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George Vujnovich, leader of WWII air rescue, dead at 96
Stars and Stripes ^ | May 2, 2012 | Matthew M. Burke

Posted on 05/03/2012 2:07:16 PM PDT by iowamark

George Vujnovich, an American intelligence agent who led the largest air rescue of Americans behind enemy lines during World War II, died last week at the age of 96, according to media reports.

In 1944, the Serbian-American officer in the Office of Strategic Services (precursor to the Central Intelligence Agency) organized successful efforts to insert a team into what was then Nazi-occupied Yugoslavia and rescue more than 500 pilots and airmen who had been downed trying to cross the territory to bomb Hitler’s oil fields in Romania, according to an obituary in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

The airmen had been hidden in villages and protected by forces loyal to Serbian guerrilla fighter Draza Mihailovich,the obituary said. While stationed in Italy, Vujnovich devised the rescue plan, which included building a secret airfield without any tools, and assembling a team of Serbian-speaking agents to parachute in and lead the effort. Advertisement

The mission, called “Operation Halyard,” was relatively unknown until a 2007 book titled “The Forgotten 500,” by Gregory Freeman, the obituary said. Vujnovich was awarded the Bronze Star in 2010 for his efforts.

“We didn’t lose a single man. It’s an interesting history. Even in Serbia, they don’t know much about it,” Vujnovich told the Post-Gazette in 2008, when he accepted an award from the OSS Society at age 93.

“I taught these agents they had to take all the tags off their clothing,” Vujnovich would tell The New York Times in 2010. “They were carrying Camel and Lucky Strikes cigarettes and holding U.S. currency. I told them to get rid of it. I had to show them how to tie their shoes and tuck the laces in, like the Serbs did, and how to eat like the Serbs, pushing the food onto their fork with the knife.”

Vujnovich was born in Pittsburgh in 1915 to Serbian immigrants, according to the obituary. After graduating high school, he received a scholarship to study at the University of Belgrade. It was there he met his future wife, Mirjana Lazich.

Vujnovich witnessed the bombing of Belgrade by the Germans in 1941 and with his wife, fled to Hungary, then Turkey, Jerusalem and finally to Cairo as Erwin Rommel’s Afrika Korps approached, the obituary said. Vujnovich found a job with Pan American Airways in Egypt and was commissioned into the Army when the U.S. entered the war and militarized the company.

After being transferred to an air base in Nigeria, he rose to base commander, the obituary said. He was then recruited by the OSS to aid resistance forces in the Balkans because of his experience in Yugoslavia and service as an air officer. After receiving training in Virginia, he was sent to Bari, Italy.

On Aug. 2, 1944, the team landed and met with Mihailovich, the obituary said. They immediately got to work building the 700-foot airstrip that was barely long enough for 15th Air Force’s C-47s. They moved around every night to avoid detection, according to The Associated Press.

Between Aug. 9 and Dec. 27, the rescuers ushered 512 airmen to freedom, right from under the noses of the Nazis, the Post-Gazette obituary states.

Vujnovich, a long retired salesman of aircraft parts, died at his home in Queens, N.Y., of natural causes, The AP reported. His wife died in 2003. He is survived by a daughter and a brother.


TOPICS: Culture/Society; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: drazamihailovich; georgevujnovich; mihailovich; milhist; wwii
NY Times obituary
1 posted on 05/03/2012 2:07:25 PM PDT by iowamark
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To: CougarGA7; Homer_J_Simpson

WWII ping


2 posted on 05/03/2012 2:10:04 PM PDT by iowamark
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To: iowamark

THE GREATEST GENERATION


3 posted on 05/03/2012 2:17:48 PM PDT by Gay State Conservative (Unlike Mrs Obama,I've Been Proud Of This Country My *Entire* Life!)
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To: iowamark
Totally cool operation.

We need more of those these days.

4 posted on 05/03/2012 2:20:23 PM PDT by Paladin2
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To: iowamark

The book “The Forgotten 500” tells this story...worth the read.


5 posted on 05/03/2012 2:36:17 PM PDT by gorush (History repeats itself because human nature is static)
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To: iowamark

Bari, Italy.
____________________________

My uncle is buried there

he was killed in Dec 1944


6 posted on 05/03/2012 2:48:58 PM PDT by Tennessee Nana (Why should I vote for Bishop Romney when he hates me because I am a Christian)
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To: gorush
Yes, Operation Halyard was a huge success.

Amazon: The Forgotten 500: The Untold Story of the Men Who Risked All For the Greatest Rescue Mission of World War II

The reason this story was secret for so long is the heroism of General Mihailovich, who was executed by the Communists in 1946.

7 posted on 05/03/2012 4:05:33 PM PDT by iowamark
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To: iowamark

RIP Brave man. One can only wonder how he felt about the bombing of Serbia by Clinton...


8 posted on 05/03/2012 4:26:53 PM PDT by Amberdawn
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To: Homer_J_Simpson
We have discussed the Communist campaign against the non-communist Chinese to slander them as collaborators with the Japanese, when in fact this is what the Communists were.

This is also what happened in Yugoslavia. The Communists mounted a coordinated worldwide effort to portray the Yugoslav Communists under Tito as heroic fighters against the Nazis and the non-Communist Yugoslavs as Nazi puppets. This was very easy for them because of the deep Communist penetration of the British and American governments and news media.

Operation Halyard shows clearly that General Mihailović was a hero willing to take enormous risks to save hundreds of Allied airmen. President Truman awarded Mihailović the Legion of Merit. This was all kept secret for 40 years in order to appease Stalin.

9 posted on 05/03/2012 4:30:12 PM PDT by iowamark
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To: iowamark

The clinton bombing or Serbia was as despicable as obama ‘s support of the Arab Spring;wait,they both helped the same bunch of nasty killers.


10 posted on 05/03/2012 4:59:17 PM PDT by hoosierham (Freedom isn't free)
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To: Paladin2

There is a great number of them in our armed services.
That said, we are wearing them down with PC crap and some will move on to other lines of work.

My father was career Navy and most of his friends were ‘interesting’ sorts. When I see an article like this one it becomes apparent just how ‘interesting’they were.

Glider pilot on D-Day, POW Germany. OSS guy, POW Japan( who taught me the knot they used on him)...


11 posted on 05/03/2012 5:26:41 PM PDT by DUMBGRUNT (The best is the enemy of the good!)
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To: Amberdawn; iowamark
Your post #8.

RIP Brave man. One can only wonder how he felt about the bombing of Serbia by Clinton...

Your comment aroused memories that I had put to rest. I had followed the tactics of NATO, in the deliberate bombing of civilian installations. I was still mindful of the war crimes tribunals of yesteryear in which men were hanged or imprisoned. This was for bombing civilian targets in order to demoralize the enemy. The Luftwaffe had bombed Belgrade in 1941.

I was heartened by WW2 American veterans who spoke up in defence of the Serbs. Saved from the Nazis. I now found out about the control of the press that few in Canada thought existed. For some reason the destruction of 17 Serbian villages and at least 100 civilians murdered in 1993 was virtually censored. This by Croatian forces.

The Canadian troops had intervened and got engaged in a firefight with the Croats. They saved a number of Serbs. The whole thing was covered up- why, it beats me. Years later, McLeans magazine published the story of the "Firefight at Medak Pocket". Something rotten was afoot. How the Serbs were damned from day one and how the others were pictured as innocents, we may never know.

Bill Clinton, Louise Arbour (Human Rights Commissioner) might be said to "have blood on their hands".

12 posted on 05/03/2012 5:29:15 PM PDT by Peter Libra
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To: Ravnagora

Forgotten 500 ping!


13 posted on 05/03/2012 5:30:29 PM PDT by Joe 6-pack (Que me amat, amet et canem meum)
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To: iowamark

RIP.


14 posted on 05/03/2012 5:49:07 PM PDT by fieldmarshaldj (If you like lying Socialist dirtbags, you'll love Slick Willard)
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To: Peter Libra

It is frightening how slanted the media is, how far they are willing to go in covering up the worst crimes to advance a Leftist agenda.


15 posted on 05/03/2012 6:02:05 PM PDT by Amberdawn
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To: iowamark

Good Post! Thank you!


16 posted on 05/03/2012 6:09:54 PM PDT by Letmarch75
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To: iowamark

One of my favorite stories from George Vujnovich was the one that is recounted in “Forgotten 500” about he and his wife’s escape from the Nazi occupied Balkans.

Basically, his wife, a jew, found herself seated next to Magda Geobbels on the flight from Sofia. She became ill with fear and Magda began to nurse her on the flight. When a Nazi official was checking papers at a layover, Magda showed him away from Vujnovich’s wife, essentially saving her life.

I seem to remember that the notes in “Forgotten 500” mentions that they can’t be certain that it was actually Magda, but that the woman certainly looked like her and definitely carried enough authority or just assertiveness to thwart a Nazi official. Who knows, it might very well have been her.

“Forgotten 500” is a real good read. I highly recommend it, but I warn you that you may get frustrated with the way we screwed over Mikhailovich in favor of Tito, eventually costing the man his life.

RIP George Vujnovich.


17 posted on 05/03/2012 9:59:12 PM PDT by CougarGA7 ("History is politics projected into the past" - Michael Pokrovski)
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To: iowamark

Should be mandatory reading for all, the story of the Forgotten 500....thanks for posting this story about a personal hero of mine. May his Memory be Eternal


18 posted on 05/04/2012 5:28:22 AM PDT by MadelineZapeezda (If You Don’t Look Like Obama’s Son, No One Cares)
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To: Amberdawn
I'm sure it sickened him like it did Major Richard Felman. as I spoke with him a few weeks before he died
19 posted on 05/04/2012 5:34:58 AM PDT by MadelineZapeezda (If You Don’t Look Like Obama’s Son, No One Cares)
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