Here is an uplifting story about a Serbian General that saved the lives of over 500 US soldiers during World War II and the lives of hundreds of other allied soldiers. Lt. Col. Milton Friend was shot down over Serbia when he was picked up by Gen. Draza Mihailovic and his men. The rescued soldiers were kept safe in a network of safe houses and cared for by the locals. One soldier crashed through a chicken coop while parachuting down, he offered the farmer money for the damages, and it was refused. All the soldiers were offered rakija….
“They fed us and gave us rakija” a strong Serbian plum brandy, Friend said. “Of course, at first we thought it was water, but we soon found out we were wrong. I still have the taste of that brandy in my mouth.”
Friend said the airmen were hidden in villages by Serbian guerrilla fighters, known as Chetniks, who were led by Mihailovic. The prewar military officer launched the first Balkan resistance against the Nazis in 1941, before also turning against the communists led by Marshal Josip Broz Tito.
“Mihailovic told us that an American escape committee has been formed and that an airstrip will be built to help our rescue,” said Friend, adding that he spent two months sheltered by the Serbs
Mihailovic eventually lost political power when world leaders began to support Tito and his partizans, and he was later put to death.
According to historians, President Roosevelt then decided to follow British Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s lead and abandon support for Mihailovic in favor of Tito’s partizans, the strongest grass-roots guerrilla force fighting the invading Nazis and Italian fascists.
“This was a purely political decision,” Friend said. “In the first two years of the war, there were no partisans fighting the Nazis in Yugoslavia.”
Increasingly isolated, Mihailovic was alleged to have later collaborated with the Germans. After the war, when communist Yugoslavia was established, he was sentenced to death in what many claimed was a rigged trial. He was put to death in 1946.
It’s a good story. Given all the negative press surrounding Serbia right now, I think it is a positive message and worth reading.