Beacons in the Night Summary

Beacons in the Night

Franklin Lindsay, an OSS (Office of Strategic Services) officer parachuted into wartime Yugoslavia on March 14, 1944 in order to assess and aid the resistance against the German occupiers organized by Josip Broz Tito’s (1892-1980) Communist Partisans. Lindsay knew relatively little about Yugoslavia or about the Communist movement; it was his mission to schedule air drops of vital supplies to the Partisans and to make sure they were integrated into the allied effort against the Germans.

Lindsay was impressed with the military and political organization of the Partisans, but he was also dismayed that they spent more time fighting their rivals, the Chetniks, anti-Communist Yugoslavs (mostly Serbians). While the Partisans welcomed American aid, they were upset at American efforts to support the Chetniks, and following Stalin’s lead, the Partisans were suspicious of American plans for the postwar world.

Lindsay presents a persuasive case that the Partisans were the only effective indigenous fighting force in Yugoslavia, and that the Chetnik leader, General Draza Mihailovitch (1893-1946), a man of integrity, failed to engage the Germans because he feared their massive reprisals against the Yugoslav people. Tito was far more ruthless than Mihailovitch, and he established during the war the political organizations that made his dictatorial control of postwar Yugoslavia possible.

While Lindsay does not defend Tito’s tactics, he believes that the American and British decision to back Tito, was a necessity of war, and that although Tito distrusted the West, his wartime alliance with it gave him the strength and the confidence to break with Stalin in 1948 and to support an independent domestic and foreign policy.