860H.01/487: Telegram

The Ambassador in the United Kingdom (Winant) to the Secretary of State

4304. We were orally but officially informed by the Foreign Office today that after careful and thorough consideration on the part of the Prime Minister and the War Cabinet a modification in British policy with respect to Yugoslavia has been decided upon. The reply to the British Government’s communication with regard to the policies and activities of General Mihailovitch (Embassy’s telegrams No. 3341, May 14, 2 p.m., No. 3456, May 19, 8 p.m., and 3785, June 3, 8 p.m.60) was received and while it was not entirely clear in all particulars (owing in part to difficulties of communication) it was considered generally satisfactory. On the other hand, reports received from British officers in contact with various Partisan groups have convinced the British that the latter are sufficiently important, active and well organized to furnish effective resistance to the Axis and that they are in fact fighting. The British have consequently now decided to give them material aid on a fairly substantial scale. They will continue also to help Mihailovitch on the specific understanding that no arms or supplies furnished him shall be employed for any other purpose than fighting the Axis. Through their representatives on the spot the British feel that they will be in a position soon to know whether this condition is violated and whether Mihailovitch continues to play with the Italians and fight the Partisans. (The Foreign Office indicates that in their opinion Mihailovitch has in fact considerable strength among the Serbs and in the areas more or less [Page 1016]under his control.) Hitherto, British military supplies brought in by air, have amounted to roughly 10 tons per month; for the British have reached the conclusion that by distributing small arms, munitions, sabotage materials, etc., in the proper places and larger quantities, the returns in increased resistance to the Axis forces will be well worthwhile. The total number of British liaison officers now stationed with various groups in Yugoslavia so far is only 11 and while there was some doubt as to how those parachuting in without previous notice to the Partisan groups would be received they were apparently given enthusiastic welcome.

The British are likewise informing the Russian Government through Moscow their new policy of giving military aid to the Partisans and of the material step-up in the monthly total of help given all Yugoslav groups. The Foreign Office is also about to inform the Yugoslav Government, some elements of which it fears will not be enthusiastic over the decision to help the Partisans.

The possibility of transferring the Yugoslav Government to the Near East is under discussion.

Winant
  1. Telegrams Nos. 3456 and 3785 not printed.