760h.68/7–2445

No. 1079
The Ambassador in Greece (MacVeagh) to the Secretary of State

secret
No. 1346

Subject: Violations of the Greco-Yugoslav Border.

Sir: I have the honor to transmit herewith a copy of a report prepared for the War Department by Captain William H. McNeill, Assistant Military Attaché, concerning recent incidents on the Greco-Yugoslav border, which is of particular interest in relation to the Department’s information telegram No. 693 of July 161 mentioning the likelihood of exploratory raids across this frontier.

The Department will observe that the incidents related are of a more serious character than those reported in my despatch No. 1282 of July 42 both by their nature and since they are apparently directed from a base established in or near Monastir for the express purpose of organizing forays into Greece with the object of stirring up trouble and disseminating Communist propaganda. Already on Greek soil one British soldier has been killed, one wounded, and a third taken prisoner by one of these bands. The Yugoslavs have also adopted an attitude of studied rudeness towards senior British officers desiring to parley about these incidents.

While all reports reaching this Embassy from the Department and other Missions seem to agree that the present Soviet war of nerves is directed more against Turkey than Greece, these violations of the Greek border and the persistent press campaign against Greece would appear to indicate a desire to keep the pot boiling in this area as well. If the Russians decide to risk military action against Turkey, the possibility, discussed in my despatch No. 1331 of July 17,3 of a preliminary or simultaneous drive by Yugoslav, Bulgar, and even ELASite puppet forces across the relatively undefended plains of Northern Greece to the Aegean should perhaps not be excluded.

Respectfully yours,

Lincoln MacVeagh
[Page 1069]
[Enclosure]
secret
No. R 132–45

Greco-Yugoslav Border Incidents:

1. During the first two weeks of July 1945, the Yugoslavs have seemingly tried to foment trouble in Greek Macedonia and along the frontier. Several small bands of armed men have crossed the border into Greece, where they have spread Communist propaganda among the villagers, killed a small number of civilians and one British soldier, and exchanged occasional rifle shots with Greek and British patrols. Furthermore, on 12 July, a Yugoslav frontier guard detachment trespassed onto Greek soil, attacked the Greek frontier post opposite them, and took a National Guardsman prisoner. These events would appear to indicate that Yugoslav policy is in accord with Tito’s unfriendly references to the Greek Government in his speech of 8 July.4

2. Approximately thirty separate reports of the presence of armed bands have been received by British HQ in Salonika. Reports are thickest from the mountain areas immediately around Fiorina, with a secondary center in the mountains north of Edessa. It is certain that these bands are in communication with Yugoslavia, for couriers have been intercepted bringing propaganda leaflets from across the border to them. They are probably operating loosely under the control of a central headquarters in or near Bitolj (Monastir). According to a Yugoslav political commissar in Bitolj, a special “raiding force”, organized into two brigades, each 2,500 strong, has been set up for operations in Greek Macedonia; but British authorities suspect that this story is a plant, and believe that the bands actually operating in the area are far weaker than the Commissar said, totalling perhaps not more than 500 men. Sweeping operations in the mountains by both British and Greek troops have resulted in only a few brushes with small groups of men, during which no prisoners were taken and no casualties occurred.

3. A frontier incident, involving the Yugoslav and Greek guard detachments on the road just south of Zhivojna (about 15 miles WNW of Fiorina), reflects a similarly aggressive attitude on the part of the Yugoslavs. The sequence of events is as follows: On 11 July a soldier from the Yugoslav frontier guard detachment deserted to the Greeks. Next day, the Yugoslavs accused the Greeks of having kidnapped the deserter and demanded his return. The demand was refused, and that night the Yugoslavs surrounded the Greek frontier post, and a brisk exchange of fire began. The Yugoslavs captured [Page 1070]one of the Greek soldiers, and then withdrew to their own side of the frontier.

4. The next day, 13 July, Brigadier Saunders-Jacobs, commander of 5 Brigade, 4 Indian Division, came with the Yugoslav Consul from Salonika to investigate the incident, and, if possible, to effect an exchange of the prisoners. The Yugoslav Consul verified the Greek report that the Yugoslav soldier was a deserter and had not been kidnapped; but the brigadier could not find any Yugoslav officer with enough authority to order the prisoners exchanged. The officer who commanded the Yugoslav frontier detachment apparently behaved with calculated rudeness, spitting on the ground by Brigadier Saunders-Jacobs’ feet, and cracking a whip in the interpreter’s face.

5. The affair was further complicated by the fact that on the night 13–14 July a Greek soldier deserted from the frontier detachment, thus giving the Yugoslavs two bodies for one. A second meeting between British and Yugoslav officers, arranged for 15 July, failed to take place when the Yugoslavs did not show up at the appointed time. Thereupon the British decided to take no further initiative, and so the matter rests as of 18 July.

Attempts to Propagandize:

6. Apparently the principal activity of these bands has been dissemination of propaganda. They have circulated in both Greek and Slavophone villages, saying that the Communists will soon be back, with the Russians behind them. In addition, about a dozen civilians have been murdered, though the motives for the killing are not always discernible. Near Fiorina, a number of KKE pamphlets were captured on 15 July, which proclaimed the initiation of a more active, aggressive policy, including the hold-up of British trucks and the arrangement of jail-breaks. The following day, a British truck was ambushed on the road between Edessa and Fiorina, and one British soldier was killed, one wounded, and a third taken prisoner. (The prisoner was released, stark naked, a few hours later.) Another British truck encountered an undefended block across the same road on the night 15–16 July.

7. The relation of these bands to the “Autonomous Macedonia Movement” is not clear. The personnel of the bands seems to be Greek rather than Slavo-Macedonian, comprising former ELASites who fled across the Yugoslav border in the early part of this year. So far as is known, autonomy for Macedonia has not figured in their propaganda.

Comment:

8. It seems likely that the Yugoslav Government is deliberately seeking to create disorder in Greece for ends of its own. If the Slav [Page 1071]minority in Greek Macedonia can be made into a world problem, the Yugoslav Government will thus acquire one more claim with which to bargain when it comes to the readjustment of frontiers at the Peace Conference. Furthermore, until the question of world relations between Russia and England has been amicably settled, the possibility of Yugoslav invasion of Greek Macedonia cannot be totally discounted. In such an eventuality, it would salve world opinion if there were “oppressed Slav brethren” to rescue from “reactionary terrorism”; and the best way to provoke such terrorism, is, of course, to send former ELAS bands across the border.

William H. McNeill
,
Asst. Military Attaché,
Captain, C. A. C.

Approved and forwarded:

Sterling L. Larrabee
,
Lt Colonel, G. S. C., Military Attaché.