Operation Halyard, the biggest Allied WWII airlift operation behind enemy lines, rescued more than 500 allied airmen shot down over Nazi-occupied Serbia.
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Yugoslav partisans saved 795 and Serbians 365 Allied airmen in the Second World War
Operation Halyard was one of the biggest Allied airlift operations behind enemy lines. The Yugoslav Partisans had a key role in saving downed Allied airmen. Serbians often claim that Chetniks rescued over 500 downed airmed, but statistics by the U.S. Air Force Air Crew Rescue Unit (1 Jan - 15 Oct 1944) reveal that a total of 1,152 American airmen were airlifted: 795 with the help of the Yugoslav Partisans and 356 with the Serbian Chetniks. The Yugoslav Partisans were a multi-ethnic resistance group led by Josip Broz Tito (Josef Tito), consisting of Croats, Bosniaks, Jews, Roma, Slovenes, Albanians and Serbs.
Bronze star medal for the WWII veteran who set up the rescue of 512 Airmen (Operation Halyard)
The U.S. government has granted George Vujnovich the bronze star medal for setting up the rescue of 500 trapped American airmen. During WWII Vujnovich was an officer for the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) - the predecessor of CIA - training men for a top-secret rescue behind enemy lines. Operation Halyard - using a makeshift airfield - continued for 4 months without being detected by the Germans, rescuing over 500 Allied airmen shot down in the hills of Yugoslavia, where they were surrounded by Nazi troops. Vujnovich's wife, who worked for the Yugoslavian embassy, told her husband the secret location of the men.
Art Jibilian was on the team that rescued 513 American pilots in Operation Halyard (Article no longer available from the original source)
World War II hero Art "Jibby" Jibilian volunteered with two other operatives to parachute into Nazi-occupied Serbia to set up the air rescue of 513 downed U.S. pilots. Jibilian was trained as a U.S. Navy radioman and volunteered as a secret operative with the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the predecessor to the CIA. "They thought they were going over to rescue 50 airmen. Then it was 250, 350, and then 513," explained Brian McMahon. The mass rescue of pilots has drawn publicity with the 2007 book, The Forgotten 500, which details the mission, called the biggest rescue of the war.
George Vujnovich organized the rescue of 500 downed airmen - Operation Halyard
George Vujnovich appeared at a ceremony in New York to accept an award as a hero in World War II's Operation Halyard. Few have heard of it, in spite of the release of "The Forgotten 500," the book about the mission to rescue 500 downed airmen in Yugoslavia. Vujnovich, who became head of the Office of Strategic Services in Bari, Italy, set up what has been called the greatest air rescue of the war. In 1944, U.S. bombers targeted the Romanian oil fields in Ploesti that supplied the Nazi war machine. But Luftwaffe fighters and flak from anti-aircraft guns took a heavy toll, and 1,500 crewmen had to bail out over Serbia.
Operation Halyard - Secret airlift of 500 caught behind enemy lines (Article no longer available from the original source)
For 5 weeks Anthony Orsini's family believed he was dead, killed in action fighting the Nazis. He was one of over 500 U.S. airmen shot down behind enemy lines in 1944 while bombing Ploesti oil fields. Watched over by Serbian Chetnik guerrillas who hid them, the group was saved by Allied forces in a secret airlift mission. "Operation Halyard," thought by some military historians to be the single largest evacuation from Axis-occupied Europe, would have made headlines, but the U.S. State Department put a gag order on it all. Orsini told his WWII tale to Gregory Freeman, who wrote "The Forgotten 500."