Skip to comments.Hero Arthur Jibilian of the Halyard Mission dies of cancer
Posted on 03/24/2010 6:36:03 AM PDT by Ravnagora
Arthur "Jibby" Jibilian in 2009
FREMONT -- A local war hero and lone surviving member of 1944's Operation Halyard has died.
Art Jibilian, 86, has been battling leukemia since July 2008. He died Sunday afternoon.
Jibilian, a radio operator, was nominated for the military's highest honor for his actions during five months in 1944, helping to rescue hundreds of people from a German-occupied area in Serbia.
Jibilian was one of three Office of Strategic Services agents who parachuted into central Serbia in August 1944 to rescue what he thought was 50 downed airmen.
"We didn't find 50," Jibilian would later say. "We found 250."
Over the next six months, Jibilian constructed a landing strip and coordinated evacuation flights and medical help at night as the people in the Serbian village housed and protected the soldiers under the leadership of Drazha Mihailovich -- leader of the Royal Yugoslav Army.
His daughter, Debi Jibilian, said the family plans an event Saturday in Fremont, though funeral plans have not been set.
"It's going to be a celebration of his life," Debi Jibilian said. "This is his home, and this is where it'll be."
Debi said her father lived for 18 months after doctors said he had two weeks left.
Instead of battling for his life, he fought to clear the name of a man who helped save him and his fellow colleagues in the mission -- Drazha Mihailovich. Jibilian revisited Serbia on several occasions, speaking to crowds and praising Mihailovich, who had been labeled as a "collaborator" with Nazis and was executed.
The mission was documented in Gregory A. Freeman's 2007 book, "The Forgotten 500."
"With the passing of Arthur Jibilian, our country has lost a true American hero," Freeman wrote in a statement to The News-Messenger. "Arthur's brave work in rescuing downed American airmen in World War II must never be forgotten, and I am honored to have known him.
"He was the quintessential American hero -- humble, modest, quietly proud, but ferocious in seeking justice."
Jibilian was set to received the Golden Deeds Award on April 17 from the Exchange Club of Fremont.
He received a congressional honor for his duty in 2008 from U.S. Rep. Bob Latta. Latta on Monday gave a speech on the floor of Congress to honor Jibilian.
"They have yet to receive a military/government recognition for their actions," Latta said. "I will continue to work on this legislation to honor this exceptional American with the recognition he deserves."
Freeman said "The Forgotten 500" has been optioned for a motion picture by Dana Maksimovich, who co-produced Oscar winner "Crash" and "In the Valley of Elah."
"We're excited about the prospects of seeing 'The Forgotten 500,' on the big screen," Freeman said.
Jibilian also was a strong supporter of making a major film about the WWII story.
Wow, a true hero has gone Home to collect his reward.
A 20 year old Arthur Jibilian, ready to serve.
Aleksandra's Note: My sincere thanks to Milana "Mim" Bizic, Arthur's dear friend, for forwarding me the following sentiments expressed by Arthur Jibilian to Brian McMahon of Danberry National LTD.
FROM BRIAN McMAHON:
Art Jibilian lost his battle to leukemia over the weekend and passed away. Prior to Art entering the hospital for what turned out to be his last chemo treatment, he must have had a premonition. One of the last discussions I had with Art was that:
"If something happens to me, please make sure that you thank all the people who have helped me in my efforts to recognize the Serbian people and re-write history with regards to General Mihailovich. Tell everyone how much it means to me that I was nominated for the Congressional Medal of Honor. I never expected in my wildest dreams to ever be considered worthy of the Medal of Honor. All these special events that people have created, and their efforts to assist me, meant a great deal to me. Even if I never receive the Congressional Medal of Honor, 'it was a great ride' and most men my age never have an opportunity to participate in these types of events and meet so many great people."
In that regard, Art Jibilian would like to thank the following individuals and organizations in no particular order of importance. I will try to do this in the chronological order in which they took place:
- To Bill Hirzel and Capt. Bill David and all the Members of the EAA Chapter 582 for honoring me at their Air Show at Metcalf Airport
- To Bridgett David who provided medical and psychological comfort for me and my family during these trips to the Indy Championship Race and Air Venture/Oshkosh.
- To the members of the Yankee Air Museum at Willow Run Airport for flying me to that Air Show in their B-17
- To General A. J. Feucht, Jr., Col. Bartman, Capt. Bentley, Col. Mike Digby and all the members of the 180th Fighter Wing of the Ohio Air Guard for that special event that took place at the Air Guard on the anniversary of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7th of 2 years ago. I was especially honored to be installed as an "Honorary Colonel".
- To racing legend - Scott Goodyear - for inviting Dr. Harold Brown and myself to the Indy Championship Race in Chicago last year
- To John Wagner and his family for flying me to Oshkosh
- To John Robinson Block, Dave Murray and Joe Zerbey from the TOLEDO BLADE and Jack Kelly of the PITTSBURG-POST GAZETTE for their articles and support in helping me share the fact that the Tuskegee Airmen flew cover for a number of these rescue missions. Without the support of the Tuskegee Airmen, we would not have been able to keep all 512 airmen escape from behind enemy lines and return us safely home.
- To my good friend Dr. Harold Brown and all of the Tuskegee Airmen for providing air cover during "Operation Halyard".
- To Gregory Freeman for publishing THE FORGOTTEN 500 that allowed so many people to become aware of "Operation Halyard" and all the individuals who participated in this rescue mission.
- To Danny Clisham of the EAA who allowed us to participated in the AirVenture/Oshkosh program and gave me the opportunity to thank the Tuskegee Airmen for their efforts.
- To Tim Barzen and members of the RED TAIL REBORN for all of their efforts.
- To Brad Ball of NASCAR and Jack Roush of Roush Fenway Racing for their efforts to contact the national media.
- To Dr. Lloyd Jacobs, Dan Saevig, and Vern Snyder for including me and my friend, Dr. Harold Brown in last year's UT Homecoming and including us in the Parade of Heroes.
- To Joe Zerbey and the members of the Toledo Rotary providing me with the last opportunity to make a public presentation on Operation Halyard.
- To Mim, the Tesla Memorial Society and all the members of the Serbian community who worked so hard on my behalf.
On behalf of all of us who were touched by Art's heroism, his final tribute was to donate his body to the University of Toledo's Medical College for research. We want to thank his wife Jo and his daughter Debi for sharing Art with us during what was a very difficult time.
Brian W. McMahon/President
DANBERRY NATIONAL LTD.
If you would like to get in touch with me, Aleksandra, please feel free to contact me at email@example.com
Arthur, we give you thanks for your service and bravery, while you’re in the arms of the Lord, say hi to Cika Draza for us!
Thank you. He was a handsome young man and a true American.
Thanks TS. I saw this yesterday. The men of the OSS who worked with Mikhailovich and the Chetniks to get American fliers out of Yugoslavia is a real success story of the Second World War. It’s disgraceful the way we treated Mikhailovich after the war by supporting Tito.
Balkan politics are no place I wanna go. Run across any references to Sterling Hayden?
No I haven’t. Did a quick search on him, he seems like an interesting character. Obsessed with sailing in his later year apparently.
Reminds me. My in-laws boat caught on fire. Fortunately they were in Long Beach and not moored off shore or it could have been pretty bad. Everyone’s fine. I told my FIL that you are not supposed to do the Viking funeral thing in port.
Just one of those interesting bits of history given the role he played in Dr. Strangelove.