Howard Fast

Tito and His People

Organizing Partisan Brigades

Tito was an old and experienced fighter. The better part of his life had been spent in the struggle for human freedom and dignity. He never made the mistake of underestimating the enemy. He had seen the German Panzers tried out in Spain. He had seen those same Panzers knife through his native land in ten days. He knew how futile and foolish it would be to send his half armed guerrillas against them immediately.

Instead he set out perfecting his organization, arming it as well as he could and enlarging it. Wherever they could be reached, his own party organizations were contacted. They in turn reached out and made common purpose with all anti-Axis people they could reach. Liaison was perfected.

Disguised as travelling men, as peasants, as housewives, organizers travelled back and forth throughout the country. Branches were strengthened, arms were apportioned effectively, ammunition stretched as far as it would go.

When they had done all they could do, they waited for the opportune moment to strike. They had hardly completed their preparations when it came. In June, 1941, two months after the defeat of Yugoslavia, the Nazi Panzers poured over the Russian front, the Stukas smashed at the Russian cities.

In Yugoslavia an immediate effect of the Russian invasion was apparent. Needing every German soldier he could lay his hands on and believing that Yugoslavia was completely conquered, Hitler withdrew most of his Nazi garrisons to the Soviet front. He left a small but strong holding force — and against that force, the Liberation Front struck. And so for the first time people outside of the Balkans heard of the Partisan brigade and their leader, Marshal Tito.


What Is A Partisan?


Something should be said here of the origin of the term Partisan and the Partisan method of warfare. Curiously enough, the first Partisan brigades were American and both the word and the method came into being during the American Revolution. At that time continental farmers, when the occasion arose, would take down their guns, leave their homes and meet at an appointed spot. They would then attack a British garrison or an outpost or a marching column. They would appear suddenly, strike hard and quickly and then melt away before the enemy could reorganize. When the enemy was in a position to strike back, the Partisans had disappeared, gone back to their homes, ceased to exist as an army.

That feature, the ability to assemble quickly, strike quickly, and then disappear if the need should arise, was the most striking quality of the Partisan band. You will see how again and again in the history of Tito's struggle, this feature was used to full advantage.

Although Partisan is the popular name for Tito's movement today, the armed resistance to the Germans is offered by the National Liberation Army and the Partisan detachments of Yugoslavia.

The army is a standard army composed of 26 divisions, each containing 3,000 to 7,000 men. The Partisan detachments, however, are something different. They are small, irregular units for special tasks. Guerrillas in the proper sense of the word, that number alone about 120,000 men. These partake in delaying action, sabotage, and surprise attacks.

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