Živojin Mišić (1855 – 1921) was a Serbian Field Marshal (Voivoda) and arguably the most successful Serbian commander who participated in all of Serbia’s wars from 1876 to 1918. He directly commanded the First Serbian army in the Battle of Kolubara and in breach of the Thessaloniki Front was the Chief of the Supreme Command.
Mišić’s grandfather was born in Struganik near Mionica. His parents Radovan and Anđelija (born Damjanović – Koštunjić) had thirteen children, of which only two were girls – Teodora and Živana.
Živojin was the youngest child, and when he was born, only eight of his brothers and sisters were still alive. When he turned 6 years, he became a shepherd. He finished primary school in Kragujevac. In his memories, he mentions troubles he had with the city kids that teased him because of his peasant origin. In 1868, he started his gymnasium education in Kragujevac, where he finished the 1st, 2nd, and 6th grade. He finished the third and fourth grade in Belgrade. In the first five gymnasium grades he was not a particularly good student, but he finished the 6th grade with much greater success. Because of that, he was admitted to the Military Academy in 1874, ranked 19th. On every holiday he visited his village, and often he worked in the field with his brothers. Later, on November 25, 1884, he married a German woman, Louise Krikner (1865-1956), at Ascension Church in Belgrade, and they had six children, three sons and three daughters.
He participated with distinction in the Serbo-Turkish wars of 1876 and 1878 with the rank of lieutenant JG of the infantry and in the Serbo-Bulgarian War of 1885 a as full lieutenant – a company commander in the 5th infantry regiment of Drinska division.
Sometime after the assassination of King Aleksandar Obrenović (see May Overthrow), he was forced to retire, supposedly through the influence of the “Black Hand” as he was considered too close to the Obrenović dynasty, but was reactivated on the personal insistence of the Chief of Staff of the High command of the Serbian Army, General Radomir Putnik who made him his aide.
In the Balkan wars Mišić was the assistant chief of staff of the Supreme Command of vojvode Radomir Putnik, his right-hand man. After the Battle of Kumanovo of the First Balkan War, he was promoted to General. During the critical moments of the Bulgarian surprise offensive at the Battle of Bregalnica of the Second Balkan War, when most of the staff suggested that the Serbian army should withdraw to the second line of defence, Mišić (still the Aide of the Chief of Staff) strongly disagreed and persuaded Putnik to order the army to repel the attack on the first line, thus contributing greatly to the Serbian victory in the battle.
During the July Crisis of 1914 Mišić effectively deputised for the ailing Putnik (then recuperating at a spa in Hungary). Defending against the Austro-Hungarian invasion of Serbia, Mišić (who had emerged from retirement to do so) was placed in command of the Serbian First Army; in December 1914, he won a decisive victory at the Battle of Kolubara that resulted in the humiliating expulsion of Austro-Hungarian forces from Serbia. He was subsequently promoted to the rank of Field Marshal (Voivoda) in recognition of his efforts in winning such a sweeping Serbian victory.
Although Mišić participated in the great retreat of the Serbian Army through the winter mountains of Albania during the winter of 1915-16, harried by the second combined German and Austro-Hungarian invasion force (ultimately joined by Bulgaria), he remained in favour of halting and making a final stand against Serbia’s combined enemies. He was over-ridden however by both King Peter and the other Army commanders at a meeting in Peć, and was followed by the withdrawal of the Serbian army through Montenegro and Albania.
Having suffered badly from exposure during the epic retreat, Mišić recovered. At the Thessaloniki front in 1916, Mišić commanded the First Army, which stopped and forced the withdrawal of the Bulgarian army at the Battle of Gornicevo. Towards the end of the war in June 1918 Mišić was appointed Chief of the Supreme Command and commanded the Serbian army during the breakthrough of the Salonika front in September 1918. He was a lecturer at the Military Academy in Belgrade, and the end of his military career was greeted by the Chief of General Staff of Army of The Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes.
Mišić wrote a book of memoirs called “My memories” (Moje uspomene). In the book he writes everything he remembers from his early life as a sheepherder to end of Second Balkan war. The book includes periods from his youth, his first days in First Serb-Turkish war, Second Serb-Turkish war, Two Serb-Bulgarian wars, the assassination of Obrenović’s couple and May overthrow and two Balkan wars.
In this book, the famous general does not hesitate to present the reality of life in Serbia and the harsh parts of participating in war, the reality of Serbian army which was back them made mostly of inexperience peasants and problems Serbian peasants had at beginning of second half of the 19th century with new laws about land peasants owned and beginning of political life I Serbia. Most notable of Mišić’s book was connotation how Serbs are naive people who are to idealistic “As the Russian lancer squadron moved into a battle, I noticed how our people are naive, since we all believed that that squadron will make miracles up on hills fighting Turks, and that we will succeed in pushing Turks out from battle. But the Russian squadron soon broke apart and they went in some other direction.”
Mišić died in a Belgrade hospital of lung cancer in 1921. He is included in The 100 most prominent Serbs.