Sunday, December 07, 2008

Sunday, November 30, 2008

"Halyard Mission" 50th Anniversary Celebrated in Chicago as world commemorates D-Day 1944-1994

By Aleksandra Rebic

Americans and Serbs from all over the United States and Canada gathered together on May 31, 1994 in Chicago to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the 'Halyard Mission' rescue operation and pay homage to the American veterans of World War II and the Serbs under the command of General Draza Mihailovich who had saved their lives. The 'Halyard Mission' was the name given to the greatest rescue of American and Allied lives from behind enemy lines in the history of warfare. It was a day of celebration, rememberance, gratitude and tears. For those that attended, it was a moving and unforgettable event. For the guests of honor, it was an opportunity to tell a story of epic proportions.Fifty years before, in 1944, Serbian General Dragoljub Draza Mihailovich, his Chetnik forces, and the Serbian people loyal to them, saved the lives of hundreds of Allied fliers who had been stranded in Yugoslavia after having been shot out of the skies by the Germans while flying their bombing missions over the Ploesti oil fields of Romania. The Allied Ploesti mission was to destroy Hitler’s main supply of oil at the time and bring the Nazis to their knees. Many of those who survived the severe German retaliation would end up wounded and stranded in Yugoslavia, but would be saved, taken care of, and returned back to safety through the Halyard Mission rescue operation of 1944. In 1994, 50 years later, this rescue operation, which had more or less remained hidden from history for the past half century, was brought into the light of day on a grand scale for the first time.

This great feat, the Halyard Mission rescue operation, was officially noted in all of the releases and information disseminated by the World War II Commemoration Committee in recognition of the 50th Anniversary of D-Day. That committee, chaired by Colonel Kenneth A. Plummer and overseen by the United States Department of Defense, organized a weeklong celebration in Chicago, Illinois in conjunction with special events taking place throughout the world to commemorate the milestone anniverary. This five-day D-Day 50th Anniversary commemoration celebration in Chicago opened with the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the successful 'Halyard Mission' rescue operation. This mission was a combined project of the American Strategic Services (O.S.S. - precursor of the C.I.A.) under the command of General William J. Donovan, Lieutenant George (Guv) S. Musulin, of the O.S.S., an American of Serbian descent, and General Draza Mihailovich and his Serbian chetnik freedom fighters in the former Yugoslavia. For different reasons, and always less than noble ones, the Halyard Mission rescue operation that took place over the course of the Summer, Autumn and Winter of 1944 in the German occupied Serbian areas of former Yugoslavia, was kept hidden from official public recognition and covered up, to the point of being left out of the historical texts relating to the World War II era altogether. The Halyard Mission became a casualty of political supression but through the tireless efforts of those who knew the history and the significance of this great event, many of them personally who had lived it and are now deceased, this epic heroic story is now increasingly seeing the light of day.

On May 31, 1994 in Chicago, Illinois, as the world began it's commemoration of the 50th anniversary of D-Day, a fifty year debt of gratitude was repayed to Serbian general, Dragoljub-Draza Mihailovich, who was, and remained, the greatest hero of all to those who knew the measure of the man. As the festivities and commemorations continued throughout the week, the Serbs would be the only ethnic group so recognized for their contribution to the Allied war effort.

The Event:

The 50th Anniversary celebration of the Halyard Mission began at the Swiss Hotel the night of Monday, May 30, 1994 with a reunion of the Allied airmen who had taken part in the Ploesti bombing missions and subsequent Halyard rescue operation A private party was held for the war veterans and U.S. liaison officers and personnel, such as Captain Nick Lalich and Major George Vujnovich, and J.B. Allin, who had come to Chicago to attend the celebration, and the party provided an opportunity for the old buddies to reunite and reminisce. Present also was the honorable Edward J. Derwinski, former Secretary of Veterans Affairs. With all the talking and laughing, it was easy to forget for a moment the historical significance of this reunion and the event that had inspired it. Memories were shared, and the younger people present had the opportunity to witness the bond these men still shared after so many years and miles apart.

The next morning, Tuesday, May 31st, as the final preparations for the official Halyard commemoration were being completed, representatives of “The Voice of America” arrived to interview some of the key people present at event. Among those interviewed were Captain Nick Lalich, Major George Vujnovich, author William Dorich, and Chairman of the Halyard Mission Celebration, Mr. Rade Rebic. The interviews were broadcast not only in America but in the republics of the former Yugoslavia as well. Mr. Rebic, explained the need to celebrate the Halyard anniversary in a big way:

“This heroic undertaking during WWII has been, more or less, kept hidden from history for 50 years, not only by the communists of Yugoslavia, but by some of the western democracies as well, for dark political reasons…Much has been been entered into the historical texts that doesn’t reflect the truth of what really happened in Yugoslavia…”

The official Halyard anniversary celebration began at Noon in Daley Plaza in Chicago. The sky was overcast and the Chicago wind greeted the thousands of Serbs and Americans who had gathered in the plaza to pay their respects. The Black Sheep Squadron and a full drum and bugle corps was present to open the ceremony with the presentation of colors. Colonel Kenneth A. Plummer was master of ceremonies and on the stage stood the American and Canadian airmen who had come to Chicago, along with O.S.S. officers Vujnovich and Lalich and the Honorable Edward Derwinski who was responsible for uncovering decades long classified Legion of Merit Award that had been posthumously awarded to General Draza Mihailovich by President Harry Truman. They were escorted by several officers in training of the Junior ROTC program in the Chicago school system, led by Colonel Julius Taylor.

Colonel Plummer welcomed the dignitaries and the public who had gathered. Along with the war veterans, the official dignitaries, and the public, also present for the celebration were a number of young members of ROTC from the various schools throughout Chicago, and members of different foreign consulates in the city.

14 year old Chervonne Johnson sang a beautiful and rousing rendition of the American National Anthem. Colonel Plummer then asked the Serbian Orthodox priests sitting among the American airmen to give the invocation. After the moving blessing, he brought Major Richard L. Felman and Captain Nick Lalich to the podium. Both men, veterans of World War II, acknowledged the great feat and sacrifice embodied in the Halyard Mission rescue operation, with Major Felman issuing a heartfelt “Thank You” to the Serbian chetniks who had saved the lives of the American airmen who had survived the war to be present at the festivities that day, 50 years later.

Colonel Plummer then acknowledged the Rebic family and the City of Chicago for hosting the event.

With the emotional opening ceremony finished, all present were asked to step outside to the Eternal Flame for the laying of the wreath to memorialize those American fliers who had lost their lives in the bombing missions over the Ploesti oil fields in 1944. Major Felman laid the wreath at the eternal flame. Major Felman was wearing the full uniform of the U.S. Army Air Corps that he had worn in combat 50 years before. Among those standing by the flame was O.S.S. officer Major George Vujnovich, who held his hand over his heart As the wreath was quietly laid many of those who had gathered there shed silent tears for all the patriots who had been sacrified for the noble Allied cause.

Photo of the wreath laying at Daley Plaza by A. Rebic from the Rebic collection.

From the Daley Center, the celebration moved to the Swiss Hotel, a beautiful hotel on the shores of Lake Michigan off of Lake Shore Drive, Chicago’s most scenic roadway.

Commemorative displays lined the tables in the reception area, and they included many photographs of the protagonists of the Halyard Mission, with rare photos of the Allied airmen, the Serbian chetniks and, the U.S. liaison officers, and General Draza Mihailovich. Volumes of testimonies about the efforts and successes of General Mihailovich and his Serb patriots in saving the Americans who had been stranded in Yugoslavia during WWII were also on display. 400 handsome brochures titled “The Halyard Mission” from the 1946 issue of the “Blue Book”, written by U.S. Lt. Commander Richard W. Kelly, were available as a souvenir of the event.

The airmen were kept out of the great ballroom until everyone was seated. To open the ceremony, the airmen were escorted into the room accompanied by a film of the mighty B-24 aircraft and the March of the U.S. Air Corps playing on the big screen. Admiral Mack C. Gaston, representative of the United States Department of Defense, present in uniform, greeted each of the airmen as they lined up on the stage. He shook their hands and thanked them for the great service they had done for their country.

After the airmen took their places at their tables, Colonel Kenneth Plummer called on the Serbian Orthodox priests present to give the invocation.

Lunch was then served and during the meal American aircraft were shown on the big screen, accompanied by the patriotic songs popular with the American soldiers during the war.

The commemorative program and tribute began after the luncheon, hosted by Masters of Ceremonies Colonel Kenneth Plummer and Aleksandra Rebic.

Colonel Plummer first read a telegram from General Merrill A. McPeak, the Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force. The Statement, dated May 23, 1994, read:

“On behalf of the men and women of the United States Air Force, I extend our congratulations and admiration to the survivors of ‘Operation Halyard’ and their rescuers.The courage of the Fifteenth Air Force aircrews who fought their way through fierce Axis opposition to destroy the Ploesti oil fields is a signifcant part of our Air Force heritage. We also join you in extending appreciation to your brave rescuers, who risked their lives to provide refuge and medical care to you, and eventually, to return you to Allied lines.”

Following the reading of the telegram, the State of Illinois and State of Ohio proclamations designating May 31st, 1994 as “Operation Halyard Day” were acknowledged.

The first dignitary to speak was the Honorable Edward J. Derwinski, who had come from Washington, D.C. to be present at the event. He set the tone for the commeration by a giving a compassionate, moving description of the significance of the Halyard Mission event and the cover-up that surrounded the story having been kept hidden for so many years. He reminded the world how General Mihailovich was not only betrayed by the Yugoslav communists but by other political forces that had a vested interest in keeping the Halyard Rescue Mission operation one of the best kept secrets of the 20th century.

Mr. Derwinski was the person chiefly responsible for getting the esteemed “Legion of Merit” medal that had been posthumously awarded to General Mihailovich in 1948 declassified after 20 years of it being kept a national secret. He spoke quietly and emotionally, and at the end became visibly moved, bring tears to the eyes of many of those present. He received a standing ovation and was greeted back at his table by the airmen who remembered well his great service not only as a congressman, but as the former Secretary of Veterans Affairs in Washington. This was a friend, not only to them, but to the Serbs as well, for his outstanding service on behalf of truth and justice with regard to the Serbian contribution to the Allied cause.

Congressman Luis Gutierrez, a representative from Chicago in Washington, D.C. spoke next, stressing how much there was to learn from such commemorations and how important it was to explain to his children about events such as Halyard that were being honored and remembered on this anniversary. “We know very little about some of these things,” said Gutierrez.

Featured speaker Hershel Gober, then Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs in Washington, D.C. came to the podium and expressed that this was an emotional meeting of the saved and their rescuers. He thanked both the Americans and the Serbs for their extraordinary service to mankind, and stressed the significance of this celebration for its influence on the younger generation of Americans, many of whom were in the audience that day.

Colonel Plummer then announced that Mr. Voja Mihailovich, the grandson of General Draza Mihailovich, who had traveled to Chicago from Serbia, was in the audience. Voja was greeted with spontaneous applause as the audience rose to give him an ovation. For most in the room, this was the only opportunity to see in person one of General Mihailovich’s living legacies.

The program continued with what for many was the highlight of the celebration. Retired Major Richard L. Felman of the United States Air Force came to the podium in full uniform. Major Felman, being a prominent rescued airman who had remained active in seeking justice for General Mihailovich from the time he was rescued in Serbia to this moment a half century later, spoke for all the airmen. He gave a rousing, passionate, and moving tribute to the Halyard Mission protagonists and pulled no punches. He was determined, he declared, to say on this day everything he had wanted to say for 50 years. He did exactly as he promised, mesmerizing the audience with his story, providing both excellent insight into and a great education about the great historical event he had directly participated in. His tribute served as an inspiration to continue the quest for truth and justice. It could not end there, that day, but must continue, he told the audience, passionately declaring that it had to continue until General Mihailovich and the Serbian people were justly recognized and given their due for their great contribution to the Allied cause. Major Felman became visibly moved a number of times during his presentation. He had never forgotten his debt of gratitude, and never would. Felman would continue his quest to secure public recognition of the Halyard Mission Operation as one of the greatest moments in history until the day he died.

Following his speech, Major Felman presented the George S. Musulin Award, established in 1994 for the first time, to symbolically honor those airmen who had left on their mission to secure the end of WWII and never returned. Colonel George S. Musulin, an officer with the O.S.S. in 1944, was the man primarily responsible for initiating and bringing to fruition the Halyard Mission Rescue operation. The award was presented to Colonel Musulin’s daughters who were present to receive it. The event reunited a number of members of the Musulin family who had not seen each other for quite some time. For the George S. Musulin Award presentation two portraits done by Aleksandra Rebic that had been covered by the American flag were uncovered. One was a portrait of O.S.S. Colonel George Musulin and the other was a portrait of a young woman and her two children, a boy and a girl, looking wistfully to the skies as planes flew overhead, waiting for her husband, and their father to return from his mission, hoping in their hearts that they would seem him come back to them alive.

As Major Felman descended the stage, he was welcomed with a rousing standing ovation. The Serbian priests began singing the beautiful “Na Mnogaja Ljeta Ziveo” which means “May you live many years”, and the Serbs in the audience remained standing, singing in harmony with the priests. Major Felman wiped tears from his eyes as someone in the room explained the meaning of the song to him. He would say later that he would never forget that wonderful tribute and how much it meant to him.

A montage film presentation of Allied Air Force operations during WWII followed on the big screen, with the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” playing in the darkness of the room. For the airmen this was an exceptionally emotional moment as they were taken back 50 years to the heroics of their youth and what they had meant to their country.

Last to speak was former O.S.S. liaison officer Captain Nick Lalich, who coordinated the very last evacuation in December of 1944 of Allied airmen from behind enemy lines that had been rescued by General Mihailovich and his Serbian forces. He read directly out of the diary that he had kept during the Halyard Mission operation and concluded with his good-byes to General Mihailovich. Captain Lalich would turn out to be the last American to see General Mihailovich alive. He was yet another man who had been part of history and was there in Chicago on May 31st, 1994 to relive those memories and pass them on in tribute and rememberance. For this American born Serb, it was a “coming home” of the people with whom he had shared the moments that were being so vividly recounted on this special day. The audience sang “Na Mnogaja Ljeta Ziveo” for him as well, as he ended his poignant tribute with his good-bye to General Mihailovich, and he, too, was brought to tears.

The Halyard Mission celebration closed with everyone in the room standing to a beautiful renditon of “God Bless America” as the American flag waved on the big screen in the candlelit darkness of the room.

With that celebration in Chicago in 1994, the story of the Halyard Mission and the magnificent rescues of Allied airmen from behind enemy lines, was no longer to be kept the magnificent “Secret” that it had been for all those years before. So many who were there that day are no longer with us. But, I am sure, they are pleased that what they began continues, and will continue, forevermore.


George Vujnovich: 93-year-old WWII Vet's Heroic Feats No Longer Hidden


93-year-old's WWII feats are hidden no longer

Sunday, November 23, 2008

By Torsten Ove, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

George Vujnovich collection
American fliers enjoy a snack on a C-47, on the way from

Pranjane, Yugoslavia, to Bari, Italy.

South Side native George Vujnovich, 93, appeared at a ceremony in New York yesterday to accept an award as a hero in World War II's Operation Halyard.

Never heard of it?

Few have, despite the release last year of "The Forgotten 500," the first book about the daring mission to rescue 500 downed airmen in occupied Yugoslavia.

Mr. Vujnovich, a Pittsburgh boy who became head of the Office of Strategic Services in Bari, Italy, organized what has been called the greatest air rescue of the war.

In the summer of 1944, U.S. bombers targeted the Romanian oil fields in Ploesti that supplied the German war machine. They flew from Italy and across Yugoslavia to get there.

But Luftwaffe fighters and flak from anti-aircraft guns took a fearsome toll, and many shot-up planes never made it back.

Some 1,500 crewmen had to bail out over Serbia, trapped behind enemy lines and dependent on villagers to hide them from the Germans.

Mr. Vujnovich's team of agents, including a former Pittsburgh Steeler from Johnstown and a crack radioman from Toledo, Ohio, worked with Yugoslav guerilla leader Gen. Draza Mihailovich to airlift 512 men from a makeshift runway carved on a mountaintop.

"We didn't lose a single man," Mr. Vujnovich said last week from his home in Jackson Heights, N.Y. "It's an interesting history. Even in Serbia they don't know much about it."

George Vujnovich

The reason for such obscurity is rooted in the politics of Yugoslavia, which became a communist state modeled after the Soviet Union and run by Josip Broz Tito.

Gen. Mihailovich and his Chetniks, who supported the abdicated Serbian monarchy, were the archrivals of Marshal Tito and his Partisans.

But the Allies needed the support of Joseph Stalin, whose forces were bearing the brunt of Adolf Hitler's aggression.

Influenced by communists who said that Gen. Mihailovich was a Nazi collaborator, the British and Americans sided with Marshal Tito and withdrew support for Gen. Mihailovich, according to Gregory A. Freeman, author of "The Forgotten 500."

In 1946, despite protests from American airmen who said the Chetniks had protected them, Marshal Tito's government executed Gen. Mihailovich.

The story of the mission was suppressed under the Tito regime.

"The communists were in control of Serbia from 1945 to 1995. That's 50 years, and any mention of Mihailovich was a no-no, and so were any feats of bravery and escape and saving of airmen," said Mr. Vujnovich, who graduated from Ambridge High School in 1933. "What aggravated me more than anything else is that we couldn't get the truth out."

That's changing, however.

In 2004, Mr. Vujnovich traveled to Belgrade with Art Jubilian, 85, the Toledo radioman, and two other veterans for the 60th anniversary of Operation Halyard. They visited the village of Pranjani, where a plaque was unveiled on the site of the old airfield.

This summer in Ohio, Mr. Jubilian was honored for his role in parachuting into Yugoslavia to help organize the rescue. Joining him was a local airman, Carl Walpusk, 84, a former state trooper from Moon.

And yesterday in Astoria, N.Y., the Virginia-based OSS Society paid tribute to Mr. Vujnovich and other veterans of the OSS -- the forerunner of the CIA -- as part of a ceremony honoring U.S. agents who helped the Greek resistance.

Mim Bizic, 67, the unofficial historian of the Serb National Federation in Pittsburgh, said Mr. Vujnovich deserves every award he gets.

"He was the point man," she said. "This is such an interesting part of history that nobody knows about. I love it."

Fleeing Hitler

Mr. Vujnovich was born to Serbian parents in 1915 in a section of the South Side dominated by Serbs. He grew up speaking Serbian and English.

When he was 14, he moved to Aliquippa and two years later to Ambridge. After graduating from high school, he worked at a Heinz vinegar plant for $1 a day.

In 1934, he left for college in Belgrade on a scholarship from the Serb National Federation. He studied medicine and met his future wife, Mirjana, a teacher.

After a second meeting in 1939, they became a couple. They spent two years as carefree university students, but it all changed in 1941.

Mr. Vujnovich witnessed the April 6 bombing of Belgrade by the German Luftwaffe. Running for his life, he saw a streetcar obliterated by a bomb.

"The streetcar and the dozens of people inside exploded in a bloody mess of body parts and metal, limbs flying through the air and landing all around," writes Mr. Freeman in "The Forgotten 500."

The book recounts numerous escapes as the couple tried to flee Yugoslavia in the ensuing weeks. Finally they managed to board a Lufthansa flight to Bulgaria.

Mirjana did not have a passport. But her seat mate on the flight was Magda Goebbels, the wife of Joseph Goebbels, Hitler's minister of propaganda.

Mirjana had been airsick and Mrs. Goebbels had showed her sympathy, patting her hand gently. When the plane landed and an officer asked for passports, Mrs. Goebbels dressed the man down, saying, "She's sick. Help me with this woman or you will hear from me!"

They made it to Bulgaria.

After an odyssey that took them to Turkey and Jerusalem, they ended up in Cairo, only to find the city in a panic because of the advance of German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel.

At a church in Cairo, Mr. Vujnovich met George Kraigher, a Serb who was head of Pan American World Airways. He offered Mr. Vujnovich a job as assistant airport manager in Ghana. Mirjana took a job at the Yugoslav embassy in Washington, D.C.

When Pan Am was militarized for the war effort, Mr. Vujnovich accepted a commission as a second lieutenant and took charge of an airbase in Nigeria. One day, two OSS men visited and asked him to sign up.

After passing a final exam in which he infiltrated Baltimore shipyards to ferret out secret ship-building information, he became the operations officer stationed in Bari, Italy.

'I want my men out of there'

By then, Gen. Mihailovich had been sending telegrams to alert American authorities to the presence of downed U.S. airmen in his territory.

One arrived at the Yugoslav embassy. Mirjana wrote to her husband about the plight of the air crews.

He enlisted the help of Gen. Nathan Twining, commander of the 15th Air Force, to send in C-47 transport planes under the noses of the German occupiers.

"I saw Twining and he thought it would be a good idea," Mr. Vujnovich recalled.

"He said, 'Yeah, I want my men out of there.' "

The lead OSS field agent, the late George Musulin, was a former tackle on the University of Pittsburgh football team who played for the Steelers in 1938. He had parachuted into Yugoslavia in 1943 and made contact with Gen. Mihailovich.

After the Allies cut ties with the guerilla leader, Mr. Musulin had been pulled out of Yugoslavia at the insistence of Winston Churchill, a Tito supporter at the time.

But in Bari, he told Mr. Vujnovich that Gen. Mihailovich and the Chetniks were hiding the airmen from the Germans and that about 100 of them were near the general's headquarters in Pranjani.

The rescue plan called for building an airstrip, without tools and under the threat of German discovery. The Chetniks would continue to herd in downed airmen.

Mr. Vujnovich assembled a team of agents to parachute in and lead the effort. He wanted to go himself, but he received a telegram, signed by President Roosevelt, that said, "Former naval person objects to George Vujnovich going into Mihailovich's headquarters. Therefore he will not be sent."

The "former naval person" was a code name for Churchill.

The first OSS team, including Mr. Musulin and Mr. Jibilian, jumped on Aug. 2, 1944, met with Gen. Mihailovich and got to work directing the airmen to finish the airstrip.

Because of the terrain, it would be only 700 feet long, barely enough for a C-47 to use.

The airlift and the aftermath

On Aug. 9, a herd of cows fortuitously sauntered onto the completed strip just as German planes flew over. The pilots left, apparently thinking the runway was a farmer's field.

That night, four C-47s made a harrowing landing, picked up loads of men and took off, barely clearing the treetops.

More planes came the next morning, escorted by American fighters. A total of 272 airmen had been rescued in two days. Over the next six months, another 240 made it out.

Mr. Vujnovich is especially proud that no one died in the mission. But he still gets agitated at the aftermath.

After the war the Tito regime indicted Gen. Mihailovich, once named Time magazine's "Man of the Year" for resisting Hitler, on charges of treason. Veterans of Operation Halyard protested, to no avail.

Among them were Mr. Walpusk and another state trooper and former airman, the late Paul F. Mato of South Connellsville. In a Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph story, both said the Chetnik leader "is getting a raw deal from the Allied nations."

Former airmen chartered a DC-3, stenciled "Mission to Save Mihailovich" on the fuselage, picked up colleagues in Detroit, Cleveland and Pittsburgh and flew to Washington to make their voices heard.

None of it helped.

Gen. Mihailovich was executed by firing squad July 17, 1946, and buried in an unmarked grave.

Two years later, after lobbying by Dwight D. Eisenhower, President Truman posthumously awarded him the Legion of Merit. But according to "The Forgotten 500," it sat in a State Department drawer for nearly 20 years until a Chicago congressman, Edward Derwinski, found out about it in 1967 and insisted the text of the citation be made public.

The medal itself was not delivered until 2005, when Mr. Vujnovich, Mr. Jibilian and other veterans personally presented it to Gordana Mihailovich, the general's daughter.

"The next day in the papers, a so-called historian of the communist Partisans said it was all a lie. He said the Partisans saved 2,800 airmen. There weren't even that many airmen in Yugoslavia. They could provide no names. We have the names, dates, ages, everything," Mr. Vujovich said.

"I don't get angry anymore. I think it's silly and stupid. Everything was covered up from beginning to end."


Saturday, November 01, 2008

George Orwell on the Case of General Draza Mihailovich

By Carl Savich
October 2008

Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.”

Political language. . . is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.”

But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.”

George Orwell, "1984" (1949)

When George Orwell published his political satire "Animal Farm" in 1945, he wrote a preface to the book that was deleted and censored from the rest of the text. In the preface, Orwell criticized the censorship and suppression that were endemic in Western countries.

The censored, deleted, and suppressed preface to Animal farm was first published in The Times Literary Supplement on September 15, 1972 as an essay entitled “The Freedom of the Press”. In the preface, Orwell analyzed and deconstructed government and media censorship in Britain during World War II. In particular, Orwell discussed and criticized the British government’s censorship of his book Animal Farm. Orwell analyzed self-imposed media self-censorship and how events and facts were censored and distorted in British society where the government and media suppressed uncomfortable or unpopular truths. In the dystopian satire 1984 (1949), Orwell would term this “duckspeak”, which in Newspeak meant literally to quack like a duck or to speak without thinking.

In 1984, duckspeak is defined:

’There is a word in Newspeak,’ said Syme, ‘I don't know whether you know it: duckspeak, to talk like a duck. It is one of those interesting words that have two contradictory meanings. Applied to an opponent, it is abuse, applied to someone you agree with, it is praise.’

Unquestionably Syme will be vaporized, Winston thought again. ...

Provided that the opinions which were quacked out were orthodox ones, it implied nothing but praise, and when The Times referred to one of the orators of the Party as a doubleplusgood duckspeaker it was paying a warm and valued compliment.”

George Orwell, whose birth name was Eric Arthur Blair, was a socialist himself throughout his life and career. This is a fact usually censored and detailed in any biographical profile of Orwell. Orwell criticized Soviet Communistic socialism because he was a socialist himself. It took one to know one. The fact that Orwell was a socialist was de-emphasized because the British government and the U.S. government sought o use his writings against the Soviet Union and against communism and socialism during the Cold War.

Orwell became a primary source in the ideological conflict between the Western countries such as Britain and the U.S. and the Eastern countries represented by the Soviet Union and China. So his writings were invariably exploited and prostituted as propaganda in the ideological conflict of the Cold War. Propaganda and ideology are black and white. There is no room for any shades of gray. This is why his criticisms and examination of Western media censorship and suppression were themselves suppressed and omitted. The preface to Animal farm itself was suppressed and censored and deleted from the book. Orwell warned that media suppression in the West represented a “slide towards Fascist ways of thought”.

In the deleted proposed preface to Animal Farm, re-titled “The Freedom of the Press”, George Orwell analyzed the role of censorship in Britain. Animal Farm was written in the form of an allegory or as “a fairy story”. But there was no doubt at all that is was based on and directed against the Soviet Union and Joseph Stalin. In the deleted preface, Orwell analyzed British self-censorship. In particular, Orwell examined the case of Draza Mihailovich:

In the internal struggles in the various occupied countries, the British press has in almost all cases sided with the faction favoured by the Russians and libelled the opposing faction, sometimes suppressing material evidence in order to do so. A particularly glaring case was that of Colonel Mihailovich, the Jugoslav Chetnik leader. The Russians, who had their own Jugoslav protege in Marshal Tito, accused Mihailovich of collaborating with the Germans. This accusation was promptly taken up by the British press: Mihailovich’s supporters were given no chance of answering it, and facts contradicting it were simply kept out of print. In July of 1943 the Germans offered a reward of 100,000 gold crowns for the capture of Tito, and a similar reward for the capture of Mihailovich. The British press ‘splashed’ the reward for Tito, but only one paper mentioned (in small print) the reward for Mihailovich: and the charges of collaborating with the Germans continued.”

Orwell also noted instances of censorship during the civil war in Spain from 1936 to 1939:

Very similar things happened during the Spanish civil war. Then, too, the factions on the Republican side which the Russians were determined to crush were recklessly libeled in the English leftwing press, and any statement in their defense even in letter form, was refused publication. At present, not only is serious criticism of the USSR considered reprehensible, but even the fact of the existence of such criticism is kept secret in some cases. For example, shortly before his death Trotsky had written a biography of Stalin. One may assume that it was not an altogether unbiased book, but obviously it was saleable. An American publisher had arranged to issue it and the book was in print — 1 believe the review copies had been sent out — when the USSR entered the war. The book was immediately withdrawn. Not a word about this has ever appeared in the British press, though clearly the existence of such a book, and its suppression, was a news item worth a few paragraphs.”

Orwell analyzed how censorship in the Western countries differed from that in the totalitarian states. In the totalitarian states, censorship was outright and open. In the Western countries, however, censorship was more subtle and covert in nature. Censorship existed in both states, but in the Western state censorship was perceived as benign and innocuous and self-imposed. In Western countries, censorship thus becomes self-censorship.

Orwell analyzed British self-censorship:

We have not been subjected to the kind of totalitarian 'co-ordination' that it might have been reasonable to expect. The press has some justified grievances, but on the whole the Government has behaved well and has been surprisingly tolerant of minority opinions. The sinister fact about literary censorship in England is that it is largely voluntary. Unpopular ideas can be silenced, and inconvenient facts kept dark, without the need for any official ban. Anyone who has lived long in a foreign country will know of instances of sensational items of news - things which on their own merits would get the big headlines - being kept right out of the British press, not because the Government intervened but because of a general tacit agreement that 'it wouldn't do' to mention that particular fact. So far as the daily newspapers go, this is easy to understand. The British press is extremely centralized, and most of it is owned by wealthy men who have every motive to be dishonest on certain important topics. But the same kind of veiled censorship also operates in books and periodicals, as well as in plays, films and radio. At any given moment there is an orthodoxy, a body of ideas which it is assumed that all right-thinking people will accept without question. It is not exactly forbidden to say this, that or the other, but it is 'not done' to say it, just as in mid-Victorian times it was 'not done' to mention trousers in the presence of a lady. Anyone who challenges the prevailing orthodoxy finds himself silenced with surprising effectiveness. A genuinely unfashionable opinion is almost never given a fair hearing, either in the popular press or in the highbrow periodicals.

At this moment what is demanded by the prevailing orthodoxy is an uncritical admiration of Soviet Russia.

Obviously it is not desirable that a government department should have any power of censorship (except security censorship, which no one objects to in war time) over books which are not officially sponsored. But the chief danger to freedom of thought and speech at this moment is not the direct interference of the MOI or any official body. If publishers and editors exert themselves to keep certain topics out of print, it is not because they are frightened of prosecution but because they are frightened of public opinion.

It is important to distinguish between the kind of censorship that the English literary intelligentsia voluntarily impose upon themselves, and the censorship that can sometimes be enforced by pressure groups. Notoriously, certain topics cannot be discussed because of 'vested interests'.

The issue involved here is quite a simple one: Is every opinion, however unpopular - however foolish, even - entitled to a hearing?

Voltaire: 'I detest what you say; I will defend to the death your right to say it'.

If the intellectual liberty which without a doubt has been one of the distinguishing marks of western civilization means anything at all, it means that everyone shall have the right to say and to print what he believes to be the truth, provided only that it does not harm the rest of the community in some quite unmistakable way.

If liberty means anything at all it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”

In the January 12, 1945 "As I Please" series in the Tribune, George Orwell discussed censorship and media manipulation and deception in the case of Draza Mihailovich:

I invite attention to an article entitled ‘The Truth about Mihailovich?’ (the author of it also writes for Tribune, by the way) in the current World Review. It deals with the campaign in the British press and the B.B.C. to brand Mihailovich as a German agent. Jugoslav politics are very complicated and I make no pretence of being an expert on them. For all I know it was entirely right on the part of Britain as well as the U.S.S.R. to drop Mihailovich and support Tito. But what interests me is the readiness, once this decision had been taken, of reputable British newspapers to connive at what amounted to forgery in order to discredit the man whom they had been backing a few months earlier. There is no doubt that this happened. The author of the article gives details of one out of a number of instances in which material facts were suppressed in the most impudent way. Presented with very strong evidence to show that Mihailovich was not a German agent, the majority of our newspapers simply refused to print it, while repeating the charges of treachery just as before.”

Self-censorship and media suppression and manipulation are endemic threats in a democratic society. The censorship and suppression of the facts in the Draza Mihailovich case allowed a Communist dictatorship to be established in the former Yugoslavia. George Orwell showed that for democracy to be viable and legitimate, self-censorship and media suppression must be understood and examined.

Monday, October 20, 2008

A Young Draza Mihailovich on the Salonika Front 1918

Дража, јуче, данас, сутра - заувек

Понекад је историја најистинитије приказана у речима при одавању почасти. Годинама, многи знани људи света су указали почаст Дражи Михаиловићу својим посмртним беседама. Премда жале његову смрт они славе његов живот и његово заслужно место у историји. Њихове речи нас потсећају на вредност истинске величине и часног воћства.

Дама Ребека Вест, познати писац светске литерартуре и историчар, добро је разумела те идеале. Иако је о њима говорила на скупу у почаст Драже Михаиловића јула 1966. године те њене речи одјекују и данас, у 2008., истом снагом као и тада, много година раније:

''Дража Михаиловић, 20 година после своје смрти блиста у слави поносног браниоца не само слободе против терора фашиста, већ такође, и слободе против терора комуниста.

Он није поседовао ни моменат слабости нити трунак горчине. Ја не знам ни за један случај где је прекорио оне који су га издали.

Двадесет година раније знала сам да је невин за све оно чиме су га окривили, a од тада имам многе накнадне доказе његове невиности. Злочин је био кад су га напустили, и слично свим злочинима, ни овај није донео истински профит злочинцима.

Волела сам вашу земљу Србију пре рата. Моја љубав и поштовање према српском народу су само порасли пролазом година, јер сам схватила да херој кога сте даровали историји нема себи сличнога у нашем времену.''

Те речи Ребеке Вест , знаног писца светске литературе, потсећају Србију да је за срамоту да још увек незнамо где је гроб Чика Драже – како га Срби најрађе помињу – не знамо за место које чека да буде обележено.

Ових дана навршава се 90 година од пробоја Солунског фронта, којим је српска војска сломила кичму Централних сила и тиме не само скратила Први светски рат за најмање годину дана већ евентуално спасила милионе живота, углавном Европљана, што ће бити показано у мојој књизи Хероји Србије која ће ускоро бити спремна за штампу. У том пробоју учествовао је тада млади поручник Драгољуб Дража Михаиловић.

Александра Ребић
October 2008

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Death of a Good Man - How European Democracy killed General Mihailovich

By Aleksandra Rebic
July 2008

On July 17, 1946, sixty-two years ago, the life of General Draza Mihailovich came to an end. Why should we care? Why did his life and death matter?

He was a military officer who lived at a time in history when his dedication to democratic ideals would bring him into conflict with the fascists, the Nazis and, in the end, the communists. It would be the communists who would finally silence him, but not before he and his people fought valiantly to prevent his country, Yugoslavia, from falling into communist hands after the war. It would be too easy to blame the dictatorships, however, for the tragic stories of World War Two. Unfortunately, some of the great democracies of our time are culpable not only in helping to catapult three terrorists to the top in their respective countries - Hitler in Germany, Mussolini in Italy, and Tito in Yugoslavia - but in undermining and sacrificing those who fought against them.

Huge mistakes were made before the war ever began. The dictators could never have prevailed to the extent that they did on their own. This is one of the uncomfortable realities that makes the study of history unsettling. Accountability always withstands the test of time, and hindsight, when honest, will reveal more than we were ever willing to acknowledge at the time.

The failure of France to counter Hitler’s advances in the 1930’s when her military strength would have easily enabled her to do so was one huge mistake. How the British Establishment mishandled the events of the inter-war years was an even more crucial mistake. As a result of the mishandling of crucial moments and events during that period of peace in the 1920s and 1930s, the democracies would embolden the monsters of history and it would be the democracies, the Allies, who would feed General Mihailovich to them. He would inherit the dishonorable mistakes made by the democratic Allies, though he would remain loyal to the Allies to the end. That was the kind of ally he was. That was the kind of man that he was.

If we look hard enough, the study of history itself may provide a satisfactory explanation of how certain things happened and why and who was responsible. Or, it may not. An individual must be careful and skeptical when he looks to “written” history for answers. One of history’s most prolific recorders was Winston Churchill, who is considered one of her greatest protagonists. Not only was he directly involved in shaping and making history he was intent on documenting it. Many historians would look to his published works for their research and continue do so, considering Churchill a credible and primary source of information. After all, he was there. He was a witness and an active participant. Through the years, he would write with impunity. However, any reader of his version of history would be well served to be aware of Churchill’s own caveat:

“Give me the facts and I will twist them the way I want, to suit my argument.”

Minding this caveat would be especially important in searching for answers to questions about the history of the Balkans during the Second World War.

Winston Churchill and Great Britain are almost always described as being relentless and noble opponents of Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany. To this day Churchill’s speeches continue to serve as inspiration to those who seek to express what it means to take a noble stand against tyranny. What is less widely known is the extent to which he favored a strong Germany before Germany’s strength would threaten all of Europe and beyond. After General Ludendorff, Germany's military leader during WWI, returned from exile in 1920 he requested to meet with Winston Churchill. On that occasion Churchill wrote to a friend:

“In my view the objective we should pursue…is the building up of a strong and peaceful Germany which will not attack our French allies, but will at the same time serve as a moral bulwark against the Bolshevism of Russia.”

This would become the tone of British foreign policy during the critical decades of the 1920s and 1930s. Churchill’s suggested “objective” would lead first to appeasement and then to a war for which the British were as responsible as the Germans were, not because they wanted it or started it, but because the British did not prevent it when they could have. Hitler did not rise up out of the ashes of the First World War overnight. His ascendance was gradual and methodical. He would watch and wait for reaction from the great democracies to every move he made, and the lack of reaction would puzzle him as much as it amused him. He knew well where Germany’s vulnerabilities were. He also came to know where the democracies were vulnerable, and they would prove over and over again that the growing dictators of Europe could pursue their goals with impunity. It would be beyond the scope of this work to show step by step how and why Hitler was able to take Europe to an abyss. Suffice to say, the British and French together had many opportunities to stop Mussolini and Hitler. Some Germans made far greater sacrifices in an effort to stop Hitler’s ascension than did the British or French leaders during the 1920s or 1930s. These Germans could have succeeded had they had the support they deserved.

For the British, the key theme of “Germany as the moral bulwark against the Bolshevism of Russia” was the primary foundation of their foreign policy and remained so until the war started. Hitler would exploit this theme to his fullest advantage. While, at the beginning, supporting Germany as a bulwark against the so-called “barbarians from the East” was a factor in Britain’s goal to maintain the balance of power in Europe in her favor, it eventually became the core of the appeasement of Hitler. Though it was Britain’s leader Neville Chamberlain who became the personification of appeasement, another dictator would become the benefactor of Britain’s compulsion to appease. This time, ironically, it would be a “barbarian from the East”, the leader of Soviet Bolshevism, Stalin, and the appeaser would be Chamberlain’s successor, Winston Churchill, the man who had once feared Bolshevism’s encroachment to the point of being willing to support the devil to prevent it. Yet another benefactor of Churchill’s appeasement policy would be Marshal Tito, leader of the partisans in Yugoslavia, another communist. So much for moral bulwarks against communism. The communist benefactors of British appeasement would continue where Hitler left off. Millions of lives were lost as a result of the consequences of appeasement, among them that of General Draza Mihailovich who was used, abandoned, betrayed and ultimately sacrificed by the democracies, the Allies, for the ends to be served.

It seems that no conflict has been so much written about as the Second World War, and yet probably no other corps of writing has done more to distort popular conception of what actually happened. Importance is sometimes assigned to relatively insignificant things, while truly significant events are either diminished or ignored. Too often, the leadership, especially if it was popularly revered, was not held accountable to the degree that it should have been. The main concern of any true democratic leader of that time should have been first how to stop the impending war from happening, and if all efforts to that end failed, to at least have done whatever possible to prevent it from escalating and to minimize the cost in human lives. General Mihailovich was a great protagonist of such efforts. He would remain so for the duration of WWII, while other “democratic” leaders and officers were not so concerned about human cost. The horrors reflected in the deaths of over fifty million people during WWII indicate that the regard for human life was not the number one priority for many of the military or civilian leaders. The fact that civilian deaths accounted for at least 50 percent or more of the total death toll of the war is testimony to the fact that human barbarism, even in the “civilized” 20th Century, knew no bounds. That is why each significant episode in the progression of history must be evaluated and judged by, amongst other things, the cost in human lives and how many people could have been saved had their leaders made different choices and taken different actions. Regardless of the benefit of hindsight after the fact, there is foresight also. Not only was foresight lacking in the 1920s and 1930s, it was ignored for the sake of political expediency. Hitler could have been stopped before September 1, 1939 and even afterwards. And he knew it.

If one wanted to study and establish a sound theory as to how to prevent another catastrophy such as World War Two, it would be more important to study the pre-war events that led up to it rather than to study the war itself. Hitler became a successful “protagonist of war” because the “protagonists of peace” bungled their steps one after another, supposedly all in the attempt to prevent another war.

When Winston Churchill wrote that Germany should be propped up as a moral bulwark against Russia’s Bolshevism, it was just two years after the First World War ended and just a year after the Versailles Peace Treaty that was to guarantee that Germany couldn’t start another war was signed. This historic treaty, the document that was to ensure that there would never be another scourge on humanity such as the First World War, would, piece by piece, be undermined by the very democracies that had drafted it with such noble intent. Although the conditions imposed by the treaty were, and remain, controversial, Nazi Germany would proceed to prove to the world that treaties meant nothing, punishments were meaningless, and that consequences were of no consequence. She would do this because the great European democracies would sabotage the intended noble legacy of Versailles.

Why were there no pre-emptive actions against Hitler and his plans by England and France, when England and France could have crushed him? France, to her credit, considered standing up to Hitler in the 1930s while he was still in his dictatorial infancy, however, though her economy and her military was mighty at the time, her fortitude was not. She would defer to Great Britain on matters of defense and offense and this would be to her great misfortune. The Rhineland episode of 1936 was just a portent of things to come in 1940 for France. She deferred to Great Britain when she shouldn’t have and it would cost her dearly.

As the two great democratic powers of Europe in the 1920s and 1930s, France and England failed. They failed to preserve the heritage and legacy of peace for which millions of good men had died during World War One. They had the means. Hitler knew this, and no one was probably more bewildered and amused than he that these means were not used against him as he tested the waters of Europe.

Draza Mihailovich of Serbia had the foresight to see what was coming. He understood that appeasement only lead to disaster for the appeasers and victory for the appeased. His would be a dishonorable inheritance of the mistakes made by the very Allies to whom he would pledge his undying loyalty.

He was not the only one who had foresight. Unlike others, he would survive to be an active participant in the preventable war that would eventually become inevitable due to grave human error in judgment. Unlike those that would eventually come to betray him, he would not survive the peace that would follow the war.

One of the smart men of Europe who was trying to organize a front against Hitler early enough when it was still possible was French foreign minister Louis Barthou in the early 1930s. His foreign policy was to create an anti-Hitler defense ring, to be achieved by what was known as the Eastern Pact, binding the Soviet Union, Poland, and the Little Entente (Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia and Romania) to France.

But while he was trying to organize a defense against German territorial expansions three months after he became foreign minister, the British were going in the opposite direction. In May of 1934 the British minister of foreign affairs, Sir John Simon, insisted that Germany should be permitted to rearm even though re-armament was expressly forbidden by the Versailles Peace Treaty. This was just one of the “allowances” the British were willing to extend to the Germans during the critical decade of the 1930s.

Barthou went to Belgrade, Serbia at the end of June 1934 for successful introductory talks regarding a Franco-Yugoslav alliance, and it was agreed that King Alexander would pay a two week state visit to France starting on October 9th to lay the groundwork for an anti-Hitler alliance. French support against the terrorist activities of the Croatian separatists and their sponsor, the fascist dictator of Italy Mussolini, was also going to be negotiated. But as soon as Alexander’s planned visit to France was announced, Mussolini began working with his own Italian Military Intelligence Service and the Croat and Macedonian terrorists to plan King Alexander’s assassination. The plan for the assassination was finalized by Vancha Mihailov, the leader of Macedonian terrorists and Ante Pavelic, the leader of the Croatian terrorists.

On October 9, 1934 the terrorists made their move and succeeded. King Alexander of Yugoslavia and Jean Louis Barthou were assassinated in Marseilles, France. This assassination, though it was never given the attention or assigned the significance that Gavrilo Princip’s assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in 1914 was, turned out to be pivotal. Alexander’s death in 1934 was a direct precursor to the events of 1939. With the Franco-Yugoslav bond now weakened with his and Barthou’s deaths, Germany would tighten her economic hold in the Balkans. This would further augment Hitler’s growing confidence, and the Balkans would provide more resources for Nazi Germany. It is said that Hitler watched the film that was taken of the assassination that day and upon observing the panic of the crowd and the inability of the police to deal with it effectively, he was reassured that France was weak and that she could be beaten. Whether he watched the film or not, there is no question that he grew more confident. Every subsequent action he would take in the following years would reflect a hubris that only grew with the parallel incompetence of the democracies to stop it from manifesting.

Without having to worry about Britain or France or Italy, Hitler was able to proceed with enhancing his war machine. Seeing an opportunity to side up with an obvious future victor, Mussolini distanced himself carefully from England and France to eventually join Hitler. When the free world woke up to the reality of what was evolving it was too late to change the course of the future of Europe. The greatest war machine ever built up to that time was poised to march and conquer the world.

When Hitler marched his troops into Yugoslavia in 1941 after already conquering 17 countries, Draza Mihailovich and his Serbs began a historic resistance opposing the Nazis and their collaborators. The British, though lauding his uprising and celebrating him as a hero against tyranny at the beginning and promising him support, soon began pursuing their new policy of appeasing Stalin, the leader of the Soviet Bolshevism that they had supposedly so dreaded just years before. As a result, the course of history in Yugoslavia changed drastically. Soon, Mihailovich was fighting not only the occupying Nazis, but he was forced to fight the internal enemy as well, the Yugoslav communists, who were now being sponsored by the British as well as by the Soviets. It was not the Soviets or the Nazis from whom he had the most to fear, however. It would be his betrayal by the British, the Allies to whom he remained loyal and dedicated, that would seal his fate.

It is in the progression of appeasements, miscalculations, and ultimate betrayals by the great democratic leadership of Europe where the foundation of the death of General Draza Mihailovich on July 17, 1946 lies. Why is that important? Because his life counted at a time when democratic Europe was abysmally short of heroic men with foresight who understood the true nature of the enemy and her intentions, and he was a man who fought nobly, despite tremendous odds, for the very same democratic ideals that the democracies were so willing to sacrifice for expediency.

He has been dead for sixty-two years but remains an inspiration for millions of people, not just the Serbs. General Draza Mihailovich was an honorable and principled man who had a great vision for his homeland of Serbia and for Yugoslavia as a democratic country that embodied the great democratic ideals that had fostered great men and nations on the world stage. His vision would die with him.

Evil men ended his life on earth in a brutal way. They hid his grave, knowing full well that if its location were to become known, it would become a shrine where tens of thousands would come every year to reflect on what great men are capable of and why the ideals they fought for must be carried on by future generations. They would come also to reflect on what might have been had the man to whom they were paying their respects been allowed to live out the normal length of his life.

These evil men took not only Draza’s life, but they compromised the greatness Serbia had achieved during the First World War, when she was respected by all. They and their minions wrote book after book falsifying history in order to justify their acts. That is why we must be very discerning when we turn to “history” for answers as to why it all happened the way that it did and what it means for the future.

Sometimes history is most truthfully represented in words of tribute. Mihailovich has been eulogized over the years by great people the world over. Though they mourn his death, they honor his life and his rightful place in history. And their words serve as a reminder of what true greatness and honorable leadership is. Dame Rebecca West, the great literary writer and historian, understood these ideals well. She addressed them in a tribute given in honor of General Mihailovich in July of 1966, but her words echo today in 2008 just as they did all those years ago:

"Twenty years after the death of Draza Mihailovic he is undimmed in his glory as a defender of liberty against the fascist terror, who defended it also against the communist terror. He had no moment of weakness, or of bitterness. I know of no instance where he reproached those who were guilty of his betrayal.

Twenty years ago I knew he was innocent of all charges against him, and since then I have had many further proofs of his innocence. His abandonment was a crime, and like all crimes it brought no real profit to the criminals.

I loved your nation of Serbia before the war. I have loved and honoured it more and more as the years have gone by and I have seen that the hero whom you gave to history has not his like in our time. "

Will we ever have another like him? Do we deserve another like him? And if we should receive another like the good General, will we be smart enough to appreciate the gift?

Aleksandra Rebic
July 2008

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Chetniks! The Fighting Guerrillas (1943) - A Critical Reappraisal in 2008

Chetniks! The Fighting Guerrillas (1943): A Critical Reappraisal

By Carl Savich

On January 11, 1943, during the height of World War II, Twentieth Century Fox released the movie Chetniks! The Fighting Guerrillas on the guerrilla movement headed by Draza Mihailovich in German-occupied Yugoslavia. The movie starred Philip Dorn as Draza Mihailovich and Anna Sten as his wife. The movie was the Hollywood chronicle of the Chetnik resistance movement.

Draza Mihailovich launched a resistance movement against the Nazi occupation forces of Yugoslavia in 1941. This was unprecedented and created a sensation in Europe and in America. In America, Draza Mihailovich became one of the most popular figures in the news. In the May 25, 1942 issue of Time Magazine, Mihailovich was on the cover under the heading, “Mihailovich: Yugoslavia’s Unconquered.” He was one of the major contenders for the title of Time’s Man of the Year. Time was inundated by letters of support. Joseph Stalin, however, ended up the Man of the Year in 1942 because the Red Army was able to halt the German advance on Moscow. But Mihailovich received massive media coverage in the US, garnering very favorable popular support and acclaim.

As a result of this wide acclaim, in 1942, a Hollywood movie was made by a major studio, Twentieth Century-Fox, called Chetniks! The Fighting Guerrillas, which showed Draza Mihailovich and his forces as allies of the US. The film starred Dutch-born actor Philip Dorn, who played Papa Lars Hanson in the 1948 classic, nominated for 5 Academy Awards, I Remember Mama, as Draza Mihailovich and Russian-born Anna Sten, Samuel Goldwyn’s answer to Greta Garbo, as his wife, Lubitca Mihailovitch. Dorn had appeared in Tarzan’s Secret Treasure (1941) with Johnny Weissmuller and Maureen O’Sullivan, The Fighting Kentuckian (1949) with John Wayne, and the sequel or follow-up to Casablanca, Passage to Marseille (1944) directed by Michael Curtiz with Humphrey Bogart, Claude Rains, Peter Lorre, and Sydney Greenstreet. Born in the Netherlands as Hein van der Niet, Dorn had been a screen actor in the Netherlands and in Germany during the 1930s. He continued to act until the 1950s when poor health forced him to retire. He died in 1975.

Anna Sten had been born in Kiev as Anel Stenski Sudakevich. She appeared in Russian and German movies such as The Bothers Karamazov and Trapeze in 1931 in Germany. She was discovered by Konstantin Stanislavsky who encouraged her to try out for the Moscow Film Academy. Samuel Goldwyn brought her to Hollywood and sought to make her into a Greta Garbo or Marlene Dietrich type of female lead. Sten was even satirized in Cole Porter’s musical Anything Goes (1934): "If Sam Goldwyn can with great conviction / Instruct Anna Sten in diction / Then Anna shows / Anything goes." She starred in the Goldwyn film Nana (1934), which failed at the box-office, as did subsequent releases We Live Again (1934) and The Wedding Night (1935). She was also in the 1943 movie They Came to Blow Up America about a planned attack on the American homeland by German saboteurs. She continued to make films and appeared on TV in the 1960s. She died in 1993.

Chetniks! The Fighting Guerrillas was produced by Bryan Foy and Sol M. Wurtzel, who had been one of the top executives at William Fox’s studio and remained a prominent producer when Fox merged with Twentieth Century Pictures in 1935.

The movie was directed by Louis King, best known for directing the My Friend Flicka sequels, based on the Mary O’Hara novels, in the 1940s, Thunderhead--Son of Flicka (1945) and Green Grass of Wyoming (1948), which received an Academy Award nomination, the Bulldog Drummond series of films, Charlie Chan in Egypt (1935) with Warner Oland and Rita Hayworth, and a series of low budget B westerns in the 1920s and early 1930s, the most notable of which were made at Joseph P. Kennedy’s Film Booking Offices of America movie studio (FBO) in the 1920s.

The screenplay was written by Jack Andrews and Edward E. Paramore, Jr., based on the original story by Andrews. The movie was well-written, derived from events of Draza Mihailovich’s life. The movie is factual although some facts were changed. Mihailovich was based in Ravna Gora in Serbia, while in the movie the action takes place in Kotor in Montenegro. Mihailovich had four children, while the movie only showed two. Mihailovich’s wife was named Jelica Lazarevich, while in the movie she is called Lubitca. The cast also occasionally has difficulty pronouncing the “z” sound in “Draza”, mispronouncing it as a “j” sound while the actual sound is more like the “z” in the word “azure”. Nevertheless, diligent effort was made to rely as closely as possible to the facts and to recreate the Yugoslavian landscape.

Andrews and Paramore are able to capture what motivates Mihailovich in the following dialogue from the movie:

Lubitca Mihailovitch: The Germans say, “It is only a matter of time until we catch you!”

Draja Mihailovitch: You don’t believe that, do you?

Lubitca: They’re strong. They have so much.

Draja: Yes, but we are stronger because we have something they never had: The will to be free. You see, our people don’t like to be conquered. So they never will be.

Lubitca: That is the truth, isn’t it?

Draja: Yes, my dear.

The film opens with a written statement after the opening credits by Twentieth Century Fox that the film is dedicated to Draza Mihailovich and the Serbian Chetnik guerrillas:

“This picture is respectfully dedicated to Draja Mihailovitch and his fighting Chetniks—those fearless guerrillas who have dedicated their lives with a grim determination that no rest shall prevail until the final allied victory, and the liberation and resurrection of their beloved fatherland--Yugoslavia has been achieved.”

In the opening scene, German bombers attack Yugoslavia and bomb Belgrade in 1941. German tanks and armored vehicles are shown invading and occupying Yugoslavia. Then Chetnik guerrillas are shown attacking German occupation troops and resisting the occupation by sabotage. A German officer who predicts an easy occupation and imminent conquest of Yugoslavia is shown being shot by Chetnik guerrillas.

After Yugoslavia is invaded and occupied by Germany, Italy, Hungary, and Bulgaria in 1941, Draza Mihailovich, a Serbian army colonel, forms a resistance movement to the Axis occupation. His guerrilla forces are known as Chetniks, a Serbian term for guerrillas, insurgents, or resistance fighters. Mihailovich’s forces attack German and Italian occupation troops and engage in sabotage, forcing the Axis to commit seven divisions against them. In the first action scene in the movie, the Chetniks capture an Italian supply convoy in Montenegro. Mihailovich calls the German headquarters in Kotor proposing to free the captured Italian troops if he is given gasoline in exchange. When German General von Bauer refuses, Mihailovich reveals that he will contact the Italian High Command to reveal the details of the offer. In order to prevent conflict between the Axis powers, Bauer is forced to agree after pressure from Wilhelm Brockner, the Gestapo Colonel.

Natalia, played by Virginia Gilmore, is the secretary to Gestapo chief Brockner. Natalia, however, works for the Chetniks and reveals confidential information to them. She reveals that 2,000 Yugoslavs will be transported by train to Germany. The Chetniks are able to intercept and attack the train and to release the prisoners. They send one of the German POWs to Bauer to thank him for providing them with more guerrillas. They place a Nazi swastika on his back.

Brockner responds by threatening to starve the people of Kotor. He orders that no food will be distributed unless Mihailovich’s wife Lubitca surrenders along with their two children, Mirko, played by Merrill Rodin, and Nada, played by Patricia Prest. Natalia prevents Lubitca from surrendering.

Mihailovich agrees to come to German military headquarters under a truce. Once in German custody, General Bauer announces that under international law and the customs of war, he can have Mihailovich summarily executed as a bandit and guerrilla. Yugoslavia officially and legally surrendered to Germany and thus the insurgency was illegal. Mihailovich was an outlaw. This forces Mihailovich to reveal his hand. He discloses that Chetnik guerrilla forces have captured Bauer’s wife and daughter as well as Brockner’s concubine. They will be freed only if food is restored to the people of Kotor. General Bauer is forced to release Mihailovich.

After the identity of Mirko is disclosed, Lubitca and Mirko are seized by German forces and taken to Mihailovich’s mountain hideout to force him to surrender. Every man, woman, and child in Kotor will be executed by German troops unless Mihailovich surrender within eighteen hours. Mihailovich announces that he will not surrender.

Mihailovich then prepares an ambush for the German forces. He orders his forces to pretend that they are retreating and surrendering. The German troops attack and are ambushed in the mountains. An aide to Mihailovich, Lt. Aleksa Petrovitch, played by Shepperd Strudwick, who appears as John Shepperd, also seeks to infiltrate the German command, but is captured. Other Chetnik guerrillas, under Maj. Danilov, played by Frank Lackteen, attack the town of Kotor where they defeat the German forces..

The entire action in the movie takes place in the mountainous coastal city of Kotor in Montenegro. In the major scenes, Draza Mihailovich and his Chetnik guerrillas are able to ambush and capture Italian and German occupation troops and officers. Mihailovich is portrayed as a real-life Zorro, who is able to outwit the Nazi war machine. A German occupation teacher is shown instructing and indoctrinating Serbian children to sing the Horst Wessel Song, which was the anthem of the Nazi Party and was part of the German national anthem during the Nazi regime, composed by an SA officer, a Brown shirt storm trooper in 1929, who was later assassinated by Communists. Mihailovich’s son Mirko is in this class. The teacher is able to discover his identity and to reveal it to the Gestapo. A Gestapo officer, Col. Wilhelm Brockner, played by Martin Kosleck, is able to then uncover the identity of Mihailovich’s two children, Mirko and Nada, and his wife, Lubitca. German forces then take them into custody to extort Mihailovich to surrender. The Chetniks are able to capture a high ranking German officer, Klausewitz, as well as the relatives of German occupation leaders. In the climax, Mihailovich is able to draw the German forces, led by Gen. von Bauer, played by Austrian-born actor Felix Basch, into an ambush in the surrounding mountains where they are defeated. Mihailovich emerges victorious. In the final scene, he is shown triumphant in front of a Serbian Orthodox Church flanked by two Orthodox priests, vowing to fight on until total victory is achieved.

The original musical score was by Hugo W. Friedhofer, who won the Academy Award for Best Musical Score for the classic World War II movie The Best Years of Our Lives (1946). Friedhofer had also been the musical arranger on Casablanca and Now, Voyager in 1942 when he worked with Max Steiner. The cinematography was by Glen MacWilliams. The film editing was by Alfred Day.

The film was shot from September 17 to October 19, 1942, while additional scenes were filmed in the middle of November. The movie was 73 minutes long on 8 reels on 6,577 feet of black and white film with mono sound. An alternate title was The Seventh Column.

The movie was well-received by the American public and was shown in movie theaters all across America, in the Stanford Theatre in Palo Alto, California on May 7, 1943, the Tower Theatre in Bastrop, Texas in June, 1943, and at the Globe in New York City. In the February 23, 1943 Fitchburg Sentinel newspaper in Massachusetts, it was announced that “‘Chetniks’ Unconquerable Guerrilla Heroes” was playing in local movie theaters. In the April 15, 1943 Lima News newspaper in Ohio, it was reported that the movie played at the Quilna Theater: “Guerrilla heroes come into their own in the new picture, ‘Chetniks’, which commences at the Quilna theatre Friday night.” In the June 3, 1943 Mansfield Sentinel Journal newspaper in Ohio, an advertisement for the movie appeared: “Chetniks! The Fighting Guerrillas, the story of the fighting guerrillas, continues today at the Ritz. Philip Dorn is seen as the leader of the Chetniks. It is upon his orders that the fighting guerrillas move down from the hills to blast enemy ammunition dumps, blow up bridges.”

The New York Times reviewed the movie favorably on March 19, 1943 after it was shown in New York at the Globe in a review by “T.M.P.”, Thomas M. Pryor. The New York Times called the movie “splendidly acted” and that it had “the right spirit”. Hal Erickson of All Movie Guide (AMG) reviewed the movie favorably as well, noting how Mihailovich was vindicated. Erickson wrote that the movie portrayed Mihailovich as “a selfless idealist, leading his resistance troops, known as the Chetniks, on one raid after another against the Germans during WWII”.

The film has been unavailable and has not been reissued in the US in large part because the role of Mihailovich in World War II was rewritten and revised and falsified after the war. The movie is no longer politically correct.

Draza Mihailovich continued to make history after the movie was released. In 1944, his Chetnik guerrillas rescued over 500 US airmen shot down behind enemy lines over Serbia by German forces. This was one of the largest rescue operations in US military history. In recognition, after the war, Mihailovich received a posthumous Legion of Merit award given to him by US President Harry S. Truman upon the recommendation of Allied Supreme Commander in Europe General Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Chetniks! The Fighting Guerrillas documents and dramatizes a remarkable and unique moment in the history of World War II. It captures a special moment in time. This is a movie that deserves to be recognized as an important film of World War II.


Tuesday, February 26, 2008


Book recounts top-secret airlift of 500 caught behind enemy lines in WWII

Monday, February 25, 2008


Star-Ledger Staff // New Jersey

For five weeks Anthony Orsini's family thought he was dead. Killed in action fighting the Nazis.

The Woodbridge man was one of more than 500 U.S. airmen shot down behind enemy lines in Yugoslavia in 1944 while bombing oil fields in Romania. Watched over by Serbian Chetnik guerrillas who hid them in local villager's attics, cellars and barns, the group was rescued by Allied forces in a daring top-secret airlift mission.

"Operation Halyard," considered by some military historians as the single largest evacuation from Axis-occupied Europe, normally would have made bold front-page headlines and been featured in movie house newsreels. But the U.S. State Department put a gag order on it all, not wanting to draw attention to the mission because of political wrangling.

The soft-spoken, well-dressed Jersey City native remembers vividly what happened and recounted his tale to Gregory Freeman, who wrote, "The Forgotten 500," a book now bringing renewed awareness to the rescue and Orsini, who is basking in the attention.

"I can't believe this excitement is happening 63 years after the fact," said the 85-year-old Orsini, one of only a handful of survivors who is now getting a chance to see his story told.

Freeman spent two years researching and writing the book after he became intrigued with the rescue, which took place in present-day Serbia, then part of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia.

"This is the kind of story I am drawn to -- stories that are significant but overlooked," said Freeman, of Marietta, Ga., whose two previous books on slavery and an aircraft fire are currently in film development.

Orsini, who was a navigator on one of the bombers, remembers "the most exciting day of my life." It was July 22, 1944.

Assigned to the 449 Bomb Group, attached to the 15th Air Force, 716 Squadron, Orsini was on a B-24 bomber approaching the Ploesti oil fields in Romania. The sky was full of aircraft when guns started to fire and black clouds of flak filled the air.

"My blood ran cold," Orsini said.

When the bomber violently shook, Orsini said he knew they were hit. The pilot screamed, "Abandon ship!" and Orsini strapped on his parachute and threw himself off into the sky.

He struck a tree and blacked out on the landing. When he woke up, Orsini was in the arms of a peasant woman, who was happily chattering. Villagers and Chetnik guerrillas shielded the airman from roving German patrols.

Gen. Draza Mihailovich, a Chetnik guerrilla leader and Serb nationalist, immediately started coordinating a rescue plan with the Office of Strategic Services or OSS, a forerunner to the Central Intelligence Agency. His people brought the airmen to the small village of Pranjane where they transformed a farm field into a makeshift airfield.

The first C-47 cargo planes began to airlift the Allied soldiers out of harm's way in August 1944 and continued for several months, Freeman said. Each plane carried a little more than a dozen men at a time.

Orsini was rescued on Aug. 27. and when he returned to his base in Bari, Italy, he was shocked to discover that he was on the "killed in action" list. He immediately telegraphed his family back in Jersey City to tell them he was still alive.

What he couldn't tell them until later, however, was how he got home. OSS officials wanted to keep the news secret to avoid disrupting the ongoing missions, Orsini said.


Even after the war ended, the State Department kept the rescue quiet because it did not want to anger Josip Broz Tito, who after allying with the Americans and Russians against the Nazis, became the longtime dictator of Yugoslavia.

Tito hated the Chetniks and in particular Mihailovich, said Jonathan Gumz, a history professor at West Point, who called Operation Halyard probably one of the biggest rescue missions of the war.

Tito was fighting the Chetniks in a civil war at the same time World War II raged around them, Gumz said. In the ensuing power struggle, Mihailovich lost and was executed by Tito for collaborating with the Nazis, Gumz said.

When the U.S. airmen tried to put up a small monument honoring Mihailovich, they were silenced by the State Department.

"It was a great disappointment not to be able to honor him," Orsini said. "We tried. We tried."

Mihailovich posthumously received a Legion of Merit medal from President Harry S. Truman, but Freeman said the award was kept secret not to offend Tito. The medal was finally given to Mihailovich's daughter, Gordana, in 2005.

After his discharge in 1945 with the rank of first lieutenant, Orsini married Gloria Cleaver, whom he had known before the war at his job at the North Bergen Trust Co. He earned a degree in accounting from Pace Institute in 1954 and worked in banking until he retired in 1984 from the National State Bank in Elizabeth as a senior vice president and cashier. His wife died five years ago.

In his tidy apartment in Woodbridge, among the pictures of his three children and seven grandkids, Orsini displays a Purple Heart (he was wounded twice in three dozen bombing missions) and an Air Medal.

One of Orsini's prized possessions from his days in Yugoslavia is a steel dagger, made from the parts of a downed bomber, that a Chetnik guerrilla fighter gave him for protection. The metal sheath is dull and tarnished, but the silver blade is sharp, just like Orsini's memories.

"They have my undying gratitude for all they did for me," Orsini said about the Chetniks. "I think back now on how they treated us and we got the best of everything."

Sharon Adarlo may be reached at or (732) 404-8081.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

John McCain Snubs American WWII Vet saved by Draza Mihailovich and his Serbs

NOTE - Major Richard Felman had many stories to tell about his experiences during his 50 year effort to inspire official recognition of the heroic contributions made by General Mihailovich and his Serbs to the Allied cause during World War II. Of the many that he conveyed to me personally over the years, his experience with Senator John McCain, who was his senator, was among those that left him the most disappointed. I know that if Richard Felman were alive today, he would be reminding John McCain of their meeting below.

Aleksandra Rebic

Truth About World War II MIAs Still Covered Up

Tucson Citizen, November 9, 1992

By Richard L. Felman

TUCSON, AZ. The recent glut of news stories proclaiming our government's all-out effort to get at the truth about missing servicemen in Vietnam in reality was nothing more than election-time grandstanding.

It brings to mind the political maneuvering behind the scenes that I personally experienced in another MIA situation. As a group of former MIAs, we have had 47 years of firsthand exposure to the depths to which our State Department will sink to withhold the truth about MIAs from Congress and the American people if it will interfere with its foreign policy of appeasement.

During World War II, I was one of more than 500 American airmen listed as missing in action for periods of up to 18 months after being shot down over German-occupied Yugoslavia.
Only through the courageous efforts of General Draza Mihailovich's anti-communist guerrilla forces were we able to avoid capture, be gathered up at a central point and air-evacuated to safety at our bases in Italy.

To this day, the "Halyard Operation" remains the largest one-time rescue of Americans from behind enemy lines in our nation's history. For political reasons, it has been covered up by our State Department.

During a recent visit to the archives at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, authorities at the highest level told me they could not believe there had been no record of such an historic rescue in their files.

Since the end of World War II, our group has petitioned Congress to allow us to publicly express our gratitude to those on foreign soil responsible for saving our lives while we were serving in defense of our country. Unfortunately, we have been fought every step of the way by the State Department's fear that the truth would offend the postwar communist government of Yugoslavia.

Even though that government no longer exists, the State Department continues to this very day to vigorously oppose the bills we now have before Congress, which have the support of the 8 million members of the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Air Force Association.

At the local level, we have been supported by the Arizona State Legislature, the Arizona American Legion, the Tucson Veterans Affairs Committee, former Sen. Barry Goldwater, former U.S. Rep. Mo Udall, and former Gov. Rose Mofford.

The political ramifications of this deception have been so far-reaching that our recent appeal to Dante B. Fascell, chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, parroted the standard State Department denial together with the following explanation: "What is at stake concerns not simply the sensitivity and opposition of the official Yugoslav government, but also several ethnic groups in Yugoslavia as well."

It sets a terribly frightening precedent when the legitimate requests of American citizens on an internal matter are opposed by the U.S. government on the basis that it might upset some foreign government and its ethnic groups.

Worthy of mention is some background of our ongoing struggle. In 1977, the U.S. Senate passed legislation granting our committee permission to erect a simple memorial in Washington to be financed with private funds. Nine days after the bill passed, the American ambassador to Yugoslavia, Lawrence S. Eagleburger, fired off his protest conveying the Yugoslavian government's "extreme distaste for the Senate move."

In a strongly worded recommendation against "further action," his letter stated: "Passage by the House of this legislation would have an extremely adverse impact on our bilateral relations with Yugoslavia. Rightly or wrongly, the Yugoslavs look upon the bill as a provocation and would react to its passage accordingly."

This stand has been the etched-in-stone policy of the State Department ever since and the reason why our bills have never gotten out of the House committee.

It should be noted that after serving as Ambassador to Yugoslavia, Eagleburger left the State Department and earned more than $900,000 a year as a director of a Yugoslav bank later convicted of money laundering and as a director on the board at Yugo Cars. After Yugo Cars went broke, Eagleburger returned to the State Department, replaced James Baker, and is now acting Secretary of State.

My hopes for finally uncovering the truth were raised when we elected U.S. Senator John McCain, R-Ariz., to represent us. I felt he could identify with what it meant to be rescued, since he was shot down in enemy territory and endured five years of torture in Vietnam.

It took me almost seven years to get an appointment with him. While expressing sympathy for our effort, McCain told me he could do nothing. Instead of calling for the investigation I requested of our serious charges - withholding the truth from members of Congress and using taxpayer funds to disseminate communist propaganda are federal offenses – he told me the only way to get at the truth would be for me to write the 435 members of the house of Representatives and get a majority of them to support our effort.

I thought the reason the people of Arizona elected politicians was to represent them in Washington.

At this point, our disillusioned group of aging veterans has given up trying to repay our nation's debt of honor to those on foreign soil who saved American lives. After risking our lives and watching our buddies in combat get their arms, legs and heads blown off, we returned home to find an uncaring bloated bureaucracy that treated our service to country with contemptuous disregard.

After 47 years of disappointments our noble effort has failed. How can we expect the government to level with the American people about the MIAs in Vietnam, when they are still covering up the truth about the MIAs from World War II?


Richard L. Felman of Tucson, now deceased, was a retired Air Force major and president of the "National Committee of American Airmen Rescued by General Mihailovich."