Howard Fast

Tito and His People

The Army of Liberation

You will recall that the liberation movement in Yugoslavia is composed of two parts, the National Liberation Army and Partisan detachments. We've already discussed at great length the role of the Partisan brigades or detachments. Now let's have a look at the Army of Liberation which grew out of the Partisan bands. Its strength reaches between 120,000 and 200,000 fighters. One fourth of them are women who fight along with their men and are doing a real job of soldiering.

Italian, German, Croatian Quisling newspapers were full of gory accounts of battles with these bandits and Bolsheviks. They told their readers that the Partisans were using Indian tactics of inhuman cunning and bestial ferocity. And, of course, many of our newspapers and magazines believed these Nazi lies. The Yugoslav Army of Liberation remained compact and well organized in spite of many setbacks.

Thousands of her men and women wintered in Bosnian forests, eating, sleeping, fighting in the snow. Many thousands died from exposure to typhus and other diseases. To hamper the movements of the army are the thousands of children that roam the devastated countryside hungry, homeless. Their parents are either dead or fighting somewhere in Yugoslavia against frightful odds. Whenever the Army of Liberation comes upon these children or where these children hear of the whereabouts of this army of free men, they flock to them in vast numbers.

Each unit is commanded by a military officer chosen from among the men who have been leading their units since the early beginning of Partisan resistance. They were selected by the soldiers themselves as being the bravest among them. Each battalion, brigade and division has a political officer and each platoon has what is known as a platoon delegate who in turn has two assistants. These men look after the personal grievances and worries of the men. They come from all political parties and represent the liberation movement, not their parties.

The political officers lead meetings where criticism and discussion are engaged in. They see that the spirit of the men is kept at a high level.

Each brigade has at least one priest with it. The church has suffered as much as the rest of Yugoslavia and has become part and parcel of the liberation movement.

We have a natural curiosity about clothes and no doubt want to know what kind of a uniform the Partisans wear. As well as their own they wear captured Italian or German uniforms with the former insignia taken off and the five-pointed star placed in a conspicuous fashion on the cap. They are indeed oddly uniformed but uniformly determined men and women. These indomitable fighters composing the Army of Liberation are uniformly in agreement about their cause and their future. Today it is "Death to Fascism! — Freedom to the People! Tomorrow it will be "Death to hunger, poverty and pain; freedom of every man, woman and child to live in peace and security in a free and democratic Yugoslavia."

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