In the summer of 1944 the Yugoslav Army in the Homeland, also known as Chetniks, assembled in Serbia and made possible the rescue of over 500 downed Allied airmen. Known as Operation Halyard, the rescue mission was downplayed for decades in order not to unduly irritate Yugoslavia’s Communist authorities. Since then, much information about that mission has come to light. This short video is of particular interest because it features reminiscences of some of the last living participants. It is in English and Serbian, with subtitles.
The first and basic reason for the success of every big venture is in the readiness to accept the risk and danger, to risk failure and to be exposed to the peril of ruin. In that lays the crux of the struggle for assuring the freedom and better future for Serbian people. The misfortune of the Serbian diaspora today is that too many individuals want to call themselves and be considered by others fighters against communism, but refuse, regardless of circumstances, to endanger their jobs, house, pension, social security, car, vacation, or anything!
Imagine if our fathers and grandfathers had joined liberation wars of 1912, 1913 and 1914 with this notion that no one will die, and that everyone will get to keep what they have and safely return home!
That is exactly what the majority of the Serbian immigrants want today. And that can’t be! That is not how great and fateful battles are fought.
Excerpt from Dr. Drašković’s book “Which way? A message to the youth of Serbia” (Chicago, 1967)
Crucial to the understanding of the first Yugoslav state is the Croat relationship towards a union with other South Slavs (including the fellow Catholic Slovenes), which can be described as tenuous at best. The initial decision to accept unification with Serbia – already a fact on the ground by November 1918 – was driven in part by fear of falling under the rule of Italy or Hungary. Once the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes was established, however, Croat leaders began demanding political autonomy – a notion that ran contrary to the idea of brotherhood of South Slav tribes, as well as the political organization of the state as a centralized monarchy.
Serbo-Croat relations reached their nadir in 1928, as Croatian Peasant Party (HSS) deputies regularly insulted their Serb colleagues in the parliament. On June 20, an enraged Serb deputy shot HSS leader Radić and three of his associates in the parliamentary chambers. On January 6, 1929, King Aleksandar dissolved the parliament and established autocracy as an emergency measure. He also renamed the kingdom “Yugoslavia” and subdivided it into nine provinces (banovina), named after rivers.
Aleksandar’s attempt to foster Yugoslav unity failed. He was assassinated in 1934, during a state visit to France. With the growing threat from fascist Italy and Nazi Germany, the regency attempted to pacify the Croatians by giving them political autonomy: on August 1939, Prime Minister Dragiša Cvetković made a pact with the new leader of the HSS, Vladko Maček, and established the Province of Croatia (Banovina Hrvatska).
Map of Yugoslav provinces (banovina), with Croatia in red.
Eighteen months later, German tanks were greeted with flowers in the streets of Zagreb, and the Banovina became the Independent State of Croatia. Though Maček declined participation in the new regime, many of his followers joined the Ustasha, and some later joined the Communists. Maček himself spent the war underhouse arrest, and in 1945 emigrated to France, then to the United States, where he died in 1964.
Following the 1939 pact, Maček sent out a memorandum to all the subcommittees of his party. Its original was quoted in a 1997 book by Serbian-American historian Rade Rebić (see here); translation below courtesy of the Reiss Institute.
Memorandum from V. Maček to HSS sub-committees, August 1939:
“It is the duty of every individual and prominent member of the Croat National Movement to explain the real ideas behind the Agreement to our followers at every opportunity. Every member always has to bear in mind that the ways and means of the struggle are designed to minimize effort and casualties, while achieving the best possible results. The Croat Movement seeks to exploit every opportunity to achieve as much success as possible, which is why we made this Agreement as a tool of the struggle of Croatian people and peasants. Let it be clear, then, that in making the Agreement the Croat leadership did not renounce the ultimate objectives of the Croatian people.
What is to be done now is:
1. The Agreement achieves two of the Movement’s major objectives:
а) It breaks the unity of the state, dividing it into two entities. It will be the duty of Croat national leadership to reinforce and deepen this division.
b) it forces Belgrade – meaning the Cabinet and the Prince Regent – to abandon the idea of national unity, which is very important… Most importantly, it destroyed the very foundation of Yugoslavia… We need to always emphasize the separate character of Croat and Slovene people, thus flattering the Slovene faction of Dr. Korosec and provoking the public in Serbia.
2. The Agreement lets our deputies into the Cabinet as ministers. We need to always refer to them, internally and to the media, as “Croatian Ministers”. This ensures:
а) Participation in the government.
b) Control over the government, i.e. knowledge of policies and decisions.
c) Control of money, with the right to use state income to further the Croatian National Movement’s cause. This weakens the Belgrade government significantly, diminishes its area of influence, and makes the Croatian Ministers capable of further weakening the government and harming the state. At each opportunity the Croatian Ministers will agree and obtain further concessions to Croat separation… This position gives the Croatian Ministers a key to open many opportunities.
3. The Prince Regent is in our power now. We always appear cautiously faithful to him, while in reality he is a puppet on our string.
4. May our followers not be confused by statements made by Croatian Ministers or even the Prime Minister, in Belgrade. Those are merely formalities, meaningless, a deception.
5. In our press, in our statements and conversations, we need to attack all those who do not understand that the idea of national unity is now dead forever. We need to seek further autonomy and express dissatisfaction with the present Agreement, and always complain that it is not being fully implemented. That way, the Croatian Ministers and Prime Minister can always appear as friendly to the central government and the Prince, asking for new concessions and new rights for Croatia by invoking the need to appease popular discontent in the interest of the state union and betterment of Croat-Serb relations.
6. Avoid the use of “Province of Croatia” (“Banovina Hrvatska”), using instead simply Croatia, Croatian government, etc. Always speak of Croats, Croatian people, and point out Croatian identity as a factor in international relations of the state union. Never mention, neither in writing nor in speeches, either the state union or Yugoslavia
7. We need to achieve separation in sports, establish our own press office, our own radio, and at every opportunity present ourselves to the outside world as representatives of the Croatian people. Our Croatian Ministers will endeavor to always note their particular Croat identity in their official communications, promoting the separate character of Croatia and the Croatian people.
8. All the institutions, associations, enterprises, cultural societies and other such things must always be named as Croatian or Croat. Emphasis Croats everywhere and at every opportunity. Strictly separate Croat writers from the Serbs, Croat literature from the Serb, Croat history from the Serb. In short, always separate and divide…
9. The mission of our relevant agents will be to gradually remove all the traces of national unity. There is no mention of a Croatian coat-of-arms or flag in the Agreement, but there are avenues to introduce them, and the current government is unwilling and unable to prevent us from doing so. All we have to do is threaten to resign and they will cave.
10. We need to systematically purge and remove all words, names and designations in the Serb manner, used until now…
11. Open interference with the gendarmerie and the military would be difficult, as the Serbs are very sensitive on that matter and would react. We need to undermine them in other ways. Let us use the methods tested in Austro-Hungarian times. In particular we need to ensure that our followers, e.g. military physicians, infiltrate the highest ranks of the military. They can then weaken the military and erode the discipline… We will endeavor to persuade the government to trust the Croat Home Guard… Its organization should be patterned after the former Austro-Hungarian institution (“domobranstvo”), using the same names, same markings, same orders, etc. Especially nurture the spirit of the Home Guard, the Croat National Movement, and separate Croatian objectives.
12. Do everything to gradually abolish the celebration of Vidovdan… When the Sokols or other such organizations organize public celebrations, we need to interfere or even ban them outright…
13. Always point out that the Agreement is just a step in the process of achieving our objectives. Always talk about a free and independent, separate Croatia. Always speak of Croatian interests, Croatian rights, Croatian duties…
14. Our enemies are always to be attacked in the harshest terms, accuse them as corrupt, harmful to Croat interests, and oppressors of Croatian people… Their achievements are to be denigrated, their newsprint ignored or mocked, and they themselves ridiculed and derided.
15. The international situation is developing to our benefit. The Versailles system is collapsing, and Yugoslavia is that system’s artificial creation. Our leadership will strike a balance between the Axis and democracy… The primary objective is to destroy Yugoslavia. In that we have the full support of the Catholic Church, as well as international Communism.
16. These instructions are to be strictly followed, and interpreted appropriately to all sympathizers. Keep them secret and confidential. Croatian delegates will give everyone more detailed instructions. Forward, all, to a free and independent Croatian state!
With faith in God and peasant solidarity!”
The Forgotten 500: The Untold Story of the Men Who Risked All for the Greatest Rescue Mission of World War II
(New American Library, August 2007)
By Gregory A. Freeman
One of the last untold stories of World War II is also one of the greatest – a story of adventure, daring, danger and heroics, followed by a web of conspiracy, lies, and coverup.
THE FORGOTTEN 500 is one of the greatest rescue and escape stories ever, but hardly anyone has heard about it. And that’s by design. The U.S., British, and Yugoslav governments hid details of this story for decades, purposefully denying credit to the heroic rescuers and the foreign ally who gave his life to help allied airmen as they were hunted down by Nazis in the hills of Yugoslavia.Continue reading “Allied pilots rescued by Serbian Chetniks — The Forgotten 500”
Operation Halyard (or Halyard Mission), known in Serbian as Operation Air Bridge (Serbian: Операција Ваздушни мост), was an Allied airlift operation behind Axis lines during World War II. In July 1944, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) drew up plans to send a team to Chetniks led by General Draža Mihailović in the German-occupied Territory of the Military Commander in Serbia for the purpose of evacuating Allied airmen shot down over that area.This team, known as the Halyard team, was commanded by Lieutenant George Musulin, along with Master Sergeant Michael Rajačić, and Specialist Arthur Jibilian, the radio operator. The team was detailed to the United States Fifteenth Air Force and designated as the 1st Air Crew Rescue Unit. It was the largest rescue operation of American Airmen in history. According to historian Professor Jozo Tomašević, a report submitted to the OSS showed that 417 Allied airmen who had been downed over occupied Yugoslavia were rescued by Mihailović’s Chetniks,] and airlifted out by the Fifteenth Air Force. According to Lt. Cmdr. Richard M. Kelly (OSS) grand total of 432 U.S. and 80 Allied personnel were airlifted during the Halyard Mission.
St. Justin Popovich 1894-1979
You have raised many questions and asked my opinion on various issues; whole books can be written on each of them; therefore, I have to be very brief, as brief as possible.
The attitude towards the non-orthodox Christian world, first and foremost, one must establish oneself in Orthodoxy with one’s mind and heart and life: in it’s Holy Mysteries and holy virtues; thereby catholicizing oneself, one’s mind and heart and life; living constantly with “all the saints” for this is only way to know divine-human depths and heights and breadth of everything belonging to Christ: to live “with all the saints” = to think “with all the saints” = to feel “with all the saints” = to pray “with all the saints” = to love “with all the saints”. Only in this way the holy and infallible criterion of Truth is provided = of the Church of Christ which invariably is the Hypostatic Truth of Christ the God-man, neither anyone or anything other than Him: “the fullness of Him who fills all in all.”
…”Ecumenisms” are in fashion. But, it seems to me, the most important thing therein is being overlooked: Ecumenism of the Theanthropic Truth is heart of Theanthropic Orthodox ecumenism, which invariably is the Hypostasis of the God-man Christ, in its cosmic, pan-cosmic, above-cosmic and all-embracing omneity as well as in its historical concreteness. On no account can man, or anything human, be a criterion, a symbol, or a concretum of ecumenism. Man, whoever he may be, can never be a criterion, for this but only and always the God-man. The entire tragedy of the West resides in its rejection of Christ’s God-manhood, both as modus vivendi and modus cognoscendi, through various kinds of hominisms and humanisms. (Letter Dec. 25, 1964)
Please download St Justin Popović book “The Orthodox Church and Ecumenism”.
The apparent inability of many Serbs to learn from their history caused it to repeat itself in August of 1995. The political background of the expulsion of a quarter of a million Krajina Serbs by the Croats, with generous tactical and logistical assistance of “retired” US military personnel who were lent for the purpose, will remain controversial for some time, or at least until all the files are unsealed. But the human consequences are plain to see in this video. Of equal importance, the forced relocation by the Croats of a major segment of the Serbian nation from their ancestral homeland demonstrates that the unpunished genocide in Croatia during World War II was merely interrupted for several decades. It continued and was practically completed at the close of the twentieth century.
Serbs in the Diaspora do not fully comprehend the magnitude of the disaster that has befallen the land of their ancestors. That is alarming. However, the situation is also tragic because most Serbs in Serbia and the neighboring fragments of despoiled Serbian lands (Bosnia, Herzegovina, Montenegro) are almost as blissfully unaware of the systemic nature and true extent of their troubles. And even less so of the imminent dangers that they face both collectively as a nation and as individuals.
The task of the Archibald Reiss Institute is to first highlight those critical issues in a concentrated and non-partisan fashion, and then to initiate a pan-Serbian dialogue about them. Such a dialogue, to be fruitful, must result in a realistic appraisal of the root causes of the national malaise and of the paralysis and hopelessness it has generated. Unless a correct diagnosis is made and quickly followed up by an effective treatment plan, the patient will assuredly die. That is an outcome that – to quote a famous phrase that still resonates – we must pledge “our lives, fortune, and our sacred honor” not to permit to ever come to pass.
The nation’s current travails can most certainly be linked to systemic flaws deliberately and perfidiously built into its governance. Those flaws are programmed to promote self-destructive policies and, even more importantly, to block every endeavor that might lead to regeneration. Serbia is trapped in a vise: measures specifically designed to hasten its annihilation are relentlessly and unalterably pursued regardless of deceptive periodic changes in the composition of its ruling cliques, while capable and patriotic individuals with the requisite knowledge and experience to help their country in distress are sidelined and prevented from participating meaningfully in the nation’s affairs or contributing to its recuperation.
Dark and dismal as is the present panorama, it is but the high point of nefarious processes that have turned Serbia’s twentieth century into an unmitigated catastrophe.
Biological disaster. In the course of the last century, the Serbian nation experienced three massive bloodlettings, the debilitating effects of which are plainly visible today. In World War I, Serbia lost between a quarter and a third of its population. In World War II, mainly under the genocidal regime of the Nazi-satellite “Independent State of Croatia,” about three quarter million Serbs of all ages and stations in life were slaughtered. In the period that immediately followed, at least a hundred thousand fell victim to the murderous Communist regime that was installed by foreign, mainly British, intrigue to rule the country under the leadership of their agent Josip Broz Tito. The nature and impact of the biological disaster is not merely quantitative, but qualitative as well. The most capable and best educated segments of Serbian society were the first to perish in the defense of their country’s liberty or because they were specifically targeted in order to thus paralyze their nation’s will and capacity to resist.
Political disaster. The formation of Yugoslavia at the end of World War I was the project of the local political elite, accomplished largely behind the backs of the Serbian people and without a clear mandate from them. It followed the blueprint laid down by Great Britain of incorporating incompatible ethnic and cultural components within the confines of a foreseeably nonviable multi-national state. The design was to keep the Serbian Orthodox element in check. Unseaworthy intra-war Yugoslavia’s pre-planned and fatal design flaws led to its quick collapse and mayhem under Axis occupation in World War II, leaving the Serbian people adrift. The Kingdom of Yugoslavia failed its first serious test when the Axis invaded in 1941. The inception of the atmosphere of demoralization and corruption which led to that result was brilliantly described in 1928 by Archibald Reiss in his perceptive farewell to the nation that he grew to love but to whose flaws he always remained attentive, “Listen, Serbs!” Indeed, every one of the flaws then noticed by Reiss, was since then immensely magnified and is plainly visible today, in combination with many more that Reiss could not even have anticipated. Predictably, the loss of national compass, to which Reiss then drew attention, bore its bitter fruit in the form of the quick collapse of the government and the army, followed by territorial dismemberment and a terrifying foreign occupation accompanied by a bitter, ideologically driven civil war. When the nightmare was over, the Chetnik Serbian nationalist liberation movement led by General Draža Mihailović stood decimated and betrayed by the self-interested political machinations of Britain and the Vatican. Power was handed over to their delegate Josip Broz. He consented to his sponsors’ demand to cover up the atrocities committed against the Serbs in staunchly Catholic war-time collaborationist Croatia so that the moral reputation of the Roman Catholic Church should thus be preserved for the upcoming confrontation with the Soviet Union and the socialist block and so that its mobilizing resources could be used to prevent the westward expansion of Soviet power and influence. The physically decimated Serbian nation was a direct victim of that infernal strategic bargain as Josip Broz and his Party, and currently their variously disguised successors, were installed to rule over it. That particular nightmare, with all its dreadful repercussions, has still not reached its end.
Moral disaster. Disorientation, general loss of collective will and purpose, and absence of a common task that could stimulate the nation’s imagination, release its creative energies, and sharpen its instinct of self-preservation, were one of the chief consequences of the massive loss of Serbia’s best and brightest. Commitment to Yugoslavia and to an illusory version of Communism, in neither of which their foreign-imposed tyrant Josip Broz was so credulous as to genuinely believe, were the twin chimeras which eventually came to obsess the leaderless physical remnant of the Serbian people. The corollary of the acceptance of these pernicious fantasies was renunciation of Serbian identity and culture. Without the cohesion derived from shared historical identity and culture there can be no common project. Breakdown of the will to survive and capacity to resist soon follow. That is precisely where the Serbian nation stands in these dangerous times.
A sober analysis of the causes of the breakdown and energetic treatment not of its symptoms but root causes, must therefore be the order of the day. The Archibald Reiss Institute has set for itself precisely that ambitious task. The pathetic foreign stooges temporarily administering Serbia today at their foreign masters’ pleasure and behest have little to fear from us in the immediate term. We want them out, of course, so that Serbia may live. But in due time they will be routinely discarded by their foreign masters anyway, so for the moment they are not worth the expenditure of our time and energy. Our attention will be focused instead on the rotten system of which ghastly regimes such as the present one are disgusting, yet merely transient, features.
The Spanish patriot Jose Antonio Primo de Rivera articulated best what is also our position — in quoting him, we shall substitute Serbia for Spain. This is what he wrote in his seemingly paradoxical but in fact eminently sensible discourse:
“We love Serbia because we do not like it … We love it because we strive for perfection. We are unable to love the ruined and decadent Serbia that we see today. What we do love is the eternal and immutable metaphysic of Serbia.”
Whoever understands this profound thought and takes it to heart is ready to come on board and we invite him to join us.