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INTRODUCTION:


That Serbian bravery played KEY ROLE in defeat of Hitler is well known by the new generations. That the Serbs played crucial role in allies' victory in World War ONE was quite well known fact to earlier generations but may be less known today. It is quite easy to find literature that talks about the fact. Here we chose to present to you the book that is most clear in describing the pivotal role the Serbian bravery played in the overall victory of the allies.


We prepared this text at the moment of 80-th ANNIVERSARY of these astonishing events. It seems that Serbian Western allies; friends from both world wars are planning to celebrate this anniversary, and express their eternal gratitude toward Serbian heroism and sacrifice - in a typical Western way. It is autumn 1998 and it seems that Serbian Western allies are poised to bomb the Serbs out of the Serbian most sacred lands. Out of very cradle of the Serbian civilization. Out of Kosovo. This tells quite a bit about so much advertised "sense of morality" in the West.


ABSTRACT:


In summer 1918 allies have suffered large defeat at Western Front. Desperate, the Western governments decided to reshuffle generals. Those thought of as less capable were sent to less important fronts. This is how French General Louis Franchet d'Esperey (known by his nickname "Desperate Frankie") was sent to the Balkans, to Salonika, Northern Greece. (Salonika is called Thessaloniki in original, Greek language).


The Serbian Chief-of-Staff, part of the mixed allied army in the Southern front at Salonika, General Živojin Mišić persuaded the newly arrived French General that allies should try to attack enemy sideways, from Western (Serbian) positions across enemy Bulgarian, German and Austro-Hungarian positions. This would be an unexpected direction as it leads across very harsh terrain. The plan was that while the British troops would try an attack along central part of the front, the Serbian army would lead the main attack - into the side of the enemy.

Zivojin-Misic.jpg

Serbian General, later Voivoda (Field Marshal) Živojin Mišić


As it turned out the British soldiers suffered crushing defeat at hands of the Bulgarian defenders, but the Serbs, in fanatic heroism, utterly defeated their enemies and thus made the entire enemy front collapse. The Germans pulled troops from all fronts trying to close the gap. Too late. In matter of days German ally Bulgaria capitulates. To all involved it is clear that Bulgarian capitulation means certain beginning of the end of the Central Powers.


The Serbian heroism is difficult to explain other then the Serbs fought to liberate their own country. That sector of operations was then among Western allies known as South Serbia. Today, it is an independent country known as "FYR Macedonia." In three wars - the First and Second Balkan War as well as World War One - the Serbs have fought to free Southern Serbia: first from Turkish occupation, then from Bulgarian one and finally, as shown in this text - from combined Austro-Hungarian, Bulgarian and German occupation. In all the three wars he Serbs showed extreme heroism and endurance - only to let, under Western pressure and constant threat of bombing that portion of the Serbian land secede.


When "Macedonia" was to secede from Yugoslavia (and Serbia - as that land was integral part of Serbia before WWI) not one shot was fired! The explanation for this recent Serbian behavior can be found in the simple fact that in the civil wars of 1990's the Serbs NEVER fought to "grab other peoples' lands." The lie that the Serbs were "landgrabbers" (and not defenders of their ancient lands and property) was repeated, ad nauseum, by the Western propaganda outlets.


In recent wars the Serbs fiercely fought only on territories where they felt that their population will be maltreated (or even physically exterminated) by the new powers that are to take control over those lands. In Eastern Orthodox Macedonia there was no such threat for Eastern Orthodox Serbs.


Serbian bravery that changed the world


The following excerpts are from book:
"NOVEMBER 1918"
By Gordon Brook-Shepherd
Little, Brown and Company
Boston, Toronto, edition 1981

Library of Congress Catalog No 81-85764.


The author, Mr. Gordon Brooks-Shepherd served as a lieutenant-colonel in World War II. Formely Diplomatic Correspondent, he is now Chief Assistant Editor of the Sunday Telegraph. "November 1918" is his eleventh book.

The book November 1918 - is the first history of World War One to focus exclusively on the crucial events of the last hundred days of the conflict.


EXCERPTS:


Pages 116 - 117:

Geographically, Serbia was a most awkward ally to have. She was SURROUNDED ON ALL SIDES BY ENEMY or neutral states and the only feasable access, from the south, was hampered by some of the fiercest mountains [Prokletije - "Cursed Mountains"] and poorest communications to be found anywhere on the continent of Europe. For the first fourteen months of the war France and England,... left the Serbs to cope as best they could with the invaders. That best proved good enough until, in the autumn of 1915, the odds against isolated Serbia began to multiply. Bulgaria entered the war against them, determined to get... the whole of... Macedonian province... Then the Germans, who had long been irritated by the poor military showing displayed by their Austrian allies [against Serbia in 1914-1915], mounted a new invasion of Serbia alongside these new Bulgarian partners. IT WAS A DESPERATE OUTLOOK FOR THE SERBS. Against their 194 remaining battalions - all of them by now exhausted and depleted - was raised a fresh army of 341 battalions, of which 111 were German and 177 were Bulgarian... Before Christmas [1915] all of Serbia was in enemy hands [while entire Serbian army, together with the Parliament and the Serbian King retreated, across Albania's Cursed Mountains into Greek - Salonika front].

Pages 122 - 124:

As summer [1918] came, the second round of the "Emperor's Battle" was reaching its climax on the Western Front and the outlook for the Entente powers [Western alliance] was grim, with the French armies broken and reeling back on the capital. [The French Prime Minister] Clemenceau, running through his army list for commanders to meet the crisis, soon stopped at the name of General Guillaumat who, six months before, had been sent out to Salonica... In eyes of his Prime Minister, he was just too good an officer to be left languishing in a Macedonian side-show when his own homeland was in danger. On 6 June Clemenceau recalled him to France, initially to defend the capital... On the afternoon of that same 6 June General Franchet d'Esperey, whose Northern Army Group had been driven back in the overall German advance, was told to hand over his command on the Western Front and take over the Orient [Salonika] Army in Guillamaut's place.

dEsperey.jpg

French General Louis Franchet d'Esperey (known among allies by his nickname "Desperate Frankie")

When Clemenceau received d'Esperey in Paris the following morning he made it clear to the general... that he was being handed a military demotion... [D'Esperey was] to assume command of an international army in the most explosive area of Europe. Yet none of this would have disturbed him unduly, for he had his own ideas about the Balkan theatre, ideas that were cherished and long-standing... For d'Esperey it was the realization of a dream... [H]e had also taken every opportunity, private or official, to study at first hand the Danube Basin, which held professional as well as a historical fascination for him: there, after all, was the vulnerable southern flank of Germany's vulnerable Habsburg ally... D'Esperey saw again the mountains and valleys of Macedonia, valleys which led, however awkwardly, up to Central European plain and the twin capitals of Austria-Hungary...

Pages 126 - 127:

...[F]or the offensive projects, [D'Esperay] dismissed the most ambitious ... because it was also the most obvious - a strike up the Vardar Valley which the enemy would always be half-expecting, since this was the main north-south road and rail artery of the entire front. ...A more exciting idea: to concentrate a great mass of men in a mountainous sector so SAVAGE that even the chamois trod there with caution, and then use this as the seemingly impossible launching-pad for the main attack.

THE IDEA OWED MUCH TO THE CHIEF-OF-STAFF OF HIS SERBIAN ALLIES, Zivoine Misic [pronounced: Mee-shich, proper spelling in Serbian: Živojin Mišić ], whose battle headquarters were at Yelak.. The Serbs have stormed those heights in the autumn of 1916 and had sat there defiantly ever since. IT WAS AS CLOSE AS THEY COULD GET TO THAT BELOVED HOMELAND [now "FYR Macedonia"] from which the combined armies of Germany, Austria and Bulgaria had driven them... [C]ould not other peaks of the area now be used to leap forward a hundred miles... to liberate Serbia; and knock Bulgaria out of the war altogether? The three leaders who, on June 29, met at Yelak - d'Esperey, Mišić, and his commander, the exiled Serbian Prince-Regent Alexander - were all fired by the same thought, the two Serbs because it was the shortest way home, the Frenchman because IT WAS THE MOST DIFFICULT[!] From the observation post hollowed out of the rock 7,500 feet up, they looked across at the enemy's mountain line which, if it could only be smashed, would open the way to the Upper Vardar Valley and so both turn his defences and imperil his retreat... Looking at the terrain ahead [one] saw a series of forbidding crests, strange towers of stone and saw-toothed shapes ranged one behind the other right up to the far horizon. [O]f its dark, forbidding atmosphere [a French infantry sergeant who was a university professor in private life] wrote: "C'est un pais pour faire bigorner le monde, et jouer cache-cache avec les noirs." ...

More specifically, the military chiefs crouched in their stone eyrie on the afternoon of the 29 June took stock of the four giant granite pillars of the Bulgarian defence system ahead, each of which would have to be turned or toppled if the Allied attack were to succeed: In the foreground the Sokol [= hawk in Serbian] and Veternik [= windy] peaks with the jugged ridge of the Dobropolje [= good field] running between them; and, a few miles behind, the summit of Kuchkov Kamen [=dogs stone] which crowned the enemy's second line of resistance. Their heights ranged from 5,000 to 6,000 feet, and their flanks were laced with little more than goat-tracks. IT LOOKED, at first sight, A STRONGER NATURAL BARRIER THAN ANYTHING MAN-MADE out of barred wire and pill-boxes along the Western Front d'Esprey knew so well... Special roads would have to be built and vast exertions of mule and man power expended on the task. He slept on it... and in the morning told the DELIGHTED Serbs that the attack was on!


Pages 128 - 131:

...A new task force, the so-called "Central Franco-Serbian Group", was to be formed for the main blow-up at Mogrena, consisting of all four Serbian divisions with two French divisions placed under Serb command. They were to make decisive breakthrough, and, once past the high granite barrier... [they] would fan out, heading to Prilep to the north and Gradsko and Veles on the Vardar River to the north-east. Beyond those targets d'Esperey certainly dreamed, but did not as yet dare to think...

D'Esperey now had to clear the lines with his political and military masters in Paris and London. This proved... arduous... D'Esperey could see why the Salonika army had to take a back seat while any CRISIS was raging on the Western Front...

Not after the tide had turned in the West [with American reinforcements flooding into France], with Foch's counter-offensive from the Marne, was d'Esperey given approval... At last, on 10 September, after more than two months of long-range tussling, d'Esperey received direct clearance from Clemenceau to commence operations... The 29 divisions of his Orient Army gave a total of 574,000 men... the Germans, Bulgarians and Austrians who faced him were somewhat larger... [But] artillery was now where he wanted it. Batteries of heavy 155 and 105 mm guns had been brought forward... and the great weapons with their ammunition had then been heaven up by tractor to heights approaching 8,000 feet from where they dominated... The men who were to go right behind the shells knew what this could mean for them. Just before the attack, when the air was ringing with shouts of "NAPRED" [= "Forward!" in Serbian], the French sergeant-diarist wrote:

"Some old Serbian soldiers came to look at the guns, which they gazed at respectfully and at length. One of them fervently kissed the barrel of a 120mm... Another called out "God bless you, and au revoir in Serbia!"

Pages 133 - 135:

[O]n 14 September, d'Esperey heavy guns boomed out in the mountains of Mogreana to sound Allied advance... and boomed on until nightfall with only one half-hour pause for the barrels to cool... a concentrated barrage the like of which the mountains of Macedonia had never felt. At dawn on the 15th, with the guns now quiet behind them, the French and Serbian infantry went in... Veternik was not taken by the Serbs until the afternoon, and the Sokol held out until nightfall. THE SERBS MAY HAVE BEEN FIGHTING LIKE HEROES TO RE-CROSS THE OLD BORDER OF THEIR COUNTRY; [now FYR Macedonia] but the Bulgars seemed no less determined. ...It was the same story the next day when Mišić, having moved his men steadily forward through the night, attacked Kozyak [=goat] ridge six miles further north... Then, suddenly, as though the backbone had been ripped clean out of a fighting salmon, the Bulgarian line sagged and gave way. First, they gave up to Kozyak, despite ARRIVAL OF GOOD QUALITY GERMAN SAXON JAEGER battalion to stiffen them. Then, with that second-line citadel fallen, the commander of the Bulgarian 2nd Division seemingly panicked and withdrew precipitately to the third line of defence, imperilling all formations on his flanks. [German commander of the entire enemy front] Von Scholtz was forced to order a general withdrawal,... he was wondering, on the morning of 18th, whether he had been fooled after all and whether this MAD SURGE across central mountains was not, in fact, a calculated thrust to the Vardar [River]..

[At the same time, at central sector British General Milne's army was to fool the Germans that the main attack would come at that - the most obvious direction.] After two days of murderous fighting General Milne's men were left with only the limited ground they overrun in the first hours of the attack... The Bulgars remained masters of the... hills, and their machineguns had meanwhile taken a dreadful toll of the attackers. The 7th South Wales Borderers... finally pulled back with only one wounded officer and fifty-five men left alive out of the WHOLE BATTALION. The Scottish Brigade, which took over the assault from the Welch the following day, got no further and suffered almost as much...

When the attacks were abandoned and the tally made, it was found that the British alone had lost 3,871 men, killed, wounded an missing in the two days' of fighting... It was savage by Balkan standards, and came to more than twice the total losses suffered by the French and Serbs in their assault... General Milne's men had failed to take their most important objectives. Endless explanations and excuses were produced...

...For all the great valour which the British troops displayed, they just did not possess that EXTRA CUTTING EDGE OF SAVAGE FANATICISM for the task which had DRIVEN their SERBIAN COMRADES to top of Veternik [=windy], the Sokol [=hawk] and Kozyak [=goat]. After all, none of those Macedonian mountain ridges spelt a return home to the English, Welsh or Scots [as it did for the Serbs].


Pages 136 - 137:

[British RAF airplanes] on the morning of 21 Setember... reported that a defile west of the town of Rabrovo was jammed with [enemy] military transports... This could only mean that THE WHOLE ARMY WAS WITHDRAWING.

What have happened was that, two days before... [General] Todorov, the newly appointed Bulgarian Commander-in-Chief was so buoyed up by the defeat his men had just inflicted on the British... that he even proposed an all-out offensive to sweep the Allied Army back into the sea. [German General] Von Steuben was horrified at such over-sanguine folly and, like his Army Group commander, was increasingly worried by that SHARP, STRONG WEDGE WHICH FRENCH AND SERBS WERE STILL DRIVING INTO THE CENTRAL SECTOR. Realizing too late that this might well be the MAIN threat, von Stauben persuaded Bulgarian colleague to join in a general withdrawal, arguing that d'Esperey would waste himself in the mountains of Serbia just as Napoleon had spent himself in the steppes of Russia... Von Stauben may have been thinking soundly according to his Prussian text-books. But in that reality of war which supersedes all theory, he had failed at... the PHENOMENAL ENDURANCE OF THE SERBIAN FOOT-SLOGGER now to be displayed along the entire battlefield...

Page 139:

The infantry, and especially the SERBS, HAD PERFORMED... GREAT FEATS OF ENDURANCE, for they had done everything on their feet. Their supply system for the advance was grimly simple: they carried NO food with them at all, just ammunition, relying on whatever the impoverished peasantry of their homeland could provide. As a result many who had set out as bronzed fighting men ended up as walking wraiths, mahogany turning into wax. BUT THEY WENT ON WALKING, OUT-DISTANCING NOT ONLY THE FRENCH HORSEMEN BUT EVEN THE BRITISH RATION-LORRIES. Such fanaticism was the answer to the puzzled comment [German] Hindenburg made later: "Without rest, it seemed IMPOSSIBLE for the enemy to bring up strong forces forward to Skopje... How would he overcome the problems of supply, for we had completely destroyed the railways and roads?" WHAT THE GERMANS COULD NOT DESTROY WAS THE *SERBIAN SPIRIT*.

On 26 September 1918 the road to Skopje, the second largest town of Serbia, [and capital of Serbian Tzar Dusan in fourteenth century], and even to the capital, Belgrade, two hundred and fifty miles further north, seemed feasible in military terms. That same morning it became wide open as politics momentarily took over. [Bulgarian King] "Foxy Ferdinand" decided he had enough...

Pages 140 - 141:

[German warlord] Ludendorff at his own Spa headquarters on the other side of Europe realized that a major political and strategic crisis was looming up in Bulgaria, with an ally on the brink of collapse and the entire south-eastern flank of the Austrian and German Empires threatened with exposure. He did what he could to stem the tide. Nine German and Austrian divisions were rushed from ALL OVER Europe to the Balkan Peninsula including, from the Western Front itself, the crack Alpine Corps with its mountain equipment. "We are coming to help and save you with every man available" Ludendorff signaled the Bulgarian Commander-in-Chief...

But position could no longer be held. On the morning of 26 September... [only 12 days after the offensive have started] a German staff car with a large white flag flapping alongside its bonnet... pulled up in front of the British troops. Out stepped two Bulgarian officers... with a letter signed by their Commander-in-Chief, General Todorov asking ... "a suspension of hostilities... for an armistice, and eventually for peace."...

Page 143:

...The first armistice of the Great War had been imposed - by the forgotten army of that war... What was its impact?


Pages 145-146:

In the world outside the collapse of Bulgaria was widely seen for what it was: THE BEGINNING OF THE FINAL PHASE OF THE WAR. Winston Churchill, in Paris at the time, "recognized at once that the end had come." For the Maurice Hankey, the influential secretary of the British Cabinet, "the first of the props had fallen." Over in America President Wilson.. according to one of his intimates, "He immediately realized that, for the Central Powers, the beginning of the end was here."

But of all the reactions in the West the most incisive came,... from an ordinary British cavalry officer in France... He described the "dramatic effect" it had on the troops and then wrote:

"Towns and prisoners and guns and ships had been captured by both sides for four years past without any apparent effect on the war... But when whole nations began to fall and capitulate without conditions, then indeed there seemed ground for hope. If one fell away, others would surely follow..."

Page 147:

[At the enemy camp] the Austrian Foreign Minister Count Burian graphically put it to his master: "In jumping clear from us, Bulgaria has knocked the bottom out of the barrel." That verdict was pronounced at an emergency meeting of the Austrian Crown Council convened by Charles in Vienna on 27 September, the day the Bulgarian plenipotentiaries were setting out for Salonica. Its protocol shows a desperately worried sovereign and his advisers surveying the fulfillment of their worst predictions...

Pages 149 - 150:

At the Supreme Headquarters in occupied Belgium, Hindenburg and Ludendorff were already drawing up another of their military balance sheets, and wherever they looked, the prospects looked darker than before... The behaviour of the Berlin Stock Exchange was the best barometer of the change. It had remained steady, even firm, throughout the series of military setbacks... But this public defection of an ally could neither be concealed nor explained away; and when the news of the armistice reached the German capital shares plummeted in waves of selling...

[German first in command] Ludendorff wrote soon: "...Our Balkan front was unstable and it was quite uncertain whether we could be able to reconstruct it in Serbia and Bulgaria, or even along the Danube... The overall military position could only get distinctly worse. Whether things would move slowly or with terrifying speed could not be forseen but it was probable that it would all be over in a relatively short time..."

Bulgaria had reduced the solid-looking Quadruple Alliance to a nervous band of three. By the time Ludendorff was doing his fateful calculations at Spa, it seemed inevitable that they would soon be down to two. Turkey, all land links with her [German] allies already severed by the Balkan collapse, was about to fall itself.

(End quote)


In a quote from Ludendorff's memoirs (when I have time to retype the text) we will see that the first in command of the Central Powers saw, with crystal clarity that Salonika debacle means that Germany would for sure loose the war. Ludendorff admits that it was the first time he got to that realization.

Neither Germans nor Austrians ever forgot or forgave the Serbian bravery in the two world wars.

It is the other Westerners, the Serbian allies in the two wars like Americans, British, French... who forgot the Serbian sacrifice in the two wars. In the First World war Serbia lost 23% of its population!


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Last revised: November 8, 1998