860H.01/726: Telegram

The Ambassador to the Yugoslav Government in Exile (MacVeagh) to the Secretary of State

Yugoslav Series 26. The British Foreign Office has authorized Maclean to make Tito the communication suggested by the British Ambassador as reported in my Yugos 20, January 29, 7 p.m. and instructions have been sent to Maclean to this effect. He has been additionally instructed that if Tito should ask whether His Majesty’s Government has the support of the U.S. and Soviet Governments in this matter he may say that His Majesty’s Government is willing to approach them on the subject if Tito agrees in principle.

Meanwhile Mr. Churchill has again personally communicated with Tito (see my Yugos 22, January 31, 7 p.m.) and the following is the gist of his message:44 The Prime Minister says that he can “understand the position of reserve which you adopt toward King Peter” and that he himself has “for several months past been in favor of advising him to dismiss Michailovitch and to face the consequent resignation of all his present Ministers” but that he has been “deterred by the argument that this would be advising him to cast away his only adherents”. He adds “You will understand that I feel a personal responsibility towards him”.

Mr. Churchill then requests Tito to let him know whether King Peter’s “dismissal of Michailovitch would pave the way for freer relations with you” and for the King’s later “going into the field”, it being understood that “further question of the monarchy is reserved until Yugoslavia has been entirely liberated”.

In connection with the above Mr. Churchill argues that a working arrangement between Tito and King Peter would “consolidate many forces, especially Serbian elements, now estranged” and thus strengthen Tito’s movement; also that it would enable Yugoslavia to speak with a united voice in coming councils. “I much hope that you will feel able to give me the answer you can see I want”.

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Mr. Churchill then refers to that part of Tito’s message to him expressing the aims of the Partisan movement (see under heading 6 of my telegram Yugos 22) and says that this “expresses exactly what His Majesty’s Government desires”. He adds, “You will certainly have support of His Majesty’s Government in all this”.

Passing to the question of Tito’s present “indispensable” military needs as brought up by him in his message, Mr. Churchill says that he has asked the Supreme Allied Command[er] in the Mediterranean “to form immediately an amphibious force of Commandos, supported by air and flotillas, to attack with your aid garrisons which the Germans have left on the islands they have taken along the Dalmatian coast. There is no reason why those garrisons should not be exterminated with the force which should be shortly available”. He concludes that “we must try to get through a line of communications with you from the sea, even if we must move it from time to time. This alone will enable tanks and anti-tank guns and other heavy munitions together with necessary supplies to be brought in in quantities which your armies require”.

Commenting on the above from the military angle I understand from our OSS that the British Army authorities are [exe]rcised over the Prime Minister’s projection of his authority into the strategic picture for diplomatic ends, and from the diplomatic angle I may say that the British Ambassador here has sadly observed to me, “We shall burn our fingers”. In this connection, he expressed to me the idea that the resignation of the King’s present Ministers could be effected without “casting away his only adherents”, namely the Serbian elements which these Ministers represent, by not insisting on the dismissal of Michailovitch individually, but by simply demanding recognition by the Government of all Yugoslav resistance movements on an equal basis. Such an attitude is now beyond the possibility of the Pouritch government, which would have to resign, and in this way Michailovitch would be removed as War Minister automatically, by the resignation of the Government as a whole, and he and his admirers in Serbia, the numbers of which are at present impossible to determine but may be very large, could not claim that there was any discrimination against him personally, while support to him and his movement insofar as genuinely loyal could be continued without prejudice by the succeeding government. As the Department is probably aware there are [at present?] Serbs outside Yugoslavia including, as I am informed, the Ambassadors in Moscow and Ankara45 who would be glad indeed to collaborate in a government of national resistance [Page 1347] recognizing all guerrilla movements on a purely patriotic basis under the King. I do not know how strongly Mr. Stevenson has urged his idea on the Foreign Office, but the Department may possibly feel that the public sacrifice of Michailovitch individually, and the consequent perhaps final antagonizing of the “Serbian elements now estranged”, are things to be avoided if they are unnecessary.

  1. The text of this letter of February 5, 1944, is printed in Churchill, Closing the Ring, p. 472.
  2. Stanoje Simich and Iliya Shumenkovich, respectively.