Zivojin Misic (1855-1921) was the most prominent – and successful – of Serbia’s field commanders during World War One.
Born on 19 January 1855 Misic saw service in all conflicts involving Serbia from 1877-1918, having fought in the 1877 Serbian-Turkish War, the 1885 Serbian-Bulgarian War, the 1912-13 Balkan Wars – and throughout the First World War.
From 1898-1904 Misic taught strategy at the Military Academy, and served on Radomir Putnik’s staff during the 1908-09 Bosnian crisis.
During the July Crisis of 1914 Misic effectively deputised for the ailing Putnik (then recuperating at a spa in Hungary). Defending against the Austro-Hungarian invasion of Serbia Misic (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 Field Marshal in recognition of his efforts in winning such a sweeping Serbian victory.
Although Misic participated in the great retreat of the Serbian Army through the wintry 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 Serbian government.
Having suffered badly from exposure during the epic retreat Misic sought recuperation in France. Upon his recall in September 1916 he re-assumed command of First Army initially at Monastir and then at Salonika. Assisted by regional Commander-in-Chief French General Franchet d’Esperey he led (as effective Commander-in-Chief of the Serbian army) his troops in the Allied Vardar Offensive that spectacularly knocked Bulgaria out of the war.
In the weeks immediately prior to the cessation of hostilities Misic led his troops deep into Austro-Hungarian territory, both ensuring its collapse but also – more importantly for him – greatly assisting the creation of the post-war South Slav state which he had long advocated (ultimately named Yugoslavia).
Appointed Chief of General Staff with the end of the war Misic died on 20 January 1921 at the age of 66.