Friday, November 19, 2010

Never before published photos! The Halyard Mission 50th Anniversary Reunion featuring: Felman, Derwinski, Vujnovich, Lalich, Friend, Musgrove, Diles, Wilson, Davis, Reid, Mueller, Dewa and others!

Aleksandra's Note: Welcome to a very special posting on www.generalmihailovich.com. The following photos of an extraordinary event that took place 16 years ago in Chicago have never before been published. Americans, Canadians and Serbs gathered together in May of 1994 in Chicago to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the 'Halyard Mission' rescue operation and pay homage to a unique group of Allied 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. The official public day of commemoration was May 31, 1994. 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, General Dragoljub Draza Mihailovich, a Serb, with his Chetnik forces and the Serbian people loyal to them, saved the lives of over 500 Allied airmen. These men had been blasted out of the skies by the Germans while flying the crucial Allied bombing missions over the Ploesti oil fields of Romania that were to cripple Hitler's main supply of oil at the time and bring the Nazis to their knees. Some who were shot down didn't make it. Many of those who survived the severe German retaliation ended up wounded and stranded in Yugoslavia, but would be saved by the Serbs, 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.

The Halyard Mission was chosen to open the official weeklong D-Day 50th Anniversary celebration in Chicago by the World War II Commemoration Committee. That committee, chaired by Colonel Kenneth A. Plummer and overseen by the United States Department of Defense, organized the weeklong celebration in Chicago, Illinois in conjunction with special events taking place throughout the world to commemorate the milestone anniverary. The Halyard Mission had been an extremely classified operation that involved American Strategic Services personnel (O.S.S. - precursor of the C.I.A.) such as George Vujnovich, who was stationed in Bari, Italy, Lieutenant George (Guv) S. Musulin, Arthur "Jibby" Jibilian and others. The success of this rescue operation was only made possible due to the extensive cooperation of 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 Nazi occupied Serbian areas of former Yugoslavia was kept hidden from official public recognition and covered up, to the point of being left out of historical texts relating to the World War II era altogether. The Halyard Mission immediately became a casualty of political supression and remained that way for too many years. Due to the tireless efforts of those who knew the history and significance of this great event, many of them who personally lived it and are now deceased, and the continuing efforts of those who continue to maintain the legacy, this epic story is now increasingly receiving the recognition it so richly deserves. 

On May 31, 1994 in Chicago, Illinois, as the worldwide commemoration of the 50th anniversary of D-Day began, a fifty year debt of gratitude was repayed to Serb general Dragoljub-Draza Mihailovich, who was, and has remained, the greatest hero of all to those who knew the measure of the man.

It was on the night before, on May 30th, that the festivities began in a private reunion hosted by the Rebic family at the Swiss Hotel in Chicago. The casual and jovial atmosphere made for one of the best social gatherings I've ever attended, and certainly among the most memorable. This opportunity for old acquaintances sharing a historic legacy to reunite, after many, many years of separation, was extraordinary. With all the talking and laughing, it was easy to forget for a moment the 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 maintained after so many years and miles apart.

I sincerely hope that all those present left Chicago with full hearts and the satisfaction that their special place in history had not been forgotten. Some have since passed away, but in these photos they come alive once again, and I know they would be very pleased with the extent to which the Halyard Mission and its protagonists are now being honored, especially in the last couple of years. For those who are still living, I hope these photos will bring you joy. May the momentum continue and may the day come when the story of the Halyard Mission becomes imprinted permanently on the pages of history books throughout the free world.

God bless you all. We will never forget.

Sincerely,

Aleksandra Rebic


*****


The WWII Allied airmen and their wives present
at the Halyard celebration in Chicago in May of 1994 were:

Richard Felman
Milton Friend
Charlie Davis
Neal Janosky
David Labissoniere
Curtis Diles
Alexander Dewa
Jay Mueller
Robert Wilson
Clifford Lovitt
Clare Musgrove
Norman Reid
Robert Armstrong
(Note: R. Armstrong of the
15th Air Force was not
among the rescued of Halyard)

OSS  and official U.S. Personnel:

George and Mirjana Vujnovich
Nick Lalich
J.B. Allin

Special Guest:

Edward Derwinski

(Former Congressman and
U.S. Secretary of Veteran's Affairs.
Mr. Derwinski was responsible for
the declassification in 1968 of the
Legion of Merit Medal that had
been awared posthumously to
General Mihailovich in 1948.)


I will identify those in the photos of whose identity
I'm certain. All of the photos were taken
 by members of the Rebic family.


Enjoy.


*****

The Swiss Hotel in Chicago. Photo: A. Rebic 1994

Photo: A. Rebic 1994

Charlie Davis and Bob Armstrong. Photo: A. Rebic 1994

Milton Friend and Norman Reid.
Photo: A. Rebic 1994

Left to right: Curtis Diles, Nick Lalich, Milton Friend.
Photo: A. Rebic 1994

Robert Wilson and Clare Musgrove.
Photo: A. Rebic 1994


Center: George Vujnovich and Alexander Dewa.
Photo: A. Rebic 1994

Photo: A. Rebic 1994

Milton Friend and Norman Reid.
Photo: A. Rebic 1994

George Vujnovich and Nick Lalich
Photo: A. Rebic 1994


Photo: A. Rebic 1994


Photo: A. Rebic 1994


Left to right: Richard Felman, Aleksandra Rebic,
and George Vujnovich. Photo: A. Rebic 1994

Photographer J.B. Allin and Nick Lalich. Photo: A. Rebic 1994

Left to right: Clare Musgrove, Robert Wilson, and Jay Mueller.
Photo: A. Rebic 1994


Photo: A. Rebic 1994

Mirjana Vujnovich and George Vujnovich. Photo: A. Rebic 1994

Robert Wilson and Alexander Dewa. Photo: A. Rebic 1994

Photo: A. Rebic 1994

Photo: A. Rebic 1994

Nick Lalich and Ljubitsa Todorovich. Photo: A. Rebic 1994

Photo: A. Rebic 1994

Left to right: George Vujnovich, Jay Mueller, J.B. Allin
Photo: A. Rebic 1994

Photo: A. Rebic 1994

Photo: A. Rebic 1994

Photo: A. Rebic 1994

Photo: A. Rebic 1994

Photo: A. Rebic 1994

Photo: A. Rebic 1994

Photo: A. Rebic 1994

Photo: A. Rebic 1994

Photo: A. Rebic 1994

Richard Felman and Milton Friend
Photo: A. Rebic 1994

Photo: A. Rebic 1994

Photo: A. Rebic 1994

Nick Lalich and Aleksandra Rebic
Photo: A. Rebic 1994

Edward Derwinski, Aleksandra Rebic, and Richard Felman
Photo: A. Rebic 1994

Photo: A. Rebic 1994

Photo: A. Rebic 1994

Photo: A. Rebic 1994

Left to right: Curtis Diles, Nick Lalich, Charlie Davis
Photo: A. Rebic 1994

Photo: A. Rebic 1994

Photo: A. Rebic 1994

Photo: A. Rebic 1994

Photo: A. Rebic 1994

Nick Lalich and Mirjana Vujnovich. Photo: A. Rebic 1994

Photo: A. Rebic 1994

Photo: A. Rebic 1994

Photo: A. Rebic 1994

Photo: A. Rebic 1994





*****

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


*****

3 comments:

  1. These are such historical treasures. Thanks for sharing these valuable photos with all of us, Aleksandra. I remember when they were all gathered in Chicago for this event you prepared. I was so sorry I couldn't come and called you before leaving for school. So many special people gathered together in one place. So many now gone. Good that we still have a few left to carry on. Miss those old-timers of Nick Lalich, Dick Felman, etc. Glad we still have Curtis Diles and George Vujnovich, Clare Musgrove, Milton Friend, etc. I never saw a photo of J.B. Allin, so I'm thrilled you had this. Great job as always!


    Mim Bizic

    ReplyDelete
  2. Aleksandra,

    Thank you so much for your efforts to educate and advocate. It is much appreciated by so many whether they know only part or even most of WW2 history in the Balkans.

    Milos Puaca

    ReplyDelete
  3. I stumbled upon this while reading the FORGOTTEN 500 by Gregory A. Freeman. I marvel at the valor, integrity, and determination of these people and the great legacy they are leaving behind.

    My grandfather is an American WWII veteran that fought at Normandy and other major campaigns in the European theater...truly this is the greatest generation. May they never be forgotten.

    Crystal Thompson

    ReplyDelete