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 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.
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.