yugoslavia’s de-facto leaders.  At the meeting with Eden, Maclean reasserted the most important conclusions in his report as the following:

Verbally, I repeated my main conclusions: …that as a resistance movement it [the Partisan movement] was highly effective and that its effectiveness could be considerably increased by Allied help; but that, whether we gave such assistance or not, Tito and his followers would exercise decisive influence in Jugoslavia after the liberation.[85]

            Maclean’s report caused an immediate sensation because it provided the hard evidence that pro-Partisan supporters needed in order to finally stop all support to the Chetniks.  However, some agents and scholars debate the accuracy of its report and question the way in which Eden and SOE Cairo handled Maclean’s observations.  On 7 November, SOE Cairo received a report from Col. Bailey, who was still stationed with Chetniks in Serbia.  Curiously though, the pro-Communist SOE Cairo did not transmit the report to the Foreign Office in London until 23 November and blamed the delay on the extensive time and work required to decode the contents.[86]  Of course, the real reason for the delay was the never-ending political conflict between the pro-Chetnik agents and the pro-Communist leadership of SOE Cairo.  In his report, Bailey disputed Maclean’s assertion that Tito was a well-loved leader throughout the Balkans; instead, Bailey points out that Maclean had no contacts within Serbia and failed to disclose “almost universal support for Mihailović in Serbia, where romantic songs were sung about him.”[87]  Clearly, Bailey’s findings could have had a significant impact upon British policy and may have resulted in a more favorable outcome for the Chetniks.  However, given that the excessive delay that originated at SOE Cairo, one can reason that Col. Basil Davidson and Maj. Klugmann, both known Communists,  purposely impeded the decoding and transmission to ensure that Eden and Churchill received Maclean’s flattering account of Partisan intents and capabilities. 

            Regardless of whether Maclean’s report was inaccurate, the “Blockbuster” convinced Foreign Minister Eden and Prime Minister Churchill of the Partisans’ primacy within the Balkans and initiated a sequence of events that led to Britain’s resignation to Tito’s eventual rise to power and the complete abandonment of the Chetniks.  One of the most immediate effects of Maclean’s report was an immense increase in supplies to the Partisans.  David Martin, citing PM 3 510/13 from 1 December 1943[88], reveals that in October the Partisan-held Dalmatian islands alone received 650 tons of supplies, including ten thousand rifles, 3, 372, 000 rounds of ammunition, and 4, 800 mortars.  While tangible British aid increased on the ground, British political support of Tito and the Partisans reached new heights with the decisive Teheran Conference. 

            The Teheran Conference, also known as the “Big Three Conference,” was a crucial event for the Yugoslav civil war and resistance because Prime Minister Churchill, President Franklin Roosevelt, and Marshal Stalin agreed upon and codified their decision to support Tito and the Partisans.  Although some disagreement occurred over the best way to aid the Partisans, Roosevelt and Stalin finally conceded to Churchill’s plan to provide as much material by air as possible and to limit Allied ground forces to small commando bands if needed.[89]  The policy was not only a reflection of the British confidence in Tito, but reflected Churchill’s long-held desire of a united Yugoslavia-Greece-Turkey front which would seriously hinder the Nazi forces.  In his memoirs, Churchill admits that ever since the outbreak of World War II, “[i]t was our aim to animate and combine Yugoslavia, Greece, and Turkey.”  To that end, the meeting ended with the following declaration:

The Conference:-

(1) Agreed that the Partisans in Yugoslavia should be supported by supplies and equipment to the greatest possible extent, and also by commando operations:

(2) Agreed that, from the military point of view, it was most desirable that Turkey should come into the war on the side of the Allies before the end of the year.[90]

Following the Tehran Conference, Mihailović and the Chetnik movement were clearly in dire straits; Britain, their only Allied source of supplies, had all but abandoned them despite the muted protests of Col. Bailey to maintain aid and the Partisans were seemingly unstoppable.  While the conclusions reached by the “Big Three” were, at least on paper, the end of all Allied assistance to the Chetniks, the political in-fighting over the Yugoslav resistance groups was not yet finished.  Under the guise of giving the Chetniks one last chance to prove themselves as a useful asset to the Allies, Foreign Minister Eden arranged the “December Test,” an operation whose sole goal was to end British aid forever.

The “December Test,” a plan involving pro-Partisan officials throughout the British government, was a scheme designed to silence the remaining British and Yugoslavian support for Mihailović, discredit the Chetniks, and pave the way for endorsing Tito as the sole recipient of British assistance.  Mihailović had to be disgraced after the Teheran Conference because as Fitzroy Maclean confesses, “[t]he British government now found themselves in an awkward position…they were under a definite obligation to King Peter [of Yugoslavia], and politically they were committed to his Government…but they were now were about to commit…to the Partisans.”[91]  With that situation in mind, Churchill visited King Peter upon his return from Teheran and conceded to King Peter that “the only hope [he]…possessed of returning to his country would be, with our mediation, to reach some provisional arrangement with Tito…before the partisans further extended their hold upon the country.”[92]  Before King Peter would accept the Partisans the Chetniks had to be eliminated.  On 8 December 1943, Brigadier Armstrong relayed a request from the Special Operations Committee to destroy two bridges in the Morava and Ibar valleys by 29 December.[93]  Mihailović, anxious as ever to please the British, quickly agreed to execute the mission along with issuing requests for a deadline extension and more explosives.[94]  Instead of providing further assistance, Ambassador Ralph Stevens, the British ambassador to the YGE, sent a note to King Peter that announced Britain was withdrawing their support do to Mihailović failing the “December Test.”[95]  Obviously, the Chetniks were set up from the start; Churchill and Eden never planned to give Mihailović a final chance to prove his worth.  Col. Bailey and Brigadier Armstrong pleaded with SOE Cairo to provide arms and give the Chetniks one more opportunity for redemption, but all their pleas fell on deaf ears.  As of the end of December 1943, the British government, as a whole, endorsed the Partisans as the sole representative of the Yugoslav people on the battlefields of the Europe.

As 1944 dawned, the Tito was well on his way towards gathering enough power to challenge the legitimacy of the King Peter’s London-based exile government.  Shortly before the new year, Ambassador Stevens issued a memorandum that introduced the following guidelines for British policy towards Yugoslavia:

The Partisans will be the rulers of Yugoslavia.  They are of such value to us militarily that we must back them to the full, subordinating political considerations to military.  It is extremely doubtful whether we can any longer regard the Monarchy as a unifying element in Yugoslavia.[96]

As one can see, the British government, by providing military support to the Partisans, inadvertently, though in some cases purposely, increased Tito’s physical power and influence within the Balkans to a point that Britain had to accept the truth that Tito was stronger than King Peter’s government.  The Partisans fielded an army of over 140, 000 troops thanks to British help with the Italian surrender, and the YGE’s Minister of Defense, Gen. Mihailović, had lost the confidence and material aid of the Allies.  Throughout 1944, the British tried to reconcile the situation by encouraging negotiations between the YGE and Tito, who declared himself marshal of Yugoslavia at a meeting of the Anti-Fascist Council for the Liberation of Yugoslavia shortly before the Teheran Conference.[97]  Eden insisted in spring 1944 that the British government did not want “to help Tito impose himself and his regime on the Serb people,[98]” but those hopes were soon dashed.  With the knowledge of Tito’s power within the country, the YGE’s self-imposed exile in London and disconnect with their citizens, and growing likelihood of an Allied victory, Prime Minister Churchill traded the future of Yugoslavia in a final act of interference in Yugoslav affairs.  On 9 October 1944, Prime Minister Churchill traveled to Moscow to settle matters in the Balkans.[99]  Churchill initiated the meeting with Marshal Stalin by stating, “Your armies are in Rumania and Bulgaria.  We have interests, missions, and agents there. Don’t let us get at cross-purposes in small ways.”[100]  As the translator conveyed the message to Stalin, Churchill calculated the amount of Allied and Soviet post-war predominance in the Balkans and passed the following note to Stalin:


            Russia                                                              90%

            The others [Allies]                                            10%


            Great Britain                                                     90%

                        (in accord with U. S. A.)

            Russia                                                              10%

Yugoslavia                                                                    50-50%

Hungary                                                                       50-50%


            Russia                                                              75%

            The others                                                        25%[101]

After Stalin read the note he made a “tick mark” with a blue pen to signal his agreement to the terms;[102] in less than five minutes, Churchill and Stalin had bargained over the lives and futures of millions of people.  The breakdown of control demonstrates that Churchill wanted to maintain Greek security and integrity; ironically, those same motives drove Britain to become so heavily involved in the resistance movement in the Balkans.  However, the meeting proved to be meaningless from the start.  By the time of the October meeting, the fate of Yugoslavia was well within the hands of the Communists.  Tito, who was already the most powerful figure in the region, arranged for the Soviet invasion of Serbia, which occurred on 28 September 1944 when the Third Ukrainian Front’s 57th Army crossed into Yugoslavia from Bulgaria.[103]  King Peter, who tried throughout 1944 to maintain a semblance of control, faced the inevitability of Tito’s victory and called upon all Serbs to support the Partisans in a broadcast on 12 September.[104]  Prime Minister Churchill managed to pacify Tito and King Peter II enough so that King Peter II accepted the notion of becoming a constitutional monarch, and a coalition government composed of what little remained of the YGE and the Partisans formed on 7 March 1945.[105]  The coalition government led by pro-royalist Ivan Šubašić fell apart in October, and new elections were held the following month.[106]  Unsurprisingly, Tito’s “Popular Front” won the election and he became the “legitimate” leader of Yugoslavia, the position he held until his death in 1980.[107]  As for Gen. Mihailović, he avoided capture until 1946 when he was capture, tried for treason, and executed by a firing squad on 17 July 1946.[108]

After years of in-fighting and confusion brought upon by a lack of communication, the British government abandoned the Chetniks in favor for the more militarily-effective Partisans led by Josip Broz Tito.  Today, scholars have the luxury of reflecting on post-war Yugoslavia and ponder the same question that circled around SOE meetings—was Yugoslavia, or even Europe, better as a result of the Allies’ support of Tito?  While modern scholars may now trace back the ethnic cleansings of the 1990s to Tito’s post-war dictatorship, the understanding of the Allies’ actions must not be clouded by recent memories of the horrific genocide.  Britain’s decision to support Tito was the result of a choice between two evils; the Allies could both support Mihailović and risk falling to the Nazis, or they could surrender a small region to the Communists in order to gain the most effective regional opponent against the Axis.  The Allies’ decision will likely inspire heated arguments for decades to come, but one must never neglect that given the terrible conditions faced by millions of Europeans during the war, the Allies had little choice but to make a deal with a demon in order to kill the Devil.





Glossary of Important Terms, People, and Places

Bailey, Col. S. W. (“Bill”): Col. Bailey, despite his sometimes scathing criticisms, was a stalwart supporter of Mihailović and the Chetniks throughout the war.  He was one of the few British agents stationed in Chetnik-held Serbia for most of the early years of the war.  Towards the end of 1943, Bailey was one of the few agents who argued against the prevailing British inclination to exclusively support the Partisans.

   Balkan Penisula (the Balkans): The southeasternmost area of Europe; it is surrounded by the Black Sea, the Aegean Sea, the Sea of Marmara, the Mediterranean Sea, the Ionian Sea, and the Adriatic Sea.  Today, the peninsula is home to Slovenia, Croatia, Albania, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Serbia and Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, continental Greece, southeast Romania, and parts of Turkey.

Chetniks: Originally a term used to denote insurgents during the Ottoman reign, a new band of Chetniks under the leadership of Gen. Mihailović emerged from the remnants of the Yugoslav Army after the Nazi invasion of April 1941.  Although the Chetniks attacked the occupying Germans and Italians, they focused more upon fighting the Partisans as the war progressed.  Eventually, a lack of supplies combined with the might of the Partisans and Soviets led to the downfall of the Chetniks.

Cincar-Marković, Aleksander: Foreign minister of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia; he supported Prime Minister Cvetković and Prince Paul’s decision to join the Axis.  Cincar-Marković lost his position during the coup of 1941.

Cvetković, Dragisa: 1893-1969; He was the prime minister of Yugoslavia from 1939-1941.  Cvetković supported the signing of the Tripartite Pact and lost power after Gen. Simović’s coup.

Davidson, Basil: Basil Davidson served as the chief of the Balkans desk at SOE Cairo.  Davidson, like his assistant Maj. Klugmann, was an admitted Communist sympathizer.

Deakin, F. W. D.: Deakin was the leader of the “Typical” mission.  He sent some very inflammatory reports of Chetnik massacres of Partisans; however, many of his accounts were based upon information provided by his Partisan minder instead of first-hand knowledge.  Nevertheless, his reports helped sway the British government to adopt a pro-Partisan policy.

Hudson, Captain Duane (“Bill”): Capt. Hudson led one of the first British missions in Yugoslavia during World War II.  Capt. Hudson was the first to report on the Chetniks’ unwillingness to engage the Germans for fear of reprisals, but he also overstepped his authority when he demanded greater offensive campaigns against the Axis forces.  Hudson and SOE Cairo also suffered from a shared inability to communicate due to Hudson’s lack of reliable radio access.  Despite his criticisms, Hudson remained an advocate of a pro-Chetnik policy.

Jukić, Ilija: Assistant Foreign Minister of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia.  He was one of the few pre-invasion officials to remain apart of the post-coup exile government.  He is also the author of The Fall of Yugoslavia.

King Peter II: King Peter II of the Karadjordjevic dynasty was the last king of Yugoslavia.  King Peter led the coup against the pro-Tripartite government of Prince Paul.  After the German invasion in 1941, King Peter II moved his government to London where he remained for the rest of the war.  Following the victory of the Partisans, he was deposed by Tito’s new government but did not abdicate.  He moved to the United States where he lived until he died in 1970.  The dynasty still exists and many descendants are trying to reintroduce the monarchy to Serbia.

Klugmann, James: Major James Klugmann was the assistant to Basil Davidson, the chief of the Balkans section at SOE Cairo.  Klugmann was a known Communist and a member of the Cambridge club that produced five of the most notorious British spies for the Soviet Union.

Lindsey, Franklin: An American operative for the OSS.  Lindsey was assigned to travel and report on Tito’s Partisans and he helped influence the pro-Tito policy of the Allies.

Maclean, Fitzroy: Fitzroy Maclean was one of the most influential agents, and he is essentially responsible for Britain’s complete break with the Chetniks.  He is the author of the “Blockbuster” report, whose title is reflective of its impact on British policy towards Yugoslavia.  He was not a known Communist like Klugmann; however, Maclean did enjoy a warm relationship with Tito and championed the Partisans as the most effective force in Yugoslavia. 

Mihailović, Dragoljlub Draža: 1893-1946; Gen. Mihailović served as the organizer and leader of the pro-royalist Chetniks during World War II.  In 1942, he earned the position of general and became the minister of war for the Yugoslav government-in-exile.  Eventually, his forces declined in power and stature after losing support of the Allies.   After the war, Tito arrested Mihailović, tried him for collaboration and treason, and executed him in 1946.

Nedić, Milan: 1878-1945; Prior to the Nazi invasion, Milan Nedić was the Yugoslav minister of the Army and he openly supported joining the Tripartite Pact.  Prince Paul removed him from office, but after the invasion the Wehrmacht Commander appointed Nedić as the prime minister of the puppet state of Serbia.  Under his rule, Serbia became a haven for displaced Serbs fleeing from the NDH; however, he persecuted other groups.  Nedić committed suicide in Belgrade in 1945.

Nezavisna Država Hrvatska or NDH: Name of the Axis-controlled puppet state that included Croatia and much of Bosnia.  The NDH was the first “independent” Croat state since 1102; however, it ceased to exist in 1945 and Croats did not have their own nation again for almost 50 years.

OSS (Office of Strategic Services): An American intelligence-gathering agency created on 11 July 1941.  Led by Gen. Bill Donovan throughout the war, OSS served as a liaison with resistance movements in occupied Europe and Asia and engaged in independent sabotage missions.  OSS disbanded in 1945, but most of the staff subsequently joined other intelligence agencies, particularly the newly created Central Intelligence Agency.

Partisans: The Partisans were Yugoslav Communists led by Josip Broz Tito and the Yugoslav Politburo during World War II.  Officially formed on 4 July 1941 as the People's Liberation Army and Partisan Detachments of Yugoslavia (Narodno-oslobodilačka vojska i partizanski odredi Jugoslavije), the Partisans were the most effective anti-Axis resistance force.  The success resulted in the Communist post-war rise to power.

Pavelić, Ante: 1889-1959; One of the founders and leaders of the Ustashe, a fascist Croatian organization.  Ante Pavelić  served as the de-facto ruler of the Ustashe government and the Independent State of Croatia.  Under his rule, most Jews and nearly one-third of Croatian Serbs were either massacred or sent to concentration camps.  Unfortunately, he fled after the war and died in Spain before standing trial for war crimes.

Ravna Gora: “Ravna Gora” means “a connection among the mountains, fields, and meadows” in the Croatian language. Present-day Ravna Gora is located in northern Croatia and borders Slovenia to the north.  During World War II, Ravna Gora served as the early headquaters for Gen. Mihailović and his Chetniks.

Simović, Dušan: Army General who led the coup d’état on 27 March 1941 that ousted Prince Paul and inserted the 17 year-old regent King Peter as king of Yugoslavia.  Gen. Simović fled with the rest of the government and maintained his position as prime minister of the exiled government until he was succeeded by Slobodan Jovanović in 1942.

SOE (Special Operations Executive): An agency created in July 1940 by Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Hugh Dalton.  The SOE’s mission was to engage in unconventional warfare and assist resistance movements.  In 1946, the SOE dissolved and its mission was transferred to the Special Intelligence Service, also known as MI6.

SOE Cairo: Cairo was the headquarters for SOE’s Mediterranean and Balkan operations.  Most Yugoslav operations began in Cairo and almost all radio communiqués passed through SOE Cairo for decoding and analysis.  SOE Cairo was notorious then and even more so now for its concentration of pro-Communists and Tito sympathizers.  All agents passed through SOE Cairo before entering the Balkans and nearly all transmissions were sent to and decoded by SOE Cairo.

SOE London: SOE London was the headquarters for the entire Special Operations Command.  SOE London and SOE Cairo often had conflicting views of the situation in the Balkans.  In contrast to its satellite office, SOE London supported Mihailović much longer and often did not receive complete reports from the pro-Tito SOE Cairo.

Tito, Josip Broz: 1892-1980; Born Josip Broz, he led the Communist or Partisan forces during their rebellion against the Axis Powers in Yugoslavia during World War II.  After the war, he served as the marshal of Yugoslavia until his death in 1980.

Ustashe: The Ustashe (or Ustaše) were a fascist Croatian political organization formed in 1929.  The Ustashe gained power in Croatia after the Nazis extended an offer of leadership after the invasion of Yugoslavia on 6 April 1941.  Once in power, the Ustashe announced the creation of the Independent State of Croatia (Nezavisna Država Hrvatska or NDH) under the leadership of Ante Pavelić.  The Ustashe committed innumerable atrocities and nearly killed all Serbia Jews and almost one-third of Croatian Serbs.  The Ustashe were enemies of both the Partisans and Mihailović’s Chetniks, although some independent Chetniks collaborated with the Ustashe.  Croatia, as an independent state, ceased to exist when the Red Army and the Partisans liberated the territory and it remained a part of Yugoslavia until the 1990s.

Užice: Užice lies along the Djetinja River in present-day Serbia and Montenegro and serves as the capital of the Zlatibor District.  Tito used Užice as an early headquarters before being driven out of Serbia by Chetnik forces.  The town adopted the name “Titovo Užice” in honor of Tito, but changed back to its original name in 1992.

Wireless Telegraphy (W/T): An electro-mechanical typewriter that transmits typed messages from one point to another by using an electrical communications channel.  A wireless telegraphy machine was the sole means of communication between Yugoslav SOE and OSS agents and their counterparts in SOE Cairo.  The machines employed by the SOE and OSS were notorious for having batteries that quickly died and for breaking during parachute landings. 

Yugoslav government-in-exile (YGE): The Yugoslav government-in-exile, based in London, was the official government of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia while the Axis occupied the Balkans. 

Yugoslavia: Following World War I, Yugoslavia emerged as a union of the once independent states of Serbia and Montenegro as well as the former Austro-Hungarian territories of Slovenia, Croatia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina.  Officially proclaimed a kingdom under King Alexander in December 1918, Yugoslavia remained united even after Marshal Tito and the Communist Party assumed control of the country in 1945.  In the late 1980s and early 1990s, a series of civil wars aimed at the “ethnic cleansing” of certain groups resulted in widespread death and destruction and ultimately the dissolution of most of Yugoslavia into independent republics.


List of References

Primary Sources:

While I may not have as many direct primary sources as some of my fellow students, I was limited in my ability to gather sources for a few reasons.  One, most of the preserved Foreign Office and Special Operations Executive papers and transmissions are housed in the British National Archives in London.  Due to financial reasons and military obligations, I had neither the money nor time to travel to London to review the documents firsthand.  However, several of the following books, such as Patriot or Traitor, contain reproductions of numerous reports and radio transmissions.  Two, according to Simon Trew, countless communications housed at SOE Cairo were destroyed by Rommel’s firebombing of Cairo in July 1942.  The only information exists either in the memories of those involved or in copies somehow maintained by select agents and officials.  With that said, the documents by various authors listed below retain a high degree of integrity and most are reproduced in their entirety.



Churchill, Winston S.  “28 May 1941: Winston S. Churchill to General Ismay, for the Chiefs of Staff Committee (Churchill papers, 20/36).” In The Churchill War Papers. Vol. 3, The Ever-Widening War: 1941, edited by Martin Gilbert.  New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2000, 732.

---.  The Second World War.  Vol. 5, Closing the Ring.  Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1951.

---.  The Second World War.  Vol. 6, Triumph and Tragedy.  Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1953

These two volumes are apart of a detailed collection of Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s experiences in World War II.  They provided invaluable insight into the thoughts the man who was ultimately responsible for signing Yugoslavia’s future over to Tito and the Communists.


Committee for a Fair Trial for Gen. Draja Mihailovich: Commission of Inquiry.    Patriot or Traitor: The Case of General Mihailovich, Proceedings and Report of the Commission of Inquiry of the Committee for a Fair Trial for Draja Mihailovich. With an introduction by David Martin.  Stanford: Hoover Institution Press, 1978.

Patriot or Traitor is a unique source in that it is a compilation of records and inquiry sessions of a Congressional committee established in 1946 to ascertain the true nature of the Chetnik movement.  The committee also lobbied the State Department and President Truman to try to guarantee a fair trial for Mihailović, who was then on trial for treason in Yugoslavia.  Patriot or Traitor also includes a lengthy introduction by David Martin that contains several primary sources, including many of the SOE and FO documents that were destroyed during the firebombing of Cairo in 1942.


Deakin, F. W. D.  The Embattled Mountain.  New York: Oxford University Press, 1971.

F. W. D. Deakin was the leader of the “Typical” mission to Tito which began in May 1943.  Deakin relayed some of the most critical reports of Chetnik inactivity and collaboration. 


Jukić, Ilija.  The Fall of Yugoslavia.  Translated by Dorian Cooke.  New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1974.

Ilija Jukić was the assistant Foreign Minister of the Yugoslav government-in-exile for the duration of the war and his position afforded him close relationships with King Peter II, Foreign Minister Eden, and several SOE agents and officials. 


Lindsey, Franklin.  Beacons in the Night: With the OSS and Tito’s Partisans in Wartime Yugoslavia.  Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1993.

Franklin Lindsey served as an American liaison to the Partisans from 1944 through the end of the war.  He met and worked with many SOE agents and is familiar with the British policies, their effects upon the war, and the inner-workings of the SOE.


Maclean, Fiztroy.  Eastern Approaches.  New York: Time-Life Books, 1950.

Fiztroy Maclean was a close advisor and friend of Prime Minister Churchill.  Maclean is the author of the “Blockbuster,” the report that almost single-handedly swayed almost all British officials to endores Tito and the Partisans as the most effective fighting force within the Balkans.


Staff of the Committee and the United States State Department. “The Teheran Conference,” Treaty, 28 November-1 Decmber 1943. (accessed 11 November 2005).

This is a copy of the agreement reached at the end of the Teheran Conference.  It is found on a Yale University website that has electronic copies of numerous important treaties and other international documents.



Secondary Sources:


Beloff, Nora.  Tito’s Flawed Legacy: Yugoslavia & the West since 1939.  Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1985.

Jakub, Jay.  Spies and Saboteurs: Anglo-American Collaboration and Rivalry in Human Intelligence Collection and Special Operations, 1940-45.  New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1999.

Milazzo, Matteo J.  The Chetnik Movement & the Yugoslav Resistance.  Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1975.

Roberts, Walter R.  Tito, Mihailović, and the Allies, 1941-1945.  New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1973.

Trew, Simon.  Britain, Mihailović, and the Chetniks, 1941-1942.  New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1998.

Williams, Heather.  Parachutes, Patriots, and Partisans: The Special Operations Executive and Yugoslavia, 1941-1945.  London: C. Hurst & Co., 2003.

Woodward, Sir Llewellyn.  British Foreign Policy in the Second World War.  London: Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1962.




[1] Ilija Jukić, The Fall of Yugoslavia, trans. Dorian Cooke (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1974), 17-18.

[2] Jukić, 17.

[3] Jukić, 18.

[4] Jukić, 18.

[5] Jukić, 18.

[6] Simon Trew, Britain, Mihailović, and the Chetniks, 1941-1942 (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1998), 2.

[7] Matteo J. Milazzo, The Chetnik Movement & the Yugoslav Resistance (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1975), 13.

[8] Milazzo, 14.

[9] Trew, 6.

[10] Milazzo, 18.

[11] Trew, 7.

[12] Trew, 9-10.

[13] Jukić, 99.

[14] Jukić, 99.

[15] Jukić, 99.

[16] Jukić, 106.

[17] Jukić, 106.

[18] Winston S. Churchill, “28 May 1941: Winston S. Churchill to General Ismay, for the Chiefs of Staff Committee (Churchill papers, 20/36),” in The Churchill War Papers, vol. 3, The Ever-Widening War: 1941, ed. Martin Gilbert (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2000), 732.

[19] Sir Llewellyn Woodward, British Foreign Policy in the Second World War (London: Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1962), 334.

[20] Trew, 17.

[21] Trew, 35.

[22] FO371/ 30291 R7374/ 4906/ 92 as cited by Trew, 35.

[23] Trew, 51.

[24] Williams, 13.

[25] Trew, 52.

[26] Milazzo, 34.

[27] Milazzo, 34.

[28] Milazzo, 35-36.

[29] Williams, 60.

[30]As cited by Walter R. Roberts, Tito, Mihailović, and the Allies, 1941-1945 (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1973), 70.

[31] Williams, 61.

[32] FO371/ 30291 R7374/ 4906/ 92 as cited by Trew, 35.

[33] Roberts, 28.

[34] Roberts, 28.

[35] Trew, 57.

[36] Williams, 61.

[37] Roberts, 72.

[38] F. W. D. Deakin, The Embattled Mountain (New York: Oxford University Press, 1971), 68.

[39] Jukić, 181.

[40] Jukić, 181.

[41] Jukić, 181.

[42] Deakin, 177.

[43] Deakin, 179.

[44] Roberts, 89.

[45] Williams, 100.

[46] As cited by Jukić, 181-182.

[47] Jukić, 182.

[48] Jukić, 182.

[49] Jukić, 182.

[50]  Committee for a Fair Trial for Gen. Draja Mihailovich: Commission of Inquiry, Patriot or Traitor: The Case of General Mihailovich, Proceedings and Report of the Commission of Inquiry of the Committee for a Fair Trial for Draja Mihailovich, with an introduction by David Martin (Stanford: Hoover Institution Press, 1978), 95.

[51]Fitzroy Maclean, Eastern Approaches (New York: Time-Life Books, 1950), 287.

[52] Williams, 108.

[53] Williams, 79.

[54] Williams, 79.

[55] Williams, 79.

[56] Williams, 79-80.

[57]WO 202/ 131 as cited by Martin, 126.

[58] Roberts, 68.

[59] Deakin, 3-6.

[60] Deakin, 6-7.

[61] Williams, 148.

[62] Williams, 149.

[63] Martin, 91.

[64] Deakin, 223.

[65] Martin, 118.

[66] Franklin Lindsey, Beacons in the Night: With the OSS and Tito’s Partisans in Wartime Yugoslavia (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1993), 340.

[67] Lindsey, 340.

[68] Lindsey, 340-341.

[69] Lindsey, 341.

[70] Deakin, 114.

[71] Martin, 146.

[72] Williams, 175.

[73] Williams, 175.

[74] Williams, 175.

[75] Jay Jakub, Spies and Saboteurs: Anglo-American Collaboration and Rivalry in Human Intelligence Collection and Special Operations, 1940-45 (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1999), 127.

[76] Williams, 175.

[77] Nora Beloff, Tito’s Flawed Legacy: Yugoslavia & the West since 1939 (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1985), 86.

[78] Jukić, 209.

[79] Deakin, 242.

_ Deakin, 242.

[81] Jakub, 132.

[82] Maclean, 337.

[83] Maclean, 334.

[84] Williams, 182.

[85] Maclean, 399.

[86] Williams, 185.

[87] Williams, 184.

[88] PM 3 510/13 as cited by Martin, 135.

[89] Roberts, 168.

[90] Staff of the Committee and the United States State Department, “The Teheran Conference,” Treaty, 28 November-1 Decmber 1943, (accessed 11 November 2005).

[91] Maclean, 414.

[92] Winston S. Churchill, The Second World War, vol. 5, Closing the Ring (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1951), 467-68.

[93] Williams, 197.

[94] Williams, 197.

[95] Jakub, 136-137.

[96] Churchill, Closing the Ring, 468.

[97] Williams, 187.

[98] Williams, 227.

[99] Winston S. Churchill, The Second World War, vol. 6, Triumph and Tragedy (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1953), 227.

[100] Churchill, 227.

[101] Churchill, 227.

[102] Churchill, 227.

[103] Milazzo, 175.

[104] Williams, 231.

[105] Jukić, 272.

[106] Williams, 242.

[107] Lindsey, 348.

[108] Martin, 36.