860H.00/3–3148: Telegram

The Ambassador in Yugoslavia (Cannon) to the Secretary of State

secret

362. We hold that Allies in late war have definite obligation to rehabilitate Mihailovich.1 We see no objection announcement of award [Page 1066]mentioned Deptel 130, March 25,2 but wonder whether this minor gesture would prove decisive step to that end or give much heartening or effective encouragement to anti-Tito elements since it would surely reopen controversy in which, judging from past experience, we probably would not have last word. We realize, however, that such an announcement would be completely in line our present policy of plain speaking. To obtain best effect locally, it should be brief and be pointed to Draža’s direct aid to US armed forces in conduct of war against Axis. Proposed analogy to Petkov3 martyrdom is not clear.

As regards date of announcement a precise anniversary does not seem essential. We note that Yugoslav note rejecting US aviators’ desire to give testimony was dated April 4, 1946. Since we returned to the charge on May 7 and had to accept second rejection, this does not seem psychologically a felicitous occasion to commemorate.4

Not to anticipate nature of Rome’s reply5 concerning effect of announcement in Italy, we suggest that it not be worded in manner suggest connection with Italian elections. We have in mind (a) diluting effect of last week’s Trieste statement,6 and (b) fact that favorite charge against De Gasperi7 here is Neo-Fascism. Great patriot and fine soldier that Draža was, it happens that part of his record concerned with transactions with Italians in 1942 is still matter for controversy.8

Sent Department 362; repeated Rome 75.

Cannon
  1. General Draža Mihajlović (Mihailovich), wartime Minister of Defense of the Royal Yugoslav Government in Exile and Commander of Chetnik guerrilla forces; executed in 1946 for alleged wartime treasonous activities against the Yugoslav state.
  2. Not printed. It reported that the Legion of Merit had been awarded posthumously to Mihajlović for his assistance to the Allied cause during World War II. The medal and citation were being retained by the Department pending presentation to a suitable heir. Consideration was being given to announcing the award in order in part to encourage democratic elements in Yugoslavia and in the Balkans generally (093.112/3–2548).
  3. Nikola Petkov, leader of the Bulgarian Agrarian Union and opponent of the Communist-dominated regime in Bulgaria; executed in October 1947 for alleged treasonous activities.
  4. For the texts of the exchanges of notes between the Embassy in Belgrade and the Yugoslav Foreign Ministry on March 30, April 4, and May 7, 1946, regarding the request of the United States Government that American citizens be allowed to testify at the treason trial of General Mihajlović, see Department of State Bulletin, April 14, 1946, p. 634, April 21, 1946, p. 669, and May 26, 1946, p. 909, respectively.
  5. Telegram 1442, April 1, from Rome, not printed, warned that announcement of the Mihajlović award might be harmful to American prestige in Italy where there was no great sympathy for Yugoslav patriots (093.112/4–148).
  6. Reference here is to the joint American-British-French statement of March 20, 1948, recommending the return of Trieste to Italy; for the text, see Department of State Bulletin, March 28, 1948, p. 425.
  7. Alcide de Gasperi, Italian Prime Minister.
  8. Airgram 85, April 21, to Belgrade, not printed, stated that the Department was inclined to share Ambassador Cannon’s misgivings and would take no steps “at this time” to give publicity to the Mihajlović” award (093.112/4–148).