Military history


A note about the Mihailovich name: Because of the vagaries of translating Balkan names to English, the name of Draza Mihailovich is found under various spellings, sometimes varying even within the same government document or press report. The most common usage is Mihailovich, but Mihailovitch, Mich hailovic, Michailovich, Michailovitch, Mikhailovic, Mikhailovich, Mikhailo vitch, Mahailovic, Mihajlovic, and Mihajlovich also have been used. For consistency, this book uses Mihailovich regardless of how the original source document spelled the name.

Chapter 2

Page 11 “Soviet advances from the Ukraine” Baker, Addison Earl, Lloyd Herbert Hughes, John Louis Jerstad, Leon William Johnson, John Riley Kane. “Ploesti: When Heroes Filled the Sky.”

Page 11 “seven major refineries, storage tanks, and related structures covering nineteen square miles” “Ploesti Oil Raid: Operation Tidal Wave.”

Page 11 “accounting for 40 percent of Romania’s total exports” Ibid.

Page 16 “an ingenious piece of machinery” Kennedy, Joseph. “Sperry Ball Turret.” htm

Chapter 4

Page 46 “not just to herd the flock but also to keep the wolves away” Pesic, Miodrag D. Operation Air BridgeSerbian Chetniks and the Rescued American Airmen in World War II [English translation from the original Serbian]. Belgrade, Yugoslavia: Serbian Masters’ Society, 2002, p. 171.

Page 48 “they had bailed out much later and farther away than the other crew” The pilot and copilot of Wilson’s B-17 were aided by a separate group of Chetniks but never joined up with the other crew. They made it out of Yugoslavia safely.

Page 48 “was a machine gunner on a B-17 when he bailed out over Yugoslavia on July 4, 1944” Pesic, p. 164. Mike McKool’s story is a summary of the account he provided in Operation Air Bridge, along with newspaper articles from 1946, in which he described his experience while campaigning to save Mihailovich.

Page 49 “was flying a borrowed plane” Oliver, Thomas. Unintended Visit to Yugoslavia. Unpublished manuscript donated to the United States Air Force Academy, 1990, p. 1. Thomas Oliver’s story is a summary of the account he provided in his unpublished manuscript.

Page 50 “Another pilot blamed Dinah Shore when he found himself in trouble over Yugoslavia” Pesic, p. 164. Richard Felman’s story is a summary of the account he provided in Operation Air Bridge, along with multiple speeches he gave about his account, and various newspaper and magazine articles in which he described his experience.

Page 53 “Felman was immediately struck by Vasić’s appearance” Ibid.

Chapter 5

Page 63 “known as Captain Milankovic, spoke English” Pesic, p. 166.

Page 65 “afternoon on horseback, accompanied by three soldiers” Oliver, p. 2.

Page 74 “joined Mihailovich’s forces in conducting sabotage against the Germans” Felman, Richard. “Mihailovich and I.” Serbian Democratic Forum, October 1972.

Chapter 6

Page 80 “Please advise the American Air Ministry that there are more than one hundred American aviators in our midst” Martin, David. The Web of Disinformation : Churchill’s Yugoslav Blunder. Orlando, Florida: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1990, p. 232.

Page 83 “Are you involved in trying to get them out?” These are not the exact words from Mirjana’s letter, which is no longer available, but George Vujnovich recounts this version as the gist of what she wrote to him.

Page 83 “One agent reported finding a half-starved B-24 tail gunner who had been shot down in the first raid on Ploesti” Ford, Corey. Donovan of OSS. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1970, p. 205.

Page 94 “When Hitler first heard of the coup d’état and the country’s attempt to withdraw from the Axis, he thought it was a joke.” Testimony of Her mann Goering at Nuremburg Military Tribunals, Proceedings of the International Military Tribunals at Nuremburg, p. 344.

Page 94 “Winston Churchill described what happened next” Winston Churchill, The Second World War, Volume 3: The Grand Alliance. Boston: Mariner Books, 1986, p. 175.

Chapter 7

Page 110 “ ‘It’s Mrs. Goebbels!’ ” There is no way to verify that it actually was Magda Goebbels on the plane, but George and Mirjana Vujnovich both thought it was her and said that she acted as one would expect the powerful wife of a top Nazi officer to act. George and Mirjana responded accordingly at the time and remained confident after the war that Magda Goebbels had saved them from a likely arrest.

Chapter 8

Page 123 “individual commanders who were accustomed to working independently” Ford, Kirk, Jr. OSS and the Yugoslav Resistance 1943-1945. College Station, TX: Texas A&M Press, 1992, p. 6.

Page 124 “Mihailovich took a firm position that he could not expose the people of Yugoslavia to such risk unless the outcome was great enough to justify the inevitable deaths . . .” Ford, Kirk, Jr., p. 7.

Page 125 “chief of the Yugoslav prime minister’s military cabinet and the former Yugoslav military and air attache in Washington” Knezevic, Zivan. Why the Allies Abandoned the Yugoslav Army of General Mihailovich, with Official Memoranda and Documents, First Part. Unpublished manuscript donated to the United States Library of Congress, 1945, p. 4.

Page 126 “the deaths of seventy-eight thousand Serbians between the ages of sixteen and fifty” Ibid.

Page 127 “many of those joining the Partisan movement had no such dreams” Ford, Kirk, Jr., p. 8.

Chapter 9

Page 130 “ ‘grand finale against the Axis’ ” Deakin, F. W. Embattled Mountain. New York: Oxford University Press, 1971, p. 152.

Page 131 “he announced that for every German soldier killed by Mihailovich, one hundred Serbs would be shot” Martin, p. 34.

Page 131 “In a telegram sent from Mihailovich on March 2, 1943 . . .” Knezevic, First Part: p. 7.

Page 134 “The English are now fighting to the last Serb in Yugoslavia” Knezevic, Second Part: p. 2.

Page 134 “ ‘I appreciate that words spoken in heat may not express a considered judgment. . .’ ” Knezevic, Second Part: p. 5.

Page 135 “ ‘much worse things would be heard than that speech by General Mihailovich,’ he told Churchill” Knezevic, Second Part: p. 6.

Page 135 “ ‘I avoid battle with the Communists in the country and fight only when attacked’ ” Knezevic, Second Part: p. 9.

Page 135 “detailing an ‘operational decision’ concerning Mihailovich” Knezevic, Second Part: p. 10.

Page 136 “ ‘who was killing the most Germans and suggesting means by which we could help to kill more’ ” Ford, Corey, p. 206.

Page 137 “If Hitler invaded Hell, I would make at least a favorable reference to the Devil in the House of Commons!” Churchill, Winston S. Never Give In: The Best of Winston Churchill’s Speeches. New York: Hyperion, 2003, p. 289.

Page 138 “Some OSS agents felt that the British were every bit their enemy as the Germans, at least when it came to their intelligence activities” Tompkins, Peter. Italy Betrayed. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1966, p. 253.

Page 139 “the heaviest American soldier to make a successful parachute jump in World War II” Ford, Kirk, Jr., p. 29.

Page 139 “could mobilize more than four hundred thousand if he had arms for them” Musulin, George. “Report on the Michailovic’s Cetnik army; suggestions of some Allied support.” Central Intelligence Agency 1944. Reproduced in Declassified Documents Reference System, Farmington Hills, Michigan: Gale Group, 2006.

Page 139 “ ‘a fairly well-organized army’ ” Interestingly, an American woman was one of Mihailovich’s better-known fighters. Ruth Mitchell, the sister of William (Billy) Mitchell, the outspoken Army Air Forces general who was court-martialed in 1925 for accusing superiors of incompetence in not focusing more on air power. His red-haired, headstrong sister volunteered to serve with Mihailovich, acting as liaison officer of the Chetniks with the British army. She was captured by the Gestapo after several months and spent thirteen months in German prisons. She was finally released in 1942 as a result of pressure from the Swiss government and returned to the United States, where she helped report on German atrocities and torture.

Page 141 “virtually all communications in and out of Yugoslavia had to go through British channels” Ford, Kirk, Jr., p. 14. George Vujnovich also confirmed in personal interviews that the British were difficult to work with and sometimes seemed to intentionally interfere with OSS operations.

Page 141 “We can’t fight Jerry with bare feet, brave hearts, and Radio London” Ford, Kirk, Jr., p. 31.

Page 142 “The documents included transcripts . . .” Brown, Colin, and John Crossland. “How a Soviet Mole United Tito and Churchill.” The Independent, June 28, 1997: 1A.

Page 143 “that the time should be called the ‘Klugmann period’ ” Martin, The Web of DisinformationChurchill’s Yugoslav Blunder, p. 94.

Page 144 “ ‘Klugmann was a mole whose great accomplishment . . .’ ” Martin, The Web of DisinformationChurchill’s Yugoslav Blunder, p. xix.

Page 144 “ ‘the pure intellectual of the Party’ ” Woodward, E. L. British Foreign Policy in the Second World War. London: Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1962, p. 346.

Chapter 10

Page 148 “by October 1944 that number would reach forty” O’Donnell, Patrick K. Operatives, Spies, and Saboteurs: The Unknown Story of the Men and Women of WWII’s OSS. New York: Free Press, 2004, p. 86.

Page 149 “ ‘Listen, you bastards! You think I went in and risked my life for almost a year for nothing?’ ” Ford, Kirk, Jr., p. 51.

Page 149 “I came to Bari and saw Partisans all over the damn town” Ford, Kirk, Jr., p. 51.

Page 150 “Yugoslav refugee girls working as waitresses who made no effort to conceal their pro-Communist politics, even wearing Partisan uniforms around Bari on their off hours.” Martin, The Web of DisinformationChurchill’s Yugoslav Blunder, p. 107.

Page 153 “they hadn’t completely vacated the premises by the time the OSS moved in” Ford, Corey, p. 122.

Page 154 “ ‘absolute discretion, sobriety, devotion to duty, languages, and wide experience,’ Ian advised” McLachlan, Donald. Room 39. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson: 1968, p. 233.

Page 154 “ ‘calculatingly reckless’ and trained for ‘aggressive action’ ” Smith, Richard Harris. OSS: The Secret History of America’s First Central Intelligence Agency. Guilford, Connecticut: The Lyons Press, 1973, p. 31.

Page 154 “The most important qualification, Donovan declared, was strength of character” Ford, Corey, 1970, p. 134.

Page 155 “A columnist for the Washington Times wrote of the new OSS . . .” Brown, Anthony Cave. The Last Hero: Wild Bill Donovan. New York: Vintage Books, 1984, p. 301.

Page 156 “and a Catholic missionary who had lived with the Kachin tribesmen in northern Burma” Ford, Corey, p. 135.

Page 157 “ ‘The major part of our intelligence was the result of good old-fashioned intellectual sweat’ ” Ford, Corey, p. 148.

Page 157 “Largely because of the number of upper-class, Ivy League-graduates in the ranks, OSS agents at desks in Washington and in the field around the world tended to share a social idealism, the same unwavering faith in the common man espoused by Donovan.” Smith, p. 26.

Page 158 “ ‘I don’t know if he’s on the Communist honor roll, but for the job he’s doing in Italy, he’s on the honor roll of OSS’ ” Ford, Corey, p. 135.

Page 160 “an explosive that looked remarkably like regular flour and could even be used to bake muffins and bread” Lovell, Stanley. Of Spies and Strategems. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1963, p. 17.

Page 161 “The Beano activated and exploded when he caught it on the way down” O’Donnell, p. 17.

Page 161 “Of the 831 members of the OSS decorated for gallantry during World War II . . .” Ford, Corey, p. 145.

Page 162 “impale members of the resistance on meat hooks in the public square” Ford, Corey, p. 186.

Page 162 “Biting down on the pill would spill its contents and bring nearly instant death” Roosevelt, Kermit. The Overseas Targets: War Reports of the OSS. Vol. I. Washington, DC: Carrollton Press, 1976, p. 159.

Page 163 “the agents risking their lives in the field developed a disdain for the ‘bourbon whiskey colonels’ in Washington and other OSS posts who thought they could tell them how to do their jobs” Smith, p. 6.

Page 163 “ ‘men for the higher echelons of the organization who by background and temperament were unsympathetic with Donovan’s own conception of the necessity of unstinting cooperation with the resistance movements’ ” Goldberg, Arthur. Review of Sub Rosa: The OSS and American EspionageThe Nation, March 23, 1946, pp. 349-350.

Page 165 “a larger discussion about how Donovan and his subordinates were not happy about losing their presence in the territory controlled by Mihailovich” Donovan, William J. Letter to President Franklin D. Roosevelt. July 4, 1944. Reproduced in Declassified Documents Reference System, Farmington Hills, Michigan: Gale Group, 2006.

Page 166 “ ‘Screw the British! Let’s get our boys out!’ ” This exchange is not officially recorded, but the anecdote was passed down among OSS veterans and participants in Operation Halyard. Both George Vujnovich and Arthur Jibilian report hearing of the exchange during or soon after the rescue. It is possible that the comment is apocryphal, but it is entirely consistent with William Donovan’s personality and conversational style.

Chapter 11

Page 169 “ ‘You are requested, therefore, to act on this soonest . . .’ ” Ford, Kirk, Jr., p. 100.

Page 169 “managed to rescue ninety downed airmen over a four-month period” O’Donnell, p. 84.

Chapter 12

Page 183 “randomly assigned code name Operation Halyard . . .” The Serbians know the mission as Operation Air Bridge. “Air bridge” was a generic term in the military for connecting distant points through the use of airdrops or frequent flights. The rescue mission is well known in Serbia, much more than in the United States, because the Serbian people are particularly proud of their efforts in aiding American airmen during World War II.

Page 184 “ ‘any military or political commitments on behalf of the United States of America . . .’ ” Ford, Kirk Jr, p. 101.

Chapter 13

Page 191 “sending the first message from the downed airmen” Felman, Richard. “Mihailovich and I.” Serbian Democratic Forum, October 1972.

Page 192 “Oliver volunteered to work with some other airmen to develop a code” Oliver, p. 5.

Page 195 “ ‘That’s Oliver’s crew and Buckler’s crew!’ ” Martin, The Web of Disinformation : Churchill’s Yugoslav Blunder, p. 235.

Page 197 “ ‘Take good care that nothing happens to these men.’ ” Martin, David. Ally Betrayed: The Uncensored Story of Tito and Mihailovich. New York: Prentice Hall, 1946, p. 292.

Chapter 14

Page 205 “ ‘Captain George! Captain George!’ they shouted . . .” Felman, Richard. “Mihailovich and I.” Serbian Democratic Forum, October 1972.

Page 207 “Mihailovich often would tease the boys in the group by saying he had heard that one of them was a Partisan . . .” Martin, Ally Betrayed: The Uncensored Story of Tito and Mihailovich, p. 283.

Page 208 “In Kraljevo, only thirty miles away, a Luftwaffe unit was stationed at an airfield . . .” The downed airmen, Chetniks, and OSS men involved in Operation Halyard sometimes disagreed about why the Germans never attacked the airmen in Pranjane. Some thought the Germans were fully aware of the airmen’s presence but unwilling to launch an all-out battle with the many thousands of Chetnik fighters. Others thought the efforts at secrecy had been a complete success and the Germans never knew they were there, at least not until the rescue flights were well underway.

Page 209 “The minimum distance required for landing a C-47 is seven hundred yards” Casey, H. J. Office of the Chief Engineer, Southwest Pacific Area, United States Army. Engineer Estimating Data, June 1, 1945, p. 9. The official manuals of the army during World War II state seven hundred yards as the minimum landing distance for a C-47, but that allows no margin of error. It also does not take into account the risk of trees and other obstructions directly beyond the landing strip, as was the case in Pranjane. The original field at Pranjane has been reported in varying lengths between six hundred and seven hundred yards, but whatever the original size, it was extended by the airmen and villagers.

Page 210 “sixty oxcarts . . .” Ford, Corey, p. 210.

Chapter 15

Page 213 “He was playing it safe by assigning only twelve men to each C-47 . . .” Some reports, including Felman’s recollections, indicate that Musulin assigned twenty men per plane, but Musulin’s report of the initial rescues indicate that he selected seventy-two men for six planes. It is likely that he increased the number of men per plane after the first night, once he had more confidence that the C-47s could safely use the improvised landing strip.

Page 217 “The cows waddled up into the field . . .” Martin, The Web of Disinformation: Churchill’s Yugoslav Blunder, p. 237.

Page 221 “Then, at exactly ten p.m., they heard the drone of a plane” Ford, Corey, p. 211. Other reports state that the planes arrived at eleven p.m. or midnight, but all state that the planes arrived exactly when they were expected. Musulin’s report after the rescue includes a direct quote saying they arrived at ten p.m.

Page 222 “This time he used the lamp to blink a predetermined code word: -. .-. Nan” Ford, Corey, p. 211.

Chapter 16

Page 227 “The planes were on the ground, and now he had to get back in the air” Some accounts describe the four planes landing one at a time, loading up with airmen, and then taking off before the next plane landed. That was Musulin’s intention, to avoid the planes crowding each other on the small airstrip and possibly colliding, but the C-47 pilots apparently were eager to land and get back up again because they were carrying a minimal fuel load. Musulin’s report indicates that the planes were on the ground together and then took off again.

Page 235 “ ‘is LaGuardia airfield anything like this?’ ” Martin, The Web of Disinformation: Churchill’s Yugoslav Blunder, p. 237.

Page 236 “He had overindulged in plum brandy during the night and almost missed his flight” Martin, The Web of Disinformation: Churchill’s Yugoslav Blunder, p. 237.

Page 237 “Musulin soon had orders to get on one of the rescue planes and return to Italy” Some participants recall that Musulin was ordered back to Italy on the same day, returning on one of the last flights out of Pranjane on August 10. Though that version of events makes a better anecdote, Musulin actually stayed in Pranjane for more than two weeks after sending the Serbian men to Italy. The rebuke from Bari did come on the same day, but Musulin spent two weeks arguing with his superiors and insisting that he be allowed to stay. When he saw that the dispute was holding up any further rescue flights and nearly one hundred more men were ready to leave Pranjane, he relented and angrily returned to Bari.

Page 239 “the most successful rescue ever of downed airmen behind enemy lines and one of the largest rescue missions of any type in World War II or since” In fact, by just one man the Operation Halyard mission was the largest rescue behind enemy lines in World War II—if the multiple rescues over several months are counted as a single mission. A total of 512 American airmen and Allied personnel were rescued in Operation Halyard from August 19, 1944, to December 27, 1944. A month later on January 30, 1945, United States Army Rangers and Filipino guerillas liberated 511 American and Allied personnel from a prisoner-of-war camp near Cabanatuan in the Philippines. (King, M. J. Leavenworth Papers No. 11, Rangers: Selected Combat Operations in World War II. U.S. Army Command General Staff College.) The number of prisoners thought to be at the camp was higher by at least two or three, but 511 were successfully rescued. It should be noted that unlike Operation Halyard, the Cabanatuan rescue took place all at once and under enemy fire. A full account of the Cabanatuan rescue can be found in Ghost Soldiers by Hampton Sides (Doubleday, 2001).

Readers also may be familiar with the story of Royal Air Force officers who escaped from Stalag-Luft III, Germany’s most secure prisoner-of-war camp, in March 1944. The story is told in The Great Escape by Anton Gill (Review, 2002) and other books, as well as the 1963 movie by the same name. By comparison to the 512 rescued in Operation Halyard, the Stalag-Luft III escape involved seventy-six men, of which seventy-three were recaptured.

Chapter 17

Page 249 “The first hint in the press of the remarkable success of the rescue mission came” “Radio Signal Aids Rescue of 250 Fliers.” The Washington Post, February 20, 1945, p. 2.

Page 250 “Two days later the newspaper ran a lengthy letter to the editor from Konstantin Fotić . . .” Letters to the Editor: Credit Where Due. The Washington Post, February 22, 1945, p. 6.

Page 251 “ ‘rather depressed, thinking of the possibilities of Russia one day turning against us . . .’ ” Gilbert, Martin. Churchill: A Life. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1991.

Page 252 “Reading the Washington Post on the morning of March 25, 1946, he found a small article . . .” “Mihailovich Under Arrest, Belgrade Says.” The Washington Post, March 25, 1946, p. 2.

Page 254 “It does not matter that Draza Mihailovich will live or die” Pesic, p. 122.

Page 255 “The headline in the Press in Cleveland, Ohio, was CLEVELANDER AIDS GEN. MIHAILOVICH.” National Committee of American Airmen to Aid Gen. Draza Mihailovich and the Serbian People. Press Clippings, Book II. Chicago, 1946.

Page 255 “In the Telegraph of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the headline read STATE TROOPERS HAIL MIHAILOVICH AS FRIEND” Ibid.

Page 255 “The New York Journal American quoted former OSS agent Eli Popovich . . .” Ibid.

Page 256 “The headline in the Times in Detroit, Michigan, read DRAZA BETRAYED, CLAIMS DETROITER.” Ibid.

Page 256 “In an article he wrote for the New York Journal American . . .” Ibid.

Page 257 “In one article Nick Lalich delivered a copy of his own Legion of Merit citation to the Washington Post . . .” “Ex-OSS Agent Uses Citation in Effort to Aid Mihailovich.” The Washington Post, May 1, 1946, p. 14.

Page 261 “In the New York World-Telegram on April 19, 1946, a headline read CHURCHILL WAS TAKEN IN BY TITO, WRITER CLAIMS” Ibid.

Page 262 “The trial of General Draza Mihailovich began on June 10, 1946, in a makeshift courtroom . . .” “Draza Aided Reich, Italy, Court Told.” The Washington Post, June 11, 1946, p. 2.

Page 264 “In an editorial on June 17, 1946, the Washington Post acknowledged that Tito was railroading Mihailovich . . .” “Mihailovitch Trial.” The Washington Post, June 17, 1946, p. 6.

Page 265 “MIHAILOVICH EXECUTED BY FIRING SQUAD, the headline read” “Mihailovitch Executed by Firing Squad.” The Washington Post, July 18, 1946, p. 6.

Chapter 18

Page 271 “It might have remained a secret if not for the work of Congressman Edward J. Derwinski of Illinois, who intervened in 1967 at the urging of airmen who had heard rumors” The State Department telegrams that led President Truman to agree to classify the Legion of Merit were themselves classified. The telegrams were not declassified until 1973.

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