Reprinted from Time Magazine
May 25, 1942
Cover Photograph of Mihailovich: Yugoslavia's Unconquered
The Eagle of Yugoslavia
'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.
Yugoslavia's Draja Mihailovich. Ever since Adolf Hitler
vaingloriously announced a year ago that he had conquered
Yugoslavia, Draja Mihailovich and his 150,000 guerrillas in
the mountains southwest of Belgrade have flung the lie in
Hitlers 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.
Mihailovich's swarming raiders have preserved an 'Island of
Freedom,' which for a time was 20,000 square miles in area,
with a population of 4,000,000.
Mihailovich's annihilation of Axis detachments, bombing of
roads and bridges, breaking of communications and stealing of
ammunition have been so widespread that the Nazis had to
declare a new state of war in their 'conquered' territory.
Last October the Nazis even asked for peace. When
Mihailovich refused, they priced his head at $1,000,000.
When the Nazis desperately needed troops in Russia, they
tried to leave Mihailovich to the forces of their Axis
partners and stooges. But Italian, Bulgarian and Rumanian
soldiers could not deal with him, and the Nazis went back.
Only last week the Russians announced that a Nazi division had
arrived at Kharkov fresh from Yugoslavia-where it had
certainly not been stationed for a rest.
Mihailovich's example has kept all Yugoslavia in a wild
anti-Axis ferment. the Axis has resorted to executing untold
thousands, but the revolt continues. Last month the Nazis
said they had seized Mihailovich's wife, two sons and
daughter, threatened to execute all relatives of Mihailovich's
army and 16,000 hostages if the General did not surrender
within five days. He did not.
It is a misfortune that conquered Europe cannot learn detail
by detail the effective methods used by the gaunt,
hard-bronzed figure of TIME'S cover (painted by one of his
compatriots, Vuch Vuchinich). But Draja Mihailovich is
completely cut off from the democracies' press, hemmed in by
the Axis forces in Yugoslavia. Rumania, Bulgaria, Albania and
Greece. His only direct contact with the world beyond has
been through smugglers and a mobile radio transmitter which he
concealed somewhere in his mountain fastnesses.
Even so, he has already become the great symbol of the unknown
thousands of supposedly conquered Europeans who still resist
AdoIf Hitler. As he watches from his mountain walls, he
stands for every European saboteur who awaits the moment to
jam the machine, plant the bomb or pry up the railroad rail.
He has directly inspired others, like Rumanian Patriot Ion
Minulescu, who harries the Axis from the Carpathians, and
Albanian and Montenegrin guerillas who worry at Italian flanks
on the Adriatic coast.
SERB. The once-obscure Balkan officer who has thus far
successfully challenged the modern world's greatest conqueror
was born 47 years ago in Chachak, Serbia. His parents died
when he was a child, and he was raised by an uncle, a musical
Serbian colonel. Draja Mihailovich plays the mandolin
excellently. He entered Beograd's Serbian Military Academy at
15. He has been a lifelong soldier, an officer who got his
training under fire. He is also profoundly a Serb. For those
who know the Serbs, that fact alone would account for his
The blood bath of oppression which for centuries has laved the
minarets and green poplars of the Baikans has also watered a
glowing military spirit in little Serbian unconquerable will
In 1389, a date of horror in Serbian minds, the Turks defeated
the Serbs on the plain of Kosovo and slaughtered the cream of
Serbian manhood. For the next four centuries Turkey bore down
on Serbia as hard as Adoif Hitler has done, with such devices
as impaling mutilation and the roasting of living Serbs on
Early in the 19th Century the great Serbian King Kara George
fought Turkey with Russian aid, got a limited autonomy with
Turkish garrisons still in Serbia. But Napoleon's advance on
Moscow drew away Russian support, and the Turks pressed Serbia
hard again. This time Serbia's Milos Obrenovich made a deal
with turkey for recognition. the deal included the
assassination of Kara George, and this started an
Obrenovich-Kara George dynasty rivalry that was to continue
Serbia's rulers were often personally weak and depraved, but
the Serbs in general grew hard and defiant in the schools of
Turkish tyranny and European Realpolitik. They never suffered
from the flabbiness that comes with ease. In the First Balkan
War (1912), Serbia and her Balkan allies finally ousted
In World War I a supposedly exhausted Serbia hurled back two
Austrian attacks, was ravaged by typhus and gave way before a
third, then fought back again from Salonika. Only a year ago
a revolution in Yugoslavia, where the dream of Balkan
federation was becoming an actual as well as a political fact,
deposed the pro-Nazi regent Prince Paul, and Serbian General
Dusan Simovich courageously challenged the juggernaut of AdoIf
Hitler. in Draja Mihailovich's mountains the challenge
SOLDIER. In 1912, at 19, Mihailovich left the Serbian
Military Academy to fight the Turks. Wounded the next year,
he returned to school as a sub-lieutenant wearing the Obilich
medal for 'personal courage.' In 1914 the Austrian attack
again broke up school and Mihaiiovich was again wounded,
received the Order of the White Eagle. On the eve of the
Salonika offensive he rejoined his company and finally
returned to Serbia wearing its highest decoration, the Kara
George Star with crossed swords.
He was sent as military attache to Sofia (1934) and Prague
(1936), and is rumored to have been connected with underground
movements working against Nazi influence in both Bulgaria and
In 1939, as chief of Yugoslavia's fortifications, he revealed
himself as a Balkan De Gaulle, holding that a nation of such
limited financial means should not try to build Maginot Lines
but should concentrate on mobile and offensive possibilities.
STORIES. Tales about Mihailovich, apocryphal or smuggled out
of his mountains, abound in Yugoslav circles. It is said that
he has done some of his own espionage, eating with German
officers in a tavern where the host, devoted to him, was
panicky with fright. Nazi officers are said to have driven up
to a farmhouse where Mihaiiovich and friends were staying.
When he had convinced the Nazis of his innocence, one of his
friends remarked: 'That was a close one.' Mihailovich
replied: 'It was close for them, too.' He pointed to a bush
behind which a guerriila machine-gun crew had been ready for
the Nazis. The General is also rumored to have done a brisk
trade exchanging Italian prisoners for Italian gasoline at the
rate of one Italian private for one can of gas, one colonel
for 50 cans.
Today Draja Mihailovich seems legendary, but he is a legend
with a big basis in fact: the fact that he has kept from five
to ten Nazi divisions at a time fighting to conquer the
country which they destroyed twelve long months ago.
May 25th, 1942 Time