Sunday, May 31, 2009

HALYARD MISSION celebration remembered as world marks D-Day

Fifteen years ago today, Serbs and Americans commemorated the 50th Anniversary of the Halyard Mission rescue operation, a glorious moment in their common history as allies.

As we near the 65th anniversary of D-Day in 2009, with so many of our American and Serbian WWII veterans that celebrated together that day in May of 1994 no longer with us, let's remember them, their heroism, and the historical milestone they shared...

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.

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.


"Lieutenant George S. Musulin was an American officer who went above and beyond the call of duty in 1944 when he parachuted behind enemy lines to help save the lives of hundreds of American and Allied airmen who had been shot down over the Ploesti Oil fields in Romania while carrying out one of the most dangerous missions of World War II - taking out the Nazi Army's main supply of fuel at the time. For his valor, Lt. Musulin was awarded the Legion of Merit, due to his assistance and courage. The single greatest rescue of American lives from behind enemy lines in the history of warfare was completed in Serbia with the help of the Serbian Chetnik forces under the command of General Draza

In honor of his memory, the GEORGE S. MUSULIN AWARD has been founded this day, May 31, 1994, in commemoration of the HALYARD MISSION RESCUE OPERATION, to be given to that individual or group each year who has made an outstanding contribution to America.

Awarded on behalf of the memory of those fallen American airmen assigned to the Ploesti Mission in 1944 who never made it back home."

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 the legacy of what they accomplished continues, and will continue, forevermore.


To get in touch with me, Aleksandra, please feel free to contact me at

Thursday, May 28, 2009

V. Rev. Fr. Aleksandar Radenkovich, friend of St. Nikolai Velimirovich and General Mihailovich, passes away

Naples Daily News

V. Rev. Fr. Aleksandar Radenkovich, 91, of Bonita Springs, Florida passed away May 26, 2009 at Joanne's House in Bonita Springs. He was born in Budapest, Hungary in 1915. He was a survivor of Dachau Concentration Camp. He was beaten and tortured by the communists and his faith never faltered. He was dear friends of St. Nikolai Velimirovich. He also knew Draza Mihailovich, a freedom fighter against Communism. He saved thousands of Jews from Germany's genocide.

He received his law degree in Budapest then went to Belgrade where he enrolled in theological school. He was classmates and good friends with Patriarch Pavle. He married his wife, Djurgina, on December 23, 1941 in the cathedral in Belgrade. He was ordained August, 1942 at St. Andrea. In 1945 he went to Serbia Novisad and served several parishes.

In 1966 he came to America where he served at St. Savas Monastery in Libertyville, OH until 1988. After leaving Ohio, he served at St Katherine's Greek Orthodox Church for many years.

He is survived by his wife, Djurgina; five grandchildren; six great-grandchildren; and a sister in Budapest.

He was preceded in death by his son, George.

He was one of six children and his youngest sister is still alive in Budapest.

Divine Liturgy will be held on Thursday, May 28th at 9:00 a.m. at St. Katherine Greek Orthodox Church, 7100 Airport Pulling Road in Naples with his Eminence Metropolitan Alexios of Atlanta and other area clergy officiating, followed by his funeral at 11:00 a.m.



To get in touch with me, Aleksandra, please feel free to contact me at


Sunday, May 24, 2009

Major George Vujnovich, Serbian-American WWII veteran of the Halyard Mission, honored in the U.S. Congressional Record, March 16, 2009


MONDAY, MARCH 16, 2009

Madam Speaker, I am joined by the co-chairs of the Congressional Serbian Caucus, Representatives Melissa Bean of Illinois and Dan Burton of Indiana, in honoring a treasured constituent of mine and one of the unsung heroes of World War II, retired Major George Vujnovich. Major Vujnovich, a proud Serbian-American, was instrumental in 'Operation Halyard' and one of the last surviving members of that successful wartime mission.

In the summer of 1944, Americans and Allied airmen flew hundreds of sorties over Europe with the aim of disrupting the Ploesti oil complex, Adolf Hitler's most important oil pipeline. During their treacherous journey from Italian bases to the Romanian oil complex, 1,500 of our brave men were forced to bail out over Yugoslavia. Scores of American crewmen were trapped behind enemy lines and dependent on Serbian villagers to hide them from the Germans.

Although Yugoslavia was enemy territory at the time, much of the country's Serbian regions remained under the control of Yugoslav guerilla resistance leader General Draja Mihailovich and his Chetnik forces. General Mihailovich remained loyal to the Allies, and under his orders the Serbian people shielded these airmen and protected them from capture and imprisonment by German troops.

General Mihailovich passed information about the downed American airmen to the United States authorities. The Office of Strategic Services (OSS) put together Operation Halyard, a daring mission to save the men without drawing the attention of the Nazis. The mission entailed flying and landing C-47 cargo planes into enemy territory, picking up the downed airmen, and flying back to allied territory. Before the mission could go forward, however, the Allied forces cut ties with General Mihailovich and no longer had specific information about the location of the American airmen. Major George Vujnovich, the OSS operation chief stationed in Bari, Italy, discovered that Mihailovich was hiding the airmen near his headquarters in the city of Pranjani. He informed U.S. officials of their location and Operation Halyard progressed.

As the mission advanced, Major Vujnovich's experience and expertise were indispensable. Major Vujnovich was responsible for selecting members of the Halyard Mission, and orchestrating the initial parachute drop into the area. The rescue plans hinged on his direction and the ability of local Serbs to build an airstrip without any modern tools and without German detection.

'Operation Halyard' took place between August and December 1944 and was a complete success. Hundreds of men were rescued behind enemy lines and no lives were lost in the mission. The Halyard Mission was a success thanks to the brave men and women of the OSS and the courageous Serbian locals who risked their lives to safeguard American airmen. Thanks to a keen mind and tactical expertise, Major Vujnovich demonstrated the courage and selflessness that mark him as an American hero.

Major George Vujnovich was born to Serbian parents in 1915. In 1934 he received a scholarship from the Serb National Federation and left his home in New York to attend college in Belgrade. While living in Belgrade, Mr. Vujnovich met and married his wife, Mirjana. Their life was disrupted in 1941, when the German Luftwaffe bombed Belgrade in Operation Punishment. Mr. Vujnovich was a first-hand witness to the bombing, nearly losing his life when a falling bomb destroyed a nearby streetcar. After the bombing, Mr. and Mrs. Vujnovich fled Yugoslavia, and he accepted a job in Ghana as assistant airport manager while Mirjana moved to Washington, DC to work at the Yugoslav Embassy. When the US entered the war, Mr. Vujnovich received a commission as a second lieutenant and assumed command of an airbase in Nigeria. While working at the airbase, he was recruited by the OSS for the clandestine services, and was later sent to the OSS post in Bari, Italy. From this post he saved the lives of his fellow servicemen and earned the title of hero. I am honored to have this opportunity to acknowledge Major Vujnovich's contribution to the Halyard Mission.


Note: Congressman Joseph Crowley, Democrat, is the US Representative for New York's 7th District. He is an Irish-American and the following description of part of his works can be found on the net at

"Congressman Joseph Crowley was elected to the United States House of Representatives in November of 1998 to represent the Bronx and Queens based Seventh Congressional District. Congressman Crowley has used his position on International Relations and his co-chairmanship of the Congressional Ad-Hoc Committee on Irish Affairs to expand on his past work in Irish affairs. In addition to leadership for justice and equality throughout all of Ireland."

A sincere 'Thank You' to Congressman Crowley for honoring the contribution of Major George Vujnovich to the success of the Halyard Mission Rescue Operation and for also recognizing the contribution of General Mihailovich and the Serbian people to the rescue of hundreds of American airmen from behind enemy lines during WWII.

Photo of wreath laying at Daley Plaza, Chicago to honor the Halyard Mission heroes in 1994 during the 50th anniversary commemoration of D-Day, featuring Major Richard L. Felman, U.S.A.F. (ret.) kneeling and Major George Vujnovich standing with his hand on his heart taken by Aleksandra Rebic.


To get in touch with me, Aleksandra, please feel free to contact me at


Saturday, May 23, 2009

'The Forgotten 500' // More Tributes and New Plans for Honoring the "Halyard Mission" and its Heroes

'The Forgotten 500'

Sewickley Herald ("Your Sewickley")

By Rachel Weaver

May 21, 2009

It was the best moment of Carl Walpusk's life. He was 19 years old, and the plane he was flying over Nazi-occupied Serbia had just been shot down. He jumped from the aircraft and pulled his parachute cord. Feeling the chute open, relief hit him. He realized he would make it.

U.S. Airman Carl Walpusk and his wife Virginia. // Photo courtesy of Milana "Mim" Bizic

"When you're that high up, you can't even tell you're moving," said Walpusk, now in his eighties. "But the last couple hundred feet, I tried to climb back up my chute."

Despite his efforts, he landed -- albeit in a strange country with no way of knowing if German soldiers were waiting on the ground.

That jump began 33 days of hiding in the area around Pranjani, Serbia, where poor farmers fed, cared for and hid him.

Walpusk is just one of the more than 500 World War II American airmen rescued from Serbia during the mission known as Operation Halyard. The men might be known as "The Forgotten 500" -- the title of Gregory Freeman's book on the rescue -- but Lt. Col. John Cappello is on a mission to help people remember.

U.S. Airman Carl Walpusk, seated in uniform, and
Lt. Col. John Cappello, standing, at the University of Pittsburgh,
May 11, 2009 // Photo courtesy of Milana Bizic

"From a military history perspective, it's an amazing story," said Cappello, Air Attache to the U.S. Embassy in Belgrade who gave a lecture on the subject at University of Pittsburgh last week. "From a human perspective, it's incredible to see what these people sacrificed for these men who dropped in on them -- literally."

The Halyard Mission was one of the largest rescues from behind German-occupied lines in Yugoslavia. More than 500 American airmen were shot down while performing bombing missions to the Ploesti Oil Fields in Romania.

The Serbian people hid them from the Germans until they were rescued during the mission executed by Gen. Draza Mihailovich and his Serbian Chetniks.

In addition to a documentary Cappello and his crew are making to raise awareness of Operation Halyard, they also plan to build a library in the village of Pranjani, Serbia, as a memorial to the mission.

Mim Bizic, retired Edgeworth Elementary librarian and Moon Township resident, prepared close to 100 World War II books collected by the late Aleksandar and Wilma Crepajac of Sewickley for the proposed library.

Aleksandar was a major in the Royal Yugoslav Army, having graduated from the Military Institute there in 1929.

He died in 1998 at age 94. In January, Wilma also died, and the couple's grandniece, Annegret Rachuba of Germany, asked Sewickley attorney Richard Brandt to handle the estate.

Brandt, knowing Bizic from her time at Edgeworth and being aware of her Serbian heritage, recommended Rachuba offer her Aleksandar's extensive collection of books. She did, and it wasn't long before Bizic learned that Cappello, who she had met at a conference, was interested in building the library.

Bizic sent more than 100 books to the library in Pranjani; 61 will go to the Joe Buley Memorial Library in Chicago. Books only go to Pranjani if the Chicago library does not already have a copy.
Bizic, who's father edited American Serbian Life magazine, had known of the Halyard Mission her whole life.

"The villagers from Pranjani did so much," she said. "It was so dangerous."

The library, which also will serve as a community center, is "still in its infant stages," said Cappello. It will serve the local school, which is attended by 350 children. He hopes it will "be a community center they can be proud of and memorialize what the community did for the American airmen and educate the kids."

Though it was a success, the Halyard Mission isn't a widely known piece of history because of attempts to avoid angering Josip Broz Tito, Yugoslavia's communist dictator, after the war.
But the men who lived through it never forgot.

The airmen never spent more than one night without being moved, not knowing when their next meal would come. Walpusk, who has three children and three grandchildren, said he owes his life to the brave villagers who helped him.

"I don't know how they did it," said the retired state trooper who has lived in Moon for 50 years.
"They would break us into groups of four or six and move us around to different families. I can't even imagine how many families fed us."

The men ate mostly soup and broth, and if there was bread, it didn't last long.

"We would stick it in our shirts because we ate very seldom," Walpusk said.

The farmers lived in poverty. Walpusk could see chickens on the tops of houses when he slept, and cattle roamed the yards.

Walpusk said he thinks Cappello's efforts to educate both Serbs and Americans on Operation Halyard are wonderful.

"The Serbs did so much," Walpusk said.

"I don't know if the American people would do what they did -- take us in and feed us if we were a foreigner.

"They had nothing."


Halyard Hometown Connections

The Halyard Mission has many local connections.

• The hero of Gregory Freeman's book "The Forgotten 500" is Maj. George Vujnovich, who served as point man to the mission from Bari, Italy. Vujnovich was born on 25th Street on Pittsburgh's South Side and graduated from Ambridge Area High School before studying in Serbia, then joining up with the American O.S.S. (office of Strategic Services), forerunner of the C.I.A.

• Maj. George Musulin, who played football at the University of Pittsburgh and also was on the Pittsburgh's Steeler team (then called Pirates in 1938), was the original person in charge of the mission in Yugoslavia.

• Robert Marjanovich, the son of a priest from Aliquippa, was a student studying the priesthood in Belgrade when war broke out there.

He later joined Draza Mihailovich's forces and was a valuable resource person for his English-speaking skills.


Photos courtesy of "Serbian History 101" at, owned and operated by Milana "Mim" Bizic.


Please feel free to get in touch with me, Aleksandra, at


Monday, May 18, 2009

Draža Mihailović likvidiran u Lisičjem potoku

18/05/2009 21:07 Beograd Blizu rešenja tajne egzekucije: Dragoljub Mihailović na suđenju 1946.

Tuesday May 19, 2009 (Serbian time)

DANAS SAZNAJE - Sutra sastanak Komisije za utvrđivanje okolnosti streljanja komandanta Ravnogorskog pokreta

* Homen: Načelnik VBA i direktor BIA predstaviće sva saznanja koja imaju te službe o okolnostima izvršenja smrtne kazne

* Svi svedoci pre davanja izjava tražili prvo da pogledaju odluku o skidanju oznake tajnosti

Autor: I. Pejčić

Beograd - Na osnovu dosadašnjih svedočenja mesto likvidacije Draže Mihailovića, komandanta Ravnogorskog pokreta u Srbiji, jeste Lisičji potok, nadomak Dedinja, a ne Ada Ciganlija, saznaje Danas. Stav republičkog tužilaštva je da za sada neće pristupiti iskopavanju pre nego što se dođe do nepobitnih dokaza.

Podsetimo, Republičko javno tužilaštvo nedavno je formiralo državnu komisiju na čijem čelu je Slobodan Radovanović, vršilac dužnosti republičkog tužioca, koja će utvrđivati okolnosti izvršenja smrtne kazne nad Dražom Mihailovićem.

Slobodan Homen, državni sekretar u Ministarstvu pravde, kaže za Danas da će na sutrašnjem sastanku državne komisije, čiji je on član, biti pozvani i načelnik Vojnobezbednosne agencije (VBA) Svetko Kovač i direktor Bezbednosno-informativne agencije (BIA) Saša Vukadinović.

"Na tom sastanku prvi ljudi službi bezbednosti predstaviće sva saznanja koja imaju te službe o okolnostima izvršenja smrtne kazne nad Mihailovićem. Nakon razgovora očekujemo i da nam te službe i zvanično dostave sva dokumenta u vezi sa tim slučajem," ističe Homen.

On dodaje i da će naknadno dokumenta biti dostavljena arhivima i istoričarima da nastave svoja istraživanja.

Kako navodi, uzimanje izjava od svedoka trajaće još mesec dana. Prema njegovim rečima, pokazala se kao dobra procena da se skine oznaka državne tajne sa svih spisa i dokumenata u vezi sa streljanjem Mihailovića, kao i da se svi svedoci oslobode čuvanja tajne, jer su svi svedoci pre davanja izjava tražili najpre da pogledaju tu odluku.

"Zadatak komisije nije da utvrđuje političke okolnosti o Drugom svetskom ratu, niti da se bavi istorijskim pravdama i nepravdama," ističe državni sekretar.

On dodaje da svako ima pravo da bude sahranjen na pristojan način, bez obzira na političku pripadnost.

Srpska narodna odbrana - emigrantska organizacija iz SAD, nedavno je ponudila nagradu od 100.000 dolara onome ko pronađe zemne Mihailovićeve ostatke.



To get in touch with me, Aleksandra, feel free to contact me at


Dražu sahraniti na Ravnoj Gori

Revija 92

Broj 681 May 2009

Piše: Rade Dragović

Mesto gde su zakopani posmrtni ostaci Draže Mihailovića mora biti pronađeno. To je pitanje od od najvećeg značaja za rasvetljavanje istorije Drugog svetskog rata. Telo velikana koji se prvi suprotstavio nemačkoj sili treba otkriti, ekshumirati i dostojnio sahraniti. Njegovo počivalište treba da bude gorska tišina kojom je on carevao - Crkva svetog Đorđa na Ravnoj gori. Jedino tako biće ispravljena poluvekovna nepravda prema ovom velikanu.

Ovako posle tradicionalnog Sabora na Ravnoj gori za Reviju 92 govori Uroš Šušterič (84), četnički vojvoda triglavski i poslednji četnik Slovenije. Čoveka izuzetne biografije, oficira Kraljevine Jugoslavije, obaveštajaca Draže Mihailovića i saborca najviših četničkih komandanata ugostila je u Beogradu Srpska liberalna stranka, gde je organizovan sustet sa članovima Krunskog saveta i njegovim ratnim drugovima.

Uros Susteric // Politika Online 2007

"Ravnogorski pokret bio je oslobodilački front čiji je karakter bio isključivo - jugoslovenski. Činili su ga pripadnici Jugoslovenske vojske, među kojima je bilo najviše Srba. Uz njih su bili i Slovenci. U Bosni su delovale i brigade koje su činili Muslimani, lojalni starom poretku, pa čak i Hrvati, poput bliskog Dražinog saradnika Zvonka Vučkovića, komandanta Takovskog četničkog odreda. Malo je poznato da je četnika bilo čak i među Šiptarima. Čiča je bio vođa pokreta sa jasnom idejom - Jugoslavija, Ravnogorska vojska, kralj i otadžbina."

U Srbiji traje velika javna polemika o mestu gde je 1946. godine ubijen i sahranjen Draža Mihailović. Imate li vi saznanja o lokaciji gde bi trebalo tražiti njegove posmrtne ostatke?

"Posedujem tonski zapis koji govori da je pogubljen kod starog zatvora na Adi ciganliji, gde je potom bačen u krečanu. Do mene su stizali i glasovi da pokopan u Jajincima, Batajnici, Lisičijem potoku ili na Ratnom ostrvu... Mnoge od ovih lokacija pripadaju komunističkim podmetanjima. Jasno je da su komunisti radili na skrivanju tragova ovog zlodela."

Prema jednoj od verzija Mihailović je prebačen u Moskvu gde je navodno umro tek 1960. godine.

"Priče da je Čiča okončao život u inostranstvu potpuno su neosnovane. U vreme boravka američke misije na Ravnoj gori 1944. godine bio sam na dužnosti u Vrhovnoj komandi. Pouzdano znam da je pukovnik Mekdauel nudio Draži da avionom napusti Jugoslaviju. On je tada čvrsto rekao: 'Ne, ostajem sa svojim narodom!'. Šta je istina vreme će pokazati, ali tvrdim da je zločinački ubijen i da leži u Srbiji."

Kako se na Ravnogorski pokret i ulogu četnika u Drugom svetskom ratu gleda danas u Sloveniji?

"Slovenci znaju da je borba JVuO bila antifašistička i da su četnici bili najbliskiji saradnici saveznika. Svi koji su zbog pripadnosti Ravnogorskom pokretu osuđeni Slovenija je rehabilitovala još 1993. godine. Štaviše, dobili smo i materijalnu odštetu za vreme provedeno u logorima i komunističkim zatvorima. Na svim mestima gde su četnici ubijani danas su postavljeni spomenici, obeležavaju se jubileji uz vojne počasti."

Slovanačka javnost poslednjih godina puno se bavi masovnim grobnicama u kojima je pokopan i veliki broj pripadnika ravnogorskog pokreta.

"U Sloveniji postoji više od 500 grobnica, u kojima prema procenama, leži čak 200.000 ubijenih. Egzekucije su obavljane na Kočevskom rogu, u Kamniškoj bistrici, Hudoj jami, okolini Celja, Hrastniku, Teharju... To je najvećim delom posledica nasilja krvnika nad krvnicima - partizana nad ustašama. Puno je, međutim, i ubijenih ljotićevaca, nedićevaca i četnika iz Crne Gore koji su se priključili dobrovoljačkim korpusima. Naročito je postradao veliki zbeg Crnogoraca, koji su skoro svi pobijeni. Nažalost, stradalo je i mnogo potpuno nevinih ljudi."

Vi ste i porodično bili vezani za Dražu Mihailovića?

"Moj otac Josip bio je u prijateljskim odnosima sa Dražom. Mihailović je kao kao generalštabni pukovnik došao u Celje za komandanta 39. pešadijskog puka. Malo je poznato da je prekomandovan po kazni zbog takozvane Abisinske afere, i to po naređenju Milana Nedića, koji je tada bio inspektor Vojske i mornarice. Moj otac Josip bio je kapetan prve klase iz Prvog svetskog rata, Solunac i imao je mnogo toga zajedničkog sa Dražom."

Tokom rata ste se bavili obaveštajnim radom. Koji je bio vaš zadatak u Ravnogorskom pokretu?

"Obaveštajnim radom sam počeo da se bavim uz oca još pre rata. Uglavnom je to bilo nošenje prepiske vezane za kretanje nemačkih trupa u Donjoj Štajerskoj, kao i kontrola radova na fortifikaciji Rupnikove linije. Sa ulaskom u Ravnogorski odbor 1941. godine moj posao se razvio na obaveštajni i progandni rad, zbog poznavanja engleskog i nemačkog jezika. Zadatak mi je bilo obaveštavanje o kretanju želesnice i kamiona, provera ljudi, praćenje stranih medija i živa propaganda."

Koliku su ulogu u Ravnopgorskom pokretu imali oficiri iz Slovenije?

"Slovenaca je bilo dosta u JVuO, a bilo nas je i u Vrhovnoj komandi. U samom početku hrabrošću naročito su se istakli major Ivan Fregl, koga su Nemci ubili na samom početku rata zajedno sa sinom vojvode Mišića, Aleksandrom. Njih dvojica su nastradali da bi zaštitili Dražu Mihailovića. Veliku ulogu su imali major Pipan, Karlo Novak, vojvoda Zmagoslav, poručnik Melaher i mnogi drugi. Moj brat Bojan bio je komandant leteće brigade Resavaskog korpusa. Njega su komunisti streljali u januaru 1945. godine."

Ističete da ste za Srbiju vezani i - grobovima?

"Osim brata Bojana i moj otac počiva u Srbiji. On je kao predratni oficir streljan na procesu protiv vođa Paraćinske brigade, gde je osuđen bez ikakave krivice. Streljan je na Žutom pesku pored Morave. Svoje ratne drugove zamolio sam da mi pomognu da pronađem makar zemlju u kojoj je on pokopan, pošto o mestu ukopa nemam nikave informacije."

Kako ste preživeli posleratni period?

"Posle bežanja iz Srbije i ilegalnog skrivanja u Ljubljani izadala me je žena koja je trebalo da bude moj agent. Zadatak mi je bio da organizujem mrežu naših ljudi na području Slovenije. Uhapsila me je Ozna, ali protiv mene nisu imali dokaza. To me je spasilo sigurne smrti. Zahvaljujući različitim intervencijama osuđen sam svega na pet godina, uz gubitak građanskih prava. Pod okom Udbe bio sam sve do 1980. godine."

Kako se oseća četnički prvak, Slovenac i katolik, u Sloveniji danas?

"Moje vojvodstvo je velika čast koju delim sa svojim pokojnicima - ocem i bratom i Slovenci to poštuju. Raspad Jugoslavije je za mene bolna činjenica, najviše zbog našeg slaboumlja i strašne sebičnosti Hrvata. U tom odnosu snaga Slovenci nisu videli svoju budućnost i srpska politika je pristala na to. Zato mi govorimo da se nismo odvojili od Jugoslavije već od komunizma."

Malo je poznato da ste u vreme raspada Jugoslavije bili i blizak saradnik Janeza Janše. Kako to danas komentarišete?

"Bio sam prvi predsednik Saveta Janšine stranke. Sa njim sarađujem i danas i to je jedina moja politička aktivnost. Ravnogorstvo nije stvar političkog opredeljenja, već tradicije i ubeđenja. Janšino suđenje pred vojnim sudom u Ljubljani svojevremno je predstavljeno kao antisrpsko delovanje, što nije istina. Janša je jedini političar iz Slovenije koji redovno dolazi na četničke komemoracije."


U nemačkom ropstvu

"Tokom aprilskog rata bio sam u 345. protivavionskom divizionu koji je bio na položaju kod Zidanog mosta. Mi smo oborili jedini nemački avion u Sloveniji. Posle izdaje Hrvata, dobili smo naređenje od komande da se raziđemo kućama. Gestapo me je uhapsio 14. aprila 1941. godine, i tamnovao sam u zloglasnom zatvotu Stari Pisker u Celju. U vreme kada nijedan komunista nije znao šta je nemački zatvor, Nemci su redom zatvarali pripadnike Jugoslovenske vojske."

Nismo imali sukobe

"Partizani su se u Srbiji pojavili 1941. godine. Posle niza nemilih događaja - napada na ugledne domaćine, vršljanja, paljenja arhiva i zemljišnih knjiga, učestalo su ih ubijali seljaci u krajevima gde su se pojavljivali. Mi se u to nismo mnogo mešali. Sve do 1944. godine i dolaska 23. divizije Peka Dapčevića sa partizanima u Srbiji skoro da nismo imali nikakvih problema."

Spas i za Slovence

"Milan Nedić je učinio maksimum da desetine hiljada izbeglica prime i zbrinu u Srbiji. veliki broj njih bio je iz Slovenije, među kojima i moja majka i sestre. Slovenci su bili čak privilegovani u odnosu na Srbe iz Hrvatske ili Bosne. To je znak iskrene brige za braću u Sloveniji. Nedićeva uloga nije bila kvinsliška, kakva je bila Rupnikova. Bio je isključivo u funkciji očuvanja sprskog naroda. Uz sve istorijske činjenice, utisak je da je predstava o njemu u Srbiji, ipak, pogrešna."

Pas na poklon

"Rado se sećam događaja iz 1939. godine kada sam dobio na poklon od njega - psa. U Celju je bila služba veze gde su psi prenosili žice za komunikaciju i jednom prilikom mi je doneo štene šarplaninca. Tokom rata nismo kontaktirali sve do 1944. godine, i mog dolaska u Vrhovnu komandu. Posle jedne uspešne borbe kod Han pijeska lično Čiča me je unapredio u čin poručnika.Nikada neću zaboraviti jedno veče u Bosni kada je skoro cela Vrhovna komanda sedela pored jednog kazana. Kašikama smo svi zahvatali jelo iz kotla. Iznedada, došao je Draža i pitao: 'Braćo, ima li malo i za mene?', posle čega je zajedno sa nama jeo iz iste posude."



To get in touch with me, Aleksandra, please feel free to contact me at


Saturday, May 09, 2009

"The Forgotten 500" Book Report Contest 2009 Deadline Nearing!




Initiated by Michael Papich of California

Apart from the generous financial rewards kindly donated by various individuals as the prizes for the top three best book reports, the 1st, 2nd, 3rd place and the “Runner Up” reports that finish in the “Top Five” will be posted on my three websites on the internet dedicated to recognizing and celebrating Serbian heroes, among them General Draza Mihailovich, who was ultimately responsible for the success of the Halyard Mission Rescue Operation and the saving of the American airmen whose story shines in The Forgotten 500. The top five book reports will also be forwarded to Mr. Gregory Freeman, author of The Forgotten 500, and he has kindly offered to provide a personalized, signed first edition of the book to the contest winner.

The guidelines for the book report contest are the following:

1. Writer must be 18 years old or younger.

2. There is no limitation on length.

3. Book Report needs to be written in the English language.

4. Report needs to explain why The Forgotten 500 by Gregory Freeman is an important book that must not be ‘forgotten’.

The deadline for the book report entries is Friday May 15, 2009

The Announcement of the Winners will be made on Vidovdan,

Sunday, June 28, 2009

To send your book reports via e-mail or any questions, please feel free to contact me at

To send your book report via postal mail or to contribute to the prize rewards via Donation, please mail me at

Aleksandra Rebic
P.O. Box 95551
Hoffman Estates, IL 60195

Thank you for your interest and we hope you will encourage the young people you know to participate!

Aleksandra Rebic 2009


Wednesday, May 06, 2009

On ANZAC Day, Serbs in Sydney, Australia remember and honor the Fallen

All photos courtesy of the Brkljac Collection April 25, 2009

By Dragoljub Brkljac

April 2009

ANZAC Day is a national remembrance day in Australia and is celebrated annually on April 25th, to remember members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps who fought bravely at Gallipoli, Turkey during the First World War.

ANZAC Day also commemorates all those who made the ultimate sacrifice and served in military operations for Australia.

The Serbian Community in Sydney, Australia has attended and made a strong presence in the national ANZAC Day commemoration services since 1956 by attending the Sydney March. Throughout all capital cities within Australia, grand children and great grandchildren of Serbian Chetnik soldiers along with Serbian Chetnik WW2 veterans have marched alongside one another to remember the fallen Serbian and Australian Soldier.

This year’s ANZAC Day commemoration witnessed the next generation of young Australians of Serbian heritage showing their ultimate respect for the legacy of the fallen Australian and Serbian soldiers who gave their lives during the First and Second World Wars.

Members of the Serbian contingent attended the traditional ANZAC Day Dawn services hosted at local venues. These services are described as being phenomenal, spiritual and divine.

The Dawn service always witnesses a large number of locals. The young contingent of Australians of Serbian heritage paid their respects to all those who made the ultimate sacrifice to defend today’s freedom and democracy.

Members then proceeded to the Sydney Central Building District to represent our fallen Serbian fathers, grandfathers, and great grandfathers who fought in the Allied war effort in both World Wars.

The Vice President of the Serbian contingent, Dr. Milan Brkljac, had the following to say:

The ANZAC parade itself is always inspirational and full of mixed emotions. Remembering the fallen and being reminded of their sacrifices and ordeals is always difficult. On the other hand, we were given the opportunity to have discussions with WW2 Serbian Chetnik veterans who have the greatest war stories. These stories could not be obtained from reading any written material.

The families who attended the ANZAC Day march should be commended - as we should all take time out of our busy life styles to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

I know that the Australian Serbian contingent is extremely proud of their family members who fought side by side with General Dragoljub Mihailovich and who took part in the largest allied rescue mission from behind enemy lines during the Second World War.

We will continue to honour their memory. Our forefathers would be proud of the young Serbian men marching today as their legacy continues to live on.

As a contingent, we are also proud to be Australians and to have the honour to remember, too, the fallen Australian soldier and the spirit of the ANZAC.

Following the march, the contingent moved onto the Serbian Chetnik Club at Bonnyrigg in Sydney, where a lunch was hosted. A wreath was placed alongside the statue of our WW2 Commander General Dragoljub Mihailovich and prayers were said by the contingent to remember the Australian and Serbian Chetnik soldiers who died for freedom and liberty.

Dr. Milan Brkljac was the main organizer for the young Serbian intellectuals marching in remembrance of their Serbian forefathers. Almost 50 Lawyers, Doctors, Engineers, Scientist, Accountants, respected businessman and the likes marched with pride and passion. These young intellectuals were dressed in black suits and black subare. Dr. Brkljac was overwhelmed with the professionalism these young men demonstrated during and after the march. He began preparing for this ANZAC Day celebration six months in advance and without his time, effort and determination, the Serbian contribution could not have taken place.

Australia and Serbia have something in common: both Australian and Serbian soldiers fought against all odds to protect their nation’s national identity.

The Serbs, during World War One, lost 1 in 3 men participating in the Allied war effort, and this generation of Australians will continue to take part in future ANZAC services to remember all the fallen Australian and Serbian soldiers of that Great War and the Second World War that followed, and to honor them.

Lest we forget!


Please feel free to contact me, Aleksandra, at


Saturday, May 02, 2009

Draza Mihailovich: Serbia's Biggest Secret (Дража Михаиловић: Највећа српска тајна) // Radio, Television Serbia April 28, 2009

Here is a link for the Mihailovich program on "Radio, Television Serbia" that aired on April 28, 2009: Draza Mihailovich: Serbia's Biggest Secret.

For those who know the extent of the censorship that has been imposed in Serbia on the topic of General Mihailovich over the years will recognize how significant this program is.

The website address for "Radio, Television Serbia" is

(Don't be confused by the "RTS". Those are the letters in the website address, however in Cyrillic on the actual website pages, the title reads "RTC")

The program is under "Emisije" then "Uputnik"

The direct link for the specific program is below.

Choose ONLY "POGLEDAJ" to view it.

You can also download the program, however, it is an flv file, so you may need certain 'Flash' player capabilities to view it once it's downloaded, because Windows Media Player may not be able to play it.

Make sure to watch it as soon as possible, because it can be removed at any time!!!

The "Triangle" will "Play" the program.

The two vertical lines "II" will "Pause" the program.

The Square will Stop the program, and when you hit the triangle again, it will start the program from the very beginning. That's why you want to "Pause" it, if you want to return to it where you left off.

The program is narrated in the Serbian language.


уторак, 28. апр 2009, 22:05


Дража Михаиловић: Највећа српска тајна ...

прочитај пристигли коментари (24)

Сведочење Слободана Крстића Уче, некадашњег функционера ОЗНЕ, о месту где је стрељан генерал Југословенске војске у отаџбини и судбини његових посмртних остатака, које је објавила Политика, и серија текстова који су уследили - повод су за најновији Упитник.

Зашто је гроб Драже Михаиловића данас најчуванија српска тајна? Зашто су Тито и Дража били непријатељи? Коме је потребна мистерија око Дражиног гроба? Зашто Срби једини у Европи још увек међусобно ратују?

То су само нека од питања на која ће одговарати гости Упитника: др Коста Чавошки, професор Правног факултета, др Милан Терзић, војни историчар из Института за стратегијска истраживања при Војсци Србије, и Слободан Хомен, државни секретар у Министарству правде.

У емисији ћемо објавити и ексклузивну репортажу из околине Добруна, на граници с РС, где је пре више од 60 година ухапшен у акцији коју су, тврди се, планирали Ранковић и Крцун.

Уредник и водитељ: Оливера Јовићевић


To get in touch with me, Aleksandra, please feel free to contact me at