Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Dragoljub "Drazha" Mihailovich (Драгољуб Дража Михаиловић, also Čiča, Draža Mihailović), (April 26, 1893 - July 17, 1946) was a Serbian general who became a war hero in World War I and who later led the Chetniks during World War II. US president Harry S. Truman posthumously awarded him the "Legion of Merit" for the rescue of 500 American Airmen by Chetniks during World War II.
Mihailović went to the Serbian military academy in October 1910 and as a cadet fought in the Balkan Wars 1912-1913. In July 1913 he was given rank of Second Lieutenant as the top soldier in his class. He served in World War I and together with Serbian army marched to Albania in 1915 during the long retreat of the Serbian army. He later received several decorations for his achievements on the Salonica front.
His military carrier almost came to a abrupt end after several incidents, the most dangerous one being the idea of dividing Yugoslav army along nationalist lines into (Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes), for which he got 30 days imprisonment. World War II found Mihailovich occupying a minor position of assistant to chief of staff of the Second Army.
Following the Yugoslav defeat by Germany in April 1941, a small group of officers and soldiers led by Mihailović refused to surrender, and retreated in hope of finding Yugoslav army units still fighting in mountains. After arriving at Ravna Gora ,Serbia on May 8, he realized that his group of seven officers and twenty four non-commissioned officers and soldiers was the only one.
At Ravna Gora, Mihailović organized the Chetniks detachment of the Yugoslav Army, which became the Military-chetnik detachments and finally Yugoslav Army of the Homeland (Jugoslovenska vojska u otadžbini).
The first Chetnik formations led by Mihailović were formed around Ravna Gora on June 14th,. The stated goal of the Chetniks was the liberation of the country from the occupying armies including the forces of Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and Ustase (the fascist regime of the Croatia).
However, he decided against a mass uprising because of catastrophical Serb losses in World War I, in which the Kingdom of Serbia lost a quarter of its male population to the war. Instead, Mihailović gathered logistics in men and weapons, waiting for an Allied landing in the Balkans. A WW I uprising leader and former Chetnik himself, Kosta Milovanović Pećanac, opposed this view and opted for cooperation with the Germans against the Communists who ravaged the Serb countryside and caused the very massive bloodshed Mihailović wanted to avoid. Pećanac and Mihailović became rivals, both claiming to the Chetnik heritage and with Pećanac commanding a much smaller allegiance than Mihailović. Because of his open collaboration with the Germans, Pećanac was shot in 1944 by Mihailović Chetniks for treason upon his capture.
The British Special Operations Executive were being sent to aid Mihailović's forces beginning with the autumn of 1941. Mihailović rose in rank, becoming the Minister of War of the exile government in January 11, 1942 and General and Deputy Commander-in-Chief on June 17 the same year.
In 1943, the Germans decided to pursue the Chetniks in the northern zone, and offered a reward of 100,000 gold marks for the capture of Mihailović, dead or alive.
The Chetniks were forced to move to eastern Bosnia where they engaged in heavy combat with the Ustaše, resulting in several incidents of war crimes against people who supported the other faction. It is unclear however how much say Mihailovic himself had in these incidents. The Chetnik movement was highly decentralized, and in that way was more like a collective of many small regional guerrillas which shared the same name, rather than a unified army under complete control of Mihailovic and his staff.
By the middle of 1943, the partisan movement had successfully survived an intense period of Axis pressure, while the Chetniks had almost entirely abandoned anti-fascist activities in favour of fighting the partisans. Consequently, at the Tehran Conference in November 1943, a decision was made by the Allies to cease their support of the Chetniks, and switch allegiances to Tito's Partisans who were the main anti-fascist resistance group in Yugoslavia.
Towards the end of the war, Mihailovic went into hiding in East Bosnia. He was captured on March 12, 1946 by agents of OZNA (Odsjek Zastite Naroda - Department of National Security) . Tried for high treason and war crimes from June 10 to July 15, he was found guilty and sentenced to death by firing squad on July 17th. His body is believed to have been burnt and buried in an unmarked grave near Belgrade. His main prosecutor was Milos Minic , later minister of foreign affairs for the Communist government of Yugoslavia and an ethnic Serb.
His execution was a sticking point in Franco-Yugoslav relations and Charles de Gaulle refused to visit Yugoslavia on account of refusing to meet Mihailovich's adversary Marshal Tito, whom he accused of de-facto killing his rival.
Due to the efforts of Major Richard L. Felman and his buddies President Harry S. Truman, on the recommendation of General Dwight D. Eisenhower, posthumously awarded Mihailovich the "Legion of Merit", for the rescue of American Airmens by Chetniks. For the first time in history, this high award and the story of the rescue was classified secret by the State Department so as not to offend the communist government of Yugoslavia.
- Biography of Dragoljub-Draza Mihailovic at Vojska.net
- Congressional Record on Mihailovic
- SUC Biography
- Photo Gallery in French
- Tribute to Mihailovic
- Draza Mihailovic In Memoriam
- General Mihailovic's Legion of Merit
- Erection of Mihailovic monument in US
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