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U.s.vet Says Book Reveals True Story of Ww2 Rescue

Added: Sunday, December 2nd 2007 at 10:48am by ravnagora
Related Tags: issues, news
 
 
 

 

 

 

“We just happened to be the three that were lucky enough to bring this thing to fruition,” Jibilian said. “But it was Mihailovich and the Serbs who did the brunt of the work.”

 

                                                            Arthur Jibilian, OSS veteran of

                                                            The Halyard Mission

 

           Photo of Arthur "Jibby" Jibilian by Charlie Longton/News-Messenger

 

 

TRUTH FINALLY COMES OUT

 

Vet says book reveals true story of WWII rescue

 

By Matt Sanctis

 

 

The News-Messenger

Fremont, Ohio

 

Published October 3, 2007

 

 

  

More than 60 years ago, a handful of U.S. soldiers parachuted behind enemy lines in Yugoslavia to save 50 airmen whose planes were shot down while trying to bomb German oil fields in Romania.

 

Art Jibilian, one of the original soldiers who spent six months on the mission, has waited all these years for the true story of the mission to be told. But it’s not because of personal glory. Instead, it’s to clear the name of Gen. Draza Mihailovich, a Yugoslavian leader who protected the airmen and made the rescue possible.

 

Jibilian and his mission are the subject of “The Forgotten 500,” a recently published book by Gregory Freeman. For the first time, Jibilian said, the true story of the operation has been published, including Mihailovich’s key role in the rescue.

 

“It’s a story the American people should know,” said Jibilian, who now lives in Fremont.

 

The historical novel focuses on the Halyard mission in 1944, in which Jibililan and a few other soldiers spent six months working with Mihailovich in Yugoslavia, eventually rescuing more than 500 airmen from behind enemy lines. Although Mihailovich and his soldiers provided information and support for the mission and located and protected the downed airmen, Jibilian said he was betrayed by the U.S. and British governments, who said he collaborated with the Germans. Mihailovich was eventually captured by a rival general and executed.

 

Jibilian said the details of the operation were kept quiet over the years because of politics, and he simply wants the Serbian people and Mihailovich to get the credit they deserve. Now that the book is out, he said he wants to live long enough to see it turned into a movie in order to reach a wider audience.

 

“We just happened to be the three that were lucky enough to bring this thing to fruition,” Jibilian said. “But it was Mihailovich and the Serbs who did the brunt of the work.”

 

The Halyard Mission was a top-secret mission executed by the Office of Strategic Services, which later developed into the Central Intelligence Agency. Jibilian, then a radio operator, as well as two others parachuted into Yugoslavia in order to locate about 50 airmen who were shot down while trying to bomb the oil fields at Ploesti in Romania. The team met up with Mihailovich, and their goal was to locate the airmen, set up an airfield, and evacuate the troops, all without the Germans knowing.

 

But when they arrived, they discovered there weren’t just 50 soldiers hiding throughout the country.  There were more than 500. Mihailovich’s soldiers hid the airmen and funneled them toward Jibilian and the OSS.

 

“What started out as a 10-day mission stretched out into six months during which time we brought out 500 American airmen,” Jibilian said.

 

The mission was often dangerous and difficult. The airfield set up to evacuate the airmen was a short distance from a German garrison, and American fighter planes dive-bombed the post as a distraction.

 

In addition, many of the downed airmen were injured. Jibilian still has shoulder problems after lifting wooden ox-carts over large stones to avoid jarring the wounded soldiers inside. Little food was available, but Jibilian said Mihailovich and his men sometimes went hungry to make sure the airmen had something to eat. When they left Yugoslavia, the airmen returned the favor by giving up their shoes to the Serbs, an item that was difficult to find at the time.

 

After returning to the United States, Jibilian and the other members of the rescue mission were disturbed by how Mihailovich and his men were abandoned by the allies.

 

Even today, he said few know the true story. Now, he said, he’s hoping to get word out about the book in order to clear Mihailovich’s name.

 

“All we wanted really, was to have this story be told, that Mihailovich be given credit for it and the airmen to be able to say ‘Thank you,’” Jibilian said.

 

     

 

                                         *****

 

 

_____________________________________________

 

Note from Blog Author Ravnagora:  I highly recommend The Forgotten 500 by author Gregory Freeman.  Please see review by Aleksandra Rebic and others on Amazon.com and take a minute to visit Mr. Freeman's website at www.gregoryafreeman.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

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