July 9, 2010
JOHNSTOWN — The author of a book highlighting the exploits of a local World War II hero will visit Johnstown at the end of the month.
Gregory A. Freeman will meet fans and sign autographs from 2 to 5 p.m. July 31 in the lobby of the Cambria County War Memorial Arena in Johnstown.
“The Forgotten 500 – The Untold Story of the Men Who Risked All for the Greatest Rescue Mission of World War II” gives a behind-the-scenes look at what is billed as the greatest escape of that war.
The book, published in 2007, tells the story of Operation Halyard, a top-secret and risky rescue mission to save downed American airmen in Nazi-occupied Yugoslavia.
Details of the operation were kept classified for more than 50 years for political reasons.
The late Army Capt. George Musulin, a former member of the Office of Strategic Forces, plays a prominent role in the book.
George "Guv" Musulin
The Franklin Borough resident twice parachuted into Yugoslavia to organize rescue attempts that resulted in the recovery of more than 500 American fliers and Allied soldiers between Aug. 10 and Dec. 27, 1944.
Musulin, who held the distinction of being one of the heaviest qualified parachute jumpers in the armed forces, was a former football tackle who weighed 250 pounds.
The son of immigrant Yugoslavian parents, he eventually was awarded the Legion of Merit for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding service.
Marty Kuhar, of the Johns-town-based Veterans Leadership Program of Western Pennsylvania, said Musulin will be inducted into the Cambria County Military Hall of Fame on Sept. 18. His daughter is expected to accept the award.
Kuhar said Musulin was a real American hero.
“If they were making a movie (from the book), John Wayne in the old days could have played him,” he said.
Freeman has more than 25 years of experience in journalism and narrative nonfiction and has won numerous awards.
Two of his books are being made into movies.
In addition to his books, Freeman writes for several publications including Reader's Digest, Rolling Stone, American History and World War II.
Among his other titles are: “Troubled Water: Race, Mutiny, and Bravery on a U.S. Aircraft Carrier,” the story of a little-known race riot on the aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk in 1972; and “Sailors to the End: The Deadly Fire on the USS Forrestal and the Heroes Who Fought It,” the story of a 1967 aircraft carrier fire. U.S. Sen. John McCain was injured in that fire and has called the book “a riveting account” that honors the men who died.
For additional information on the author, visit his website at http://www.gregoryafreeman.com/.
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