Arthur "Jibby" Jibilian, O.S.S. and Aleksandra Rebic
"Forgotten 500" Halyard Mission Reunion / Michigan June 2009.
Photo: Rebic collection.
REMEMBERING ARTHUR "JIBBY" JIBILIAN, HALYARD MISSION HERO,
AS WINTER TURNS TO SPRING.
This year, 2017, the world will be marking the 72nd anniversary of the end of World War Two, the era of the "Greatest Generation". For me, one of the measures of a man who dies is how deeply the loss is felt in the hearts of those who knew him, and if they didn't know him personally, were affected by his work or by his existence on this earth in a positive way. WWII OSS radioman Arthur "Jibby" Jibilian was short in stature but a giant of a man in the hearts of all of us who were fortunate and privileged enough to know him. I was one of those people, and though it's been seven years since his death, I can still remember exactly what his voice sounded like, and he is as alive for me today as he was during all the years we kept in touch. In one of our last conversations over the telephone, it was obvious that he had been weakened by the leukemia that had struck him late in life. I made a simple request - "Arthur, please don't die." He liked that I called him "Arthur" though most of those who knew him personally or were familiar with his remarkable life story endearingly called him "Jibby". He chuckled warmly and said, "I'll try not to." I know he tried his best, but finally succumbed and died peacefully on March 21, 2010 in Ohio. Although it was inevitable, the news of his death was taken hard by many. We really thought we'd have him just a little while longer. Every year, as winter turns to spring, Arthur is in my thoughts.
Let me tell you just a little bit about him. You can find out much more by searching the internet. Please take the time to do so. It will be worth your time and attention.
Arthur "Jibby" Jibilian was an essential participant in the great WWII Halyard Mission Rescue Operation of 1944 in Nazi-occupied Yugoslavia, both in Serbia and in Bosnia. He was directly responsible for saving the lives of over 500 American airmen stranded on that territory who were considered MIA and virtually left for dead for a good length of time before they were rescued.
Perhaps even more significantly, for Arthur Jibilian, coming home to America after the mission was successfully completed and every American and Allied airman was evacuated safely didn't mean leaving the past behind. Instead, he made it one of his life goals to vindicate the Serbian commander who made the multiple rescues of the stranded Americans and other Allied airmen possible. Arthur never forgot the legendary Serbian General Draza Mihailovich, whom he was fortunate enough to have met personally while in Serbia and Bosnia. After the war, and to his dying day, Arthur devoted his energy and his heart and soul to seeking justice for the General and righting the wrongs of the historical record with regards to Mihailovich, his Chetnik forces, and the Serbian people loyal to them. It was a huge task and an uphill battle. That did not deter him. Most impressively, Arthur Jibilian wanted nothing for himself and everything for Mihailovich and the Serbs who had protected and saved the lives of the Americans in the former Yugoslavia during World War II. Arthur's efforts were not in vain. The historical record is now a more truthful one, a more just one, because of him.
Fortunately, Arthur had the opportunity to return to Serbia and the areas that were so pivotal in his life story twice before he died: the first time in 2004 for the 6oth anniversary of the Halyard Mission and then the following year, in 2005, when the Legion of Merit Medal that had been posthumously awarded to General Mihailovich by the U.S. in 1948 and kept classified for decades afterwards, was finally brought "home" to Serbia.
Before Arthur, we had lost so many good, significant people. Major Richard Felman, U.S.A.F....Captain Nick Lalich, O.S.S....Captain George "Guv" Musulin, O.S.S....and the list of Halyard heroes that had passed into eternal memory went on. There were only a few left, and now one less.
When Arthur died on March 21, 2010 I felt the loss in my gut. His daughter Debi Jibilian had called and left a voice mail message to call her back. It was a Sunday afternoon, and I had been out running errands. Springtime had finally arrived. She didn't leave any details. Though we had spoken on the phone a number of times about her father and the Halyard Mission and current ongoing recognition efforts, and had met in June of 2009, this time it was immediately clear why she was calling. Still, as I dialed her phone number to return the call, I hoped I wrong. But I wasn't. I remember banging my fist on the kitchen counter in frustration. Then the tears came. To this day I continue to feel the loss in my heart. I selfishly wish Arthur were still here with us, because he was truly such a dear, good man. A good friend. I regret that he did not live to see the Mihailovich Rehabilitation judicial process begin in Belgrade, Serbia in September of 2010. I regret more that he did not live to see it finally come to positive fruition in May of 2015. I know he would have been ecstatic. I also know that he would have maintained all along that General Mihailovich did not need to be "rehabilitated".
Arthur Jibilian's remains were interred in Arlington National Cemetery on May 5, 2011.
I hope Arthur Jibilian is watching and reading and listening. I hope he knows how much he is missed. For the Serbs, he was truly the "Good American." We have not forgotten.
If you would like to get in touch with me, Aleksandra, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org