Tito, Marshal (Josip Broz), 1892-1980

Tito was the Communist leader of the Yugoslav resistance during the war. He was able not only to become a national leader and maintain a large and well- disciplined army throughout the occupation but also to keep thousands of badly needed Axis troops tied up in Yugoslavia.

Tito was almost fifty at the outbreak of war and had gained experience in the Russian Revolution, Spanish Civil War and Comintern. When Germany invaded Yugoslavia he organized resistance quickly, and was able to mount sabotage attacks by July 1941 and a full-scale campaign in Serbia in the fall. He succeeded in capturing a number of Serbian towns, including Uzice, where he set up an arms factory and printing press. However he soon came to blows with the rival resistance group, the Cetniks, led by Mihajlovic who collaborated with the Nazis in order to try to defeat left wing forces. Tito defeated Mihajlovic but was then driven out of Serbia by the Germans. This was the first of seven major Axis offensives against the partisans. In each case, Tito followed a policy of fighting as long as he was able, then disappearing into the hills still maintaining tight communication and organization and assuming governmental functions in areas under his control. In November 1942 he held an assembly in Bihac. In May 1943 Tito was attacked by forces six times his size, lost a quarter of his men and half his equipment but managed to keep his men together.

The Allies had little idea of what was happening in Yugoslavia throughout this period. They had given their support to MIHAJLOVIC early in the war, but late in 1942 they obtained better intelligence and began shifting their support to Tito. After Fitzroy MACLEAN’s clandestine visit to Partisan head-quarters, Tito became the single largest item in the Allied aid program. His fortunes further improved when the Italians pulled out of the war in September 1943. This occasion allowed him to obtain Croatia, the Dalmation coast and a vast quantity of Italian arms. Tito now had an army of a quarter of a million men. In May 1944. the Yugoslav government-in-exile dismissed Mihajlovic and began negotiating with Tito. In the same month the Germans launched another massive assault on the partisans but with adequate Allied air support and the approach of the Red Army. Tito managed to take Belgrade by the 20 October 1944. Tito then took part in a coalition government under a temporary regency, but the Communists won the first elections with a large majority and abolished the monarchy.

Tito was one of the greatest and most successful leaders of the war. Because of his aggressive policies, he became the symbol of his country’s unity and was able to institute an indigenous Communist government without Soviet support or control.

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