Memorandum by Mr. Cavendish W. Cannon of the Division of European Affairs 53
London’s telegram 3341 of May 14 reports recent developments in the Mihajlović-Partisan controversy in Yugoslavia.
The British have decided that, since they are now making available additional airplanes to deliver supplies to Yugoslav guerrillas, they could now take a stronger line in insisting on clarifying the Mihajlović situation. Accordingly on May 7 the British Government sent a note to the Yugoslav Government covering a communication to be sent to General Mihajlović. This sets forth in firm language the terms on which cooperation with Mihajlović will be based. A summary of it is attached.54
Sir Orme Sargent took this opportunity to say that the British feel that the time has come when some British officers, and American officers if this Government so desires, should be sent to Yugoslavia to try to organize resistance on a more effective scale.[Page 1010]
In comment on this suggestion Eu55 would observe that it did not favor sending American officers to Yugoslavia when the proposition was made a week or so ago by the Yugoslav Ambassador. The situation under the British proposal would now be rather different, however. Mr. Fotitch had wanted to have American officers attached to General Mihajlović while the dispute between Mihajlović and the British mission was still unsettled. This would have involved us in that controversy, and would also have exposed us to charges of complicity in Mihajlović’s alleged traffic with the Axis and in his civil strife with other factions in Yugoslavia.
The terms which the British have set before Mihajlović, however, ought to clarify his situation to the point that if we are to establish contact with him we would know to what degree his operations are for local political purposes, and his acceptance of these terms would go far to dispose of the charges that he is trafficking with the enemy.
It is recommended nevertheless, that before agreeing to send American officers into Yugoslavia we examine General Mihajlović’s eventual reply to the British message. He is showing no alacrity in responding. He will have grasped that in effect the British proposition means that Colonel Bailey would have the upperhand. This will be distasteful to Mihajlović. Bailey is not an army man (before the war he was an engineer of one of the mining companies in Yugoslavia, and doubtless a British Intelligence officer) and is a rather difficult person to deal with. He has been in intermittent conflict with Mihajlović since his mission was established. American officers would presumably also be subordinate to him, and in a doubly difficult position if Mihajlović should involve them in the disputes.
The British Foreign Office said that the Russians showed no opposition when informed of the British plan to establish contact with the Partisan groups. This by no means justifies the conclusion that the Russians would view with favor a joint British-American mission with Mihajlović. It is to be expected that the Russians will either continue supporting the Partisans or seek a unity under Partisan leadership.
All of these considerations suggest caution in sending American officers into Yugoslavia at this time. On the other hand, if we expect to exert an American influence in that region there would be such definite advantages in having some representation in whatever planning is being done on the ground that it is worthwhile examining with the War Department the technical problems involved.