July 05th 2008 11:11:22 AM
God bless the America that was, as embodied in veteran Arthur Jibilian, the last surviving member of Operation Halyard, the biggest airlift rescue of World War II. It is also the most suppressed rescue mission, given that it was made possible by Serbs.
This past June 15th — the day the U.S. was committing yet another act of war against this nation of rescuers (by enacting the next phase of the land seizure — the Kosovo constitution), the Toledo Blade newspaper ran the following:
With more than 500 tiny American flags flapping in the breeze — each one symbolizing a life saved during World War II — a crowd at Metcalf Airport yesterday saluted Arthur “Jibby” Jibilian.
Mr. Jibilian, 85, who grew up in Toledo and now lives in Fremont, was a member of the Office of Strategic Services, a U.S. intelligence agency that was the predecessor of the CIA.
Mr. Jibilian parachuted behind enemy lines to take part in Operation Halyard, a 1944 mission to save the lives of downed American airmen in Nazi-occupied Yugoslavia.
The mission, which lasted several months, was successful, with more than 500 men rescued to return safely to their homes and families.
Mr. Jibilian is a key character in a book that was written about the operation, The Forgotten 500.
Yesterday, recalling the events of more than 60 years ago, Mr. Jibilian explained how, as a wireless operator, he used Morse code to relay his location to Allied forces and bring in planes to evacuate the airmen.
While doing that, he and others had to move constantly to avoid detection by Nazis. They were aided by Serbian villagers. “They protected [the airmen] at the risk of their lives,” he said.
The ceremony kicked off just as a restored World War II-era B-17 bomber carrying Mr. Jibilian made a low pass over the airport, while the crowd below waved and cheered.
After the plane landed and Mr. Jibilian disembarked, he was given a proclamation [and honorary degree] from the University of Toledo….Mr. Jibilian was attending the university when the war broke out and he joined the Navy.
Yesterday, he thanked the Serbian people and the late Gen. Draza Mihailovich for the aid they gave him and other Americans during World War II. General Mihailovic was executed after the war by Yugoslavia’s Communist government. […]
“A restored World War II-era B-17 bomber carrying Arthur Jibilian made a low pass over Metcalf Airport before landing.” ( THE BLADE/LORI KING )
Local Toledo news channel WTOL also covered the event, which included a gun salute and singing of the Star Spangled Banner:
…Jibilian is the last survivor of Operation Halyard. That mission returned more than 500 American airmen home to their families.
“I get goose bumps just thinking. It’s unforgettable. This episode brings back a whole bunch of memories,” says Jibilian…”When you’re 19, 20, years-old, death is not a thought… You’re indestructible,” Jibilian says.
As a radioman, Jibilian was key to Operation Halyard, known as the largest airlift operation behind enemy lines…”It’s a story that’s not known, that I think should be known. We owe them a debt and there aren’t that many people that the American’s owe a debt to,” Jibilian says.
The proclamation by the University of Toledo read:
…WHEREAS you completed training as a radio operator whose primary purpose was to deliver valuable intelligence, often from behind enemy lines; and
WHEREAS your selfless patriotism led you to a mission in Yugoslavia in August 1944, when you parachuted into territory occupied by German troops to liberate Allied airmen; and
WHEREAS you eluded the Germans’ repeated efforts to capture you and collaborated with Gen. Dragoljub Draza Mihailovich and the Serbian resistance, who risked their own safety to feed and shelter the airmen; and
WHEREAS you remained behind enemy lines for six months during Operation Halyard to liberate more than 500 Allied airmen; and
WHEREAS after honorable discharge from the Navy in September 1945, you learned that Gen. Mihailovich had been accused of war crimes; and
WHEREAS you joined a “Mission to Save Mihailovich” from unjust crimes against the Allies and campaigned tirelessly on his behalf for more than six decades, long after his 1946 death; and
WHEREAS you returned to the old Yugoslavia—now Serbia—in 2004 to honor Gen. Mihailovich and the Serbian citizens who risked their lives to assist Allied troops; and
WHEREAS you were instrumental in presenting a Legion of Merit Award to Gordana Mihailovich, daughter of Gen. Mihailovich, in 2005; and
WHEREAS you have drawn attention, pride and awe as one of “The Forgotten 500” heroes of World War II, and are the lone survivor of Operation Halyard; and
NOW THEREFORE BE IT PROCLAIMED that The University of Toledo Board of Trustees, administrators, faculty, staff and students express their gratitude and the indebtedness of the entire campus community to you for a lifetime of exemplary bravery, service and leadership.
BE IT FURTHER PROCLAIMED that The University is immensely proud to proclaim that you are an accomplished alumni of our institution.
A press release from the Experimental Aircraft Association’s Toledo chapter read: “Father’s Day is a perfect time to honor Jibilian. If not for Jibilian and the other members of Operation Halyard, those men would have perished and never had the opportunity to raise a family.”
As former Mihailovich guerrilla Nick Petrovich, a Serbian-American now living in Mexico City, said:
Finally! Cheers for a great American-Armenian who “collaborated” with the Serbs in rescuing more than 500 US airmen, the fact that was hidden for years in the dungeons of the State Department in order not to offend Tito’s Communist regime!!!
I’m posting below an email exchange from last summer between Petrovich and Jibilian, who re-connected only last year, more than 60 years after their collaborative mission:
Here is a Chetnik brigade that kept the enemies away [while] you were loading the DC-3s, and I was there with my Mauser rifle, a couple of hand grenades, a piece of corn bread and 20 bullets in the bag, and a lot of pride to be in this historic act!
All the best,
Hey, you might appreciate this photo of the “gathering of the chutes”…It is from my first mission… I have the distinction of having been with both the forces of Tito and Mihailovich.
…When I was with the Partisans, our every move was watched. People were in obvious fear of the Partisans. They would not speak to us when Partisans were present, but, whenever we had a moment when we could, they would ask, “Why are the Americans backing Tito?” I could not answer the question and asked [fellow Halyard member] Eli Popovich what or how I could respond. He said, “simply say ’samo Bog zna’ (only God knows). (Forgive my spelling, please)
While with the Chetniks, when we entered a village, peasants came out dancing, strewing flowers in Chica Draja’s path. It was a time for great rejoicing and celebrating. People were smiling, laughing and hugging each other.
Yes, you are unique…After having been captured sick and almost dying of dysentery by Tito’s Partizans in Bosnia, I spent four months in a communist correction camp—brainwashing, forced labor, Marxist theory every night, and a few robust beatings to say the least.
When the war came to an end in May 1945, I was inducted in Tito’s army and my division was sent to Bitoli, Macedonia. Then, in October 1945 when my unit was assigned a task at the Greek border, one night I deserted to Greece with my two ex-Chetnik buddies [Mihailovic-aligned fighters] who went through the same ordeal and from there on it is history.
So we got something in common!
Nick, what I went through pales in comparison to your suffering!!!! To see your country invaded by the Germans and then feel the pain of a civil war while still attempting to fight the Germans, to be betrayed by the British and America (your “allies”?); to witness the atrocities committed by “Yugoslavians” against each other; and then to be captured, tortured and brainwashed just to mention a few. I cannot begin to comprehend the pain and suffering you and your people went through, even though I was there and saw a part of it for myself. I was not a Serb, did not have family members involved, and it was not my country. You and the Serbs have my deepest admiration and that is why the story of Mihailovich, the rescue of 500 American airmen, and the sacrifice the Serbs made on their behalf MUST be told to the whole world and especially the American public. Mihailovich’s name must, and will, be cleared.
I still cannot figure it out what it was — sheer luck, divine providence, or some other strange thing, that helped me survive the terrible chain of events of which you are well aware. For some inexplicable reason I never thought for a second that the end is near, at least not for me. There was almost an obsession for survival and a drive to see my Serbia free again. My grand fathers on both sides fought the bloody Turks, and my father and two uncles fought in WWI against the Austro-Hungarian Empire, retreated through Albania in the Winter of 1916 while being fired upon by the savage Albanian tribes. They were rehabilitated on the Corfu island and in 1918 stuck their bayonets in the backs of retreating Austrians and victoriously marched into Serbia.
I heard their stories many times and I believe that this was the ingredient that played a vital role in my survival. The only difference is that they were hailed as heroes by their allies, and President Wilson on July 28, 1918 ordered that the Serbian flag be raised over the White House and all public buildings and he said, “The gallant people of Serbia were called upon by the war declaration of Austria-Hungary to defend their territory and their homes against an enemy bent on their destruction. Nobly did they respond.” Well, my generation was called upon to fight not only against the invading Nazi hordes, but also against their cutthroat collaborators Croatian fascists and Bosnian Muslims whose SS Waffen divisions [slaughtered] Serbs , and while doing this we were stabbed in the back by Tito’s Communists, and betrayed and sold down the river by our beloved Allies.
You know the rest of the story better than anybody else. But Art, we are lucky to still be here and talk about it.
From Petrovich to Jibilian in a separate exchange:
You are discovering a terrible truth — the anti-Serbian mindset.
As you well know, over 1,000,000 Serbs died during WWII at the hands of Germans and their ferocious collaborators, Croats, Bosnian Muslims, and Kosovo Albanians. And who torpedoed the Pact with Germany on March 27, 1941? Of course, the crazy Serbs, provoking the biggest power in Europe — the Nazi Germany and paying the price. All these savages worked together to destroy Serbia and its people, culture, thought, creativity and talent to no avail. But paradoxically some sick, perverse souls in America are still at it big time. You can find them in the media, government and academia trying to prove that they are cured of racism and are opening America’s gates to millions of Muslims who bring stupidity, racial intolerance and extremism, crime, and openly plan the murder and destruction of their American hosts. These miserable creatures are consumed by the desire for death for themselves and others. When Yugoslavia fell apart, the Serbs in Bosnia refused to live under the Muslims who served as Hitler’s executioners, but the Arab world sold them to Washington as moderate-secular people, and Washington sided with them and turned a blind eye on Iranian arms shipments to Tuzla airport and infiltration of the Jihadists in the Bosnian army who are now killing our troops in Iraq.
Of course, those in America who sponsored the Muslims of Bosnia and Kosovo against Christian Serbs and received fat lobbying fees from the Arabs will never permit the truth to be told because their crimes would be exposed.
And a general email sent out by Petrovich:
I provided [Forgotten 500 author Greg] Freeman with some valuable information regarding the Halyard Mission… and you will most probably find my picture in it. My guerrilla unit provided the cover to ensure that the Germans could not interfere or abort this mission. The US government never mentioned this incredible mission in order not to offend Tito’s Communist government, and after Tito’s death Washington sided with the Muslims of Bosnia and the Neo-Nazi Croats against the Serbs, their allies in two World Wars.
How perverse!! This sellout was done to please the Arabs…and now we are paying through the nose! Many Al Qaeda members were trained in Bosnia 1992-96, and Osama was issued a Bosnian passport at that time.
President Truman awarded posthumously [a] Legion of Merit to Gen. Mihailovich for his great contribution in defeating the Nazis during the WWII and for rescuing 500 American airmen who were shot down by the Nazis, but this was concealed by the cowardly State Department for 20 years until the rescued airmen dug it out…
Nick D. Petrovich
Petrovich guarded the airfield in the village of Pranjane during the evacuations of the airmen. He joined Mihailovich’s guerrillas on Zlatibor Mountain at the age of 16. After the war and after deserting the Communist army, Petrovich — barely 18 — joined the Greek army to fight the Communist guerrillas trained by Tito. He wrote me an abridged autobiography about the rest:
Then played soccer and studied at the University of Athens. From there to Italy to play soccer in Rome, and work in the “Quo Vadis” movie (Robert Taylor and Deborah Kerr). In 1948 I became a DP (Displaced Person) and given the UN International Refugee Organization protection (food and shelter). In December of 1950 with several hundreds of other refugees from various communist countries I arrived to New York on a Liberty ship, and in 1956 was naturalized in Hammond, Ind. ..Landed a job with Monsanto Chemical Company - International division - and worked in Spain Belgium, Argentina and Japan. Finally wound up in Mexico — a Spanish wife — three kids in the US…
From your crazy Serb in Mexico
A teenage Serbian guerrilla: 16 year-old Chetnik Nick Petrovich guards access to the Pranjani air field
Arthur Jibilian in 1945
Some rescuees and rescuers, November 1944 (Mihailovich stands in the center behind Jibilian, who is kneeling in the center.)
At the 2004 dedication of the Pranjani airfield both the Serbian and American national anthems were played.
After Jibilian sent Petrovich a photo labeled “Last Day in Yugoslavia,” referring to the Halyard Mission members’ final day of the rescues, Petrovich wrote:
But for the Chetniks from this day on was a tragedy. Abandoned by the Allies, the Soviet army advancing into Serbia from the East, Tito’s proletarian brigades returning to Serbia from Bosnia where they were kept for three years. No alternative but to continue fighting. A large contingent embarked on a tragic journey through Bosnia toward Italy with a hope of meeting the advancing Allied armies. An estimated seventy thousand died from typhus, hunger and Ustashi bullets from one side and Bosnian Muslims from the other. As you well know, Draza refused your offer to be airlifted out of the country, and stayed with his people fighting until March 1946. How many leaders would have done this? Perhaps Patton but not powdered and perfumed Gen. [Wesley] Clark!!
Related, from The News-Messenger in Fremont, OH, October 2007:
TRUTH FINALLY COMES OUT
U.S. Vet Says Book Reveals True Story of Ww2 Rescue
We just happened to be the three that were lucky enough to bring this thing to fruition. But it was Mihailovich and the Serbs who did the brunt of the work.
Arthur “Jibby” Jibilian by Charlie Longton/News-Messenger
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.
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.
(Halyard members dumping their shoes)
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.
Throughout the 1990s — right up to the turn of the century — we were bombing the Serbs. This year the unending betrayal is renewed as we declare war on the Serbs yet again, lumping them with Russia so that our illegal position seems to make some kind of sense. The anti-Serb propaganda, meanwhile, is being recycled ad nauseum. Perhaps the most perverse aspect to all this is that when we bombed the Serbs, we bombed G.I. Joe:
Mitchell Paige (August 31, 1918–November 15, 2003) was a recipient of the Medal of Honor from World War II…for his actions at the Battle of Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands on October 26, 1942, where, after all of the other Marines in his platoon were killed or wounded, he operated four machine guns, singlehandedly stopping an entire Japanese regiment.
Mitchell was born in Charleroi, Pennsylvania. His parents were Serb immigrants who arrived in the USA from the Military Frontier, their last name being Pejić. His mother kept him and his brother in touch with their roots, reminding them of the Battle of Kosovo, but also told them to be proud Americans…[He] served as the model for a G.I. Joe action figure — the Marine Corps figure in a series honoring Medal of Honor recipients from each branch of the U.S. military.
The Wikipedia entry above also notes that Paige received a belated Eagle Scout award from Boy Scouts of America on March 24, 2003 (coincidentally the four-year anniversary of our bombing the birthplace of his people), making him one of only six known Eagle Scouts to receive the Medal of Honor.
From an article in the Serbian-American newspaper American Srbobran, titled “Who are these ‘Despicable’ Serbs?”, by author William Dorich:
There are maritime treaties between Serbia and the US more than 115 years old. Serbs were our allies in two World Wars and lost 34% of their population fighting and dying for freedom. American Serbs have proven time and again their dedication and commitment to the United States. Serbs proudly served in the American Civil War, the Spanish-American Wars, WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam and Iraq. The Dokman family of Kansas City, MO, and the Grbich family of Reno had seven sons in the military service at the same time during WWII. A building at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs is named for Lance Sijan, a Serb, for his bravery in Vietnam. He died in his prison cell shared with Senator John McCain [who would later accept Albanian money to push for arming the KLA, bombing the Serbs and even sending in ground troops, which Bill Clinton declined to do].
In 1905, Rade Grba, a young Serbian-American from the south side of Chicago was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor by the US for his heroic actions in the Navy. There are 8 Serbian Congressional Medals of Honor recipients. The first person in history to receive 2 Congressional Medals, Lou Cukelja, was a Serb who also received the highest decoration given by France, Belgium and Serbia. There are thousands of Serbian Purple Heart recipients. Serbian-Americans can be proud of the youngest Two-Star general in the American army, Rudy Ostovich III and Two-Star General Mel Vojvodich. Ed Radkovich headed Air Force Intelligence in Europe and Brigadier General George Karamarkovic the US Marine Corp. The U.S. military also included Admiral Stevan Mandarich and Col. Mitchell Pa[i]ge.
The NASA space program is replete with Serbian engineers and scientists. Vern Pupich was the test pilot of the DC3 before WWII…Thirteen top executives in the Apollo space program are Serbs. After the Apollo disaster, the new escape hatch was redesigned by Danilo Bojic. Mike Vucelic received the Freedom Award from President Johnson for his work in the Apollo program.
Sending American sons and daughters to Kosovo to defend terrorists who have succeeded in reducing the Serbian population of Kosovo from 21% ten years ago to less than 3% today is a mockery of our belief in democracy and freedom. Amputating 15% of Serbia’s territory because it has been invaded by Albanians is illegal and violates the UN Charter, the Helsinki Final Act and numerous international laws.
People often ask me what my “thing for the Serbs” is — why do I care so much. The answer is that the United States of America is engaged in a continual and repeated betrayal. We picked every savage over our rescuers and allies. First in Croatia, then in Bosnia, and now in Kosovo. Well done, America. Well done.
The shame and immorality of today’s America is made manifest in the pride and morality of yesterday’s, as represented by Americans such as Art Jibilian. (See his original letter last July 4th in response to my article in American Legion magazine.)
Mihailovich in prison after England and America’s betrayal:
This July 4th weekend, it’s not God Bless America, but May God have Mercy on America’s Soul.
And what a perverse Father’s Day this year, as the U.S. proudly gave birth to its Muslim demon child on Serbian land, after nine years gestation in the jackal’s belly.