Mansfield News Journal
May 5, 2011
ARLINGTON, Va. -- World War II veteran and Fremont native Art Jibilian will be remembered for his actions during five months in 1944, when he helped rescue hundreds of people from a German-occupied area in Serbia.
Jibilian, who died in March 2010 after battling leukemia for nearly two years, was nominated for the Medal of Honor, and he is being honored this morning by interment in Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors.
Jibilian's daughter, Deb Jibilian, said she applied for burial at the cemetery in April and was thrilled to be offered the ceremony so quickly.
"They have just been so wonderful at Arlington," Jibilian said. "It is such an honor that dad gets to be in our national cemetery, I can't think of a better place for him."
Jibilian, or "Jibby," was featured in a book, "The Forgotten 500," detailing what has been called the most successful rescue mission of American troops during the war.
"Forgotten" talks about Jibilian, who was one of three agents of the Office of Strategic Services -- the forerunner of the Central Intelligence Agency -- who parachuted into central Serbia in August 1944 to rescue what they thought were 50 downed airmen. It turned out to be 513.
Over the next six months, Jibilian helped construct a landing strip and coordinated evacuation flights and medical help at night as the people in the Serbian village housed and protected the soldiers under the leadership of Drazha Mihailovich -- leader of the Royal Yugoslav Army, commonly known as the Chetniks.
Jibilian had always fought hard to clear the name of Mihailovich, who housed and kept alive the downed airmen.
Mihailovich was labeled as a "collaborator" and was executed in 1946 by a new Yugoslavian government led by Josep Broz Tito, one of Mihailovich's military rivals during World War II.
Jibilian's daughter said her father's hope was that by telling his inspiring story he could help clear the general's name and get him recognition as a war hero.
"Daddy doesn't want the medal for himself," she said. "Those 513 airmen were rescued from Yugoslavia because Gen. Mihailovich took the risk and gave his life so those men could live. The soldiers and their relatives are alive because of the general, we must not forget that. That was daddy's message."
Along with friends and family, attending the burial will be at least one of the soldiers her father helped rescue, Jibilian said, along with an American-born Serbian author who writes about Gen. Mihailovich's life.
Jibilian said as happy as she is about today's honor, it will be a difficult experience for her and others attending the ceremony.
"As much as I am looking forward to it, I am also dreading it," she said before leaving for Virginia. "It means I need to say goodbye to him a second time."
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