The Serbs Chose War

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By Ruth Mitchel. This extraordinary book is one of the rare accounts by a foreigner of World War II in Yugoslavia. The events of the early war years - the anti-Axis coup, German invasion and occupation, Serb resistance - all unfold against the backdrop of everyday hardship in occupied Serbia, in this deeply personal but illuminating account of an American woman who was there to both observe and participate.

Excerpts from "The Serbs Chose War" by Ruth Mitchell published in 1943 by Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 58-7242)

AT TEN-FIFTEEN on the morning of March 25, 1941, the news flashed: "Yugoslavia has signed the Axis pact." It was a moment of destiny for Europe, for the world. It was a moment when the flame of freedom guttered so perilously low that many of the bravest spirits of our time averted their eyes, sure that it was now finally to be extinguished.

Then an almost incredible thing happened, a thing so important to the history of the world that freedom-loving men will speak of it with admiration and with gratitude down through the centuries.


The Serbs rose. A little race of not more than eight million souls deliberately, sternly decided to die rather than to submit to Axis vassalage. They were the only small race of Europe to come in openly on the side of the Allies before they were themselves attacked and while they still had promises of complete security of frontiers, of lives, and of property; the first and only small race themselves to declare war- a war they knew to be absolutely hopeless- against the invincible German war machine.


Why did they do it? What caused their decision? What has enabled them to succeed when other, larger, much better equipped peoples failed or didn't even try?

These are important questions, important to our own present war effort, important to the future of Europe, very important to future world peace.


The Serbs chose war. They chose to die. They died. They are dying today-not by hundreds, not by thousands, but by hundreds of thousands, men, women, and small children.

The Serbs chose war. In spite of all the horrors they expected, this small race almost unanimously decided to oppose themselves against the greatest war machine of history. And in spite of the unexpected, unpredictable horrors that have befallen them, they still choose war.

Why ?

It took me over three years to find out.


I gave the dying men and women of Serbia my promise that I would spend the rest of my life looking after their children. I promised them that America would never forget the bond and the debt. I pledged American honor that the thousands upon thousands of orphans left in a ruined land would be cherished by their American brothers and sisters.

In view of all that the Serbs have done-for us; in view of all they have lost in fighting-for us; in view of all they have saved-to us- in money and in lives, I propose that for the rebuilding and the future of Serbia we appropriate the cost to us of one day of war.

Knowing that nothing could have been nearer to the fighting heart of my brother than the Fighting Serbs, I have established in his memory the General Billy Mitchell Memorial Foundation for Balkan Youth.

I pledged the honor of my country. I rely upon my countrymen with complete trust to help me to keep that pledge.

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