740.0011 European War 1939/6289: Telegram

The Chargé in Yugoslavia (Bonbright) to the Secretary of State

478. After unsuccessful efforts to see the Foreign Minister34 who has received no one this morning, I saw the Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs at 1 o’clock. Smiljanic stated that the Yugoslav Legation at Rome was formally advised by the Italian Government this morning of the action against Greece. The notification included further assurances that no action against Yugoslavia was contemplated.

My informant was obviously anxious concerning what Bulgaria would do and this anxiety was reflected from other sources. He professed to believe that Bulgaria would not move at least during the next few days. In this connection the Bulgarian Military Attaché informed Colonel Fortier34a that Bulgarian divisions are mobilized on the Greek frontier but that no attack would be launched unless Hitler gave the word.

In reply to my question Smiljanic stated that there would be no general mobilization here since the number and disposition of Italian troops on the Italian and Albanian borders of Yugoslavia did not constitute a direct threat to this country. He added that if the situation changed Yugoslavia would take the necessary measures.

He kept repeating that the attack on Greece is a development of the war between Italy and Great Britain in the Mediterranean; that this is not “a Balkan war”; that Great Britain and not Yugoslavia had promised to come to the aid of Greece; that “we should wait and see”; and that it is still in Germany’s interest to maintain peace in the Balkans.

The Prime Minister returned by air from Cetinje this morning and a meeting of the Cabinet is expected to take place this afternoon.

The atmosphere in official circles in Belgrade this morning was one of confusion, indecision and fatalism. Unless there is a sudden [Page 548] change following the meeting of the Cabinet it is our impression from the sources which we have consulted that Yugoslavia will continue her policy of watchful waiting in the hope that she will be spared actual hostilities even though the attack on Greece threatens her complete encirclement.

The British Military Attaché saw the Chief of Staff this morning and asked him pointblank if Yugoslavia would fight. The former told Fortier that the Chief of Staff’s reply was “It all depends on the Government”.

Repeated to Ankara and Sofia.

  1. Aleksander Cincar-Markovitch.
  2. Louis J. Fortier, Military Attaché in Yugoslavia.