Friday, May 27, 2011

"MIHAILOVICH and I" by Major Richard L. Felman, U.S.A.F. / A True Story

 



Major Richard L. Felman, U.S.A.F.


Aleksandra's Note: The following memoir was written in 1964 by Major Richard L. Felman of the United States Air Force. It is his personal true story of his extraordinary experiences during World War Two. It is also the story of the great Serbian patriot and Western Ally General Draza Mihailovich and the Serbs who saved the lives of over 500 Americans who were shot down over Nazi-occupied Yugoslavia in 1944. In honor of Memorial Day 2011 it's worthwhile to revisit this moment in history. As much as his story honors the Americans and other Allies with whom he lived through this unforgettable WWII experience, Major Felman's story equally honors those patriots on the ground in the former Yugoslavia, the Chetniks, who made this story possible. Richard Felman never forgot his debt of gratitude. His memoir, "Mihailovich and I", is a tribute that will remain a timeless repayment of that debt and a powerful reminder of what it means to be a true Ally.

Sincerely,

Aleksandra Rebic


MIHAILOVICH AND I

By Major Richard L. Felman, U.S.A.F.

INTRODUCTION

This is an eye-witness, factual, now-it-can-be-told story. While it is of important historical significance, it is also a simple story. Its importance lies in the betrayal of World War Two’s greatest unsung hero; a man that history will record as being responsible for the turning point in the greatest destructive war mankind has ever known. Its simplicity lies in the association of an inconsequential soldier with this man of history and of his attempts to repay a long outstanding, but never-to-be repaid, debt.

On April 6th, 1941 the savage hordes of the Nazi juggernaut invaded Yugoslavia. Its beloved King, Peter the Second, was smuggled out of the country in the black of night and set up an exile government in London. Its poorly equipped army could do very little against the mighty Wehrmacht Panzer divisions. Within a matter of days the Beast of Berlin added another country to its infamous list. Another country, perhaps, but not another people; for remaining behind was Peter’s Minister of War and Commander in Chief, General Draza Mihailovich. Mihailovich quickly assembled his make-shift, slingshot army and retreated to the hills. The first, and by far, most effective guerrilla leader of World War Two had begun operations. In no time, reports coming out of Yugoslavia related of his many heroic raids on German garrisons, acts of harassment, sabotage, etc. Ever since September 1939 when Hitler overran Poland no country or people had been able to offer anything more than token resistance to the onrushing Nazi steamroller. Suddenly, the Allied world had reason to hope and to question the invincibility of this indestructible force. Here was the Twentieth Century version of David and Goliath. Newspapers screamed headlines of Mihailovich and his brave band of Chetniks. Hollywood produced a motion picture of their courageous guerrilla activities. TIME Magazine ran a cover story on Draza Mihailovich on May 25, 1942. Even kids switched from “cowboys and Indians” to playing “Chetniks”. Everywhere, freedom loving people sang out his name hopefully, with renewed strength, in a darkened world.

On July 17th, 1946 a beaten, tired Mihailovich stood before a firing squad of the Federated People’s Republic of Yugoslavia and was executed as a “war collaborator”.

His grateful followers during the war years were shocked. Newspapers, commentators and historians were just as vociferous in their revulsion as they had been in his support. Indignant people throughout the freedom-loving world were asking: “What happened during the intervening years? Is this the same man who fought so gallantly for our cause and gave us our first ray of Hope?” To add to their confusion, top German staff officers admitted that Mihailovich had caused so much embarrassing harassment to the invincible Nazi machine that Hitler transferred 4 Panzer divisions from the Russian front to wipe him out at all costs. These same divisions, they claimed, spelled the difference in the balance of power on the Russian front and changed the tide of the war. Could this be his reward? What weird and distorted mechanisms of international intrigue permit a tragedy of this nature?

While I lay no claim to being a master of global politics, I do have the right to speak out the truth as I saw it and lived it. As an average American citizen I consider myself most fortunate in having been so closely related to this most important part of history and to the man responsible for it. Little did I realize when I saw the movie “The Chetniks” in 1943 that the real life hero portrayed in the film would be saving my life one year later, or that his Commander-in-Chief, King Peter, would personally decorate me with the Royal Order of Ravna Gora, Yugoslavia’s highest military decoration.



RLF

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Aleksandra's Note:
To view the pages of "Mihailovich and I"
and easily read the text, just click on each image below
 to enlarge. My sincere thanks to Carl Savich
for providing the scanned images.

Introduction: Pages 4 and 5

Pages 6 and 7

Page 8 and 9

Page 10


Page 11
Members of the Allied Mission with the
Corps Commander Dushan Smiljanich, hero and
pride of Gruza. In the village of Kamenica,
November 24, 1943.

Page 12

Page 13
Operational parts of the Supreme Command
at daily tasks in the free mountains and woods of
Yugoslavia.

Page 14

Page 15
General Mihailovich (left) in conversation with
a courier of the headquarters.

Page 16

Page 17
American Lieutenant A.B. Seitz (first from the left)
and British Colonel Hudson (second from right) at the
swearing in of recruits of the First Studenica Brigade
in Rudno, December 6, 1943.

Page 18

Page 19
Once upon a time this was a peaceful Serbian village,
now destroyed by savage German and Ustashi hordes.

Pages 20 and 21

Pages 22 and 23

Page 24
Rescued fliers brought by peasants and Chetniks to the
Supreme Headquarters.


Page 25

Page 26
Soldiers of the Ravna Gora Corps who guarded the
safety of the airfield in the village of Pranjani during
the evacuation of the main group of American fliers
on August 10, 1944. General Mihailovich inspects
the troops before their departure for the task.

Page 27

Page 28
Another of the many rescued allied fliers.

Page 29

Page 30
Preparing for departure - Pranjani, August 10, 1944.

Page 31


Page 32
In the plane departing for Bari, Italy

Page 33

Page 34
The arrival of the rescued fliers in Bari, Italy
on August 10, 1944.

Page 35

Page 36
General Mihailovich with one of the members of the
American Military Mission (Nick Lalich) after the
successful operation of the rescue of American fliers
from Yugoslavia.

Page 37

Page 38
The march toward Rudno Village in December 1943
together with Allied officers.

Page 39

Page 40

Page 41

Page 42

Page 43

Page 44
Members of the Military Mission and commander
of the guard on the threshold of a burnt down house.

Page 45

Page 46

THE END



*****

If you would like to get in touch with me, Aleksandra,
please feel free to contact me at ravnagora@hotmail.com


*****

4 comments:

  1. I laud any effort to set history straight and tell the world of the Serbian tragedy of WWII; the world should know the truth about the Serbian people, the Chetniks and Draza Mihailovich - Major Richard Felman has gone many extra miles to do just that.

    Sadly, disinformation consigned Serbia to postwar communism and in the 1990s disinformation weapon struck again when Croats and Muslims hired powerful Washington PR firms to spread lies about Serbia - resulting in yet another calamity for a fine people.

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  2. Aleksandra, I think what you are doing is just great! I have had the fortune of having this book in my possession for a short while. I have been reading and researching everything I can over the last 6 years or so about the general and the chetniks. Keep it up!

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  3. Really enjoying this site as I knew little of what my grandfather Leonard Pritchett went through after being shot down from his B24"Never A Dull Moment" on July 9th,1944. and I'm eager to learn more. thanks, John

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  4. Hello,
    I'm Col. Billy Seals, USAF Ret., and I'm currently the president of the 98th Bomb Group/Wing Veterans Association, and a WWII history buff. I was familiar with the actions of the General as I had read the "Forgotten 500." Now, I can't wait to get my hands on this book! Thanks for writing the true story of the events which occurred in Serbia during the war.

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