Thursday, November 28, 2019

Remembering Halyard Mission Veteran Major Richard L. Felman U.S.A.F. - A Tireless Warrior for the Truth / By Aleksandra Rebic Nov. 28, 2019

Aleksandra's Note: It's been 20 years since Major Richard Felman of the U.S.A.F. left us. This dynamic, unforgettable man was one of the Halyard Mission American rescues of 1944 who spent the rest of his life honoring the people who saved him and over 500 of his brothers from the Nazis in World War Two. He was determined to repay the "debt of gratitude" to General Draza Mihailovich, his Chetniks, and the Serbian people loyal to them, and he succeeded. As the daughter of a Chetnik who knew who General Mihailovich was from the time I was a child, people like Felman would naturally become personal heroes to me. Even in death, he remains an inspiration to get the word out so that others may know and appreciate an important part of history that has remained in the shadows for too long.

Born at the end of May in 1921 and dying just after Veteran's Day in 1999, his passing remains a great loss.  I miss him still. Loyal and dedicated, with a fierce and true sense of purpose, Major Felman was truly a tireless warrior that deserves the title of "Hero".

Aleksandra Rebic
November 28, 2019



Remembering Halyard Mission Veteran -
Major Richard L. Felman U.S.A.F.
A Tireless Warrior for the Truth

Major Richard L. Felman, U.S.A.F.
May 29, 1921-November 13, 1999

Major Richard Felman and Aleksandra Rebic on the evening of the 100th Birthday Celebration Event for General Mihailovich in Chicago on April 23, 1993 at the Congress Hotel. A wonderful evening, indeed. Photo: Rebic Collection.

He never stopped. It became his mission in life. For 55 years, over half a century, Major Richard L. Felman of the United States Air Force worked ceaselessly to do one thing: to repay a debt of gratitude and to say "Thank You" in a most meaningful way.

As we in America just commemorated Veteran’s Day and are celebrating our Thanksgiving holiday, it is our turn to remember and say “Thank You”  to a man that all those who knew him will never forget. Writing these things is never easy, especially when you are trying to properly honor the life and work of someone you knew personally, liked and respected very much, and whose passing leaves a void that cannot be filled. It is my hope that through reading this tribute, those who never had the privilege and pleasure of meeting this fine man will come to know and appreciate him. Major Felman's tireless efforts reflect some of the best virtues of human character: Loyalty and Honor.

Richard L. Felman was born in the Bronx, in New York City, on May 29th, 1921. He was the son of David, an American, and Dora, a Jewish immigrant from Poland. He had one brother, Irwin, born six years earlier. At 21 Felman enlisted in the U. S. Army Air Corps on July 24, 1942 and became a master navigator. He would go on to fly combat tours in WWII and in Korea and would receive 27 awards and decorations over the course of his military career. In early 1944 he was assigned to the 415th Bombardment Squadron, 98th Bombardment Group, 15th Air Force, stationed in Lecce, Italy as a Second Lieutenant. He would be flying B-24s, the "Liberator" bomber.  His plane, "Never a Dull Moment" would live up to its name.

The Crew of "Never a Dull Moment" 1944.
Photo courtesy of Major Richard Felman, USAF (Ret.)

Returning from a bombing mission in July of 1944 over the Ploesti Oil Fields in Romania, Hitler's main and most essential supply of oil at the time, Felman's B-24 was hit by German ME-109s. Ten of the eleven man crew was forced to bail out from 18,000 feet over the hills of Yugoslavia. In the attack and subsequent fall, Felman was wounded and would receive a Purple Heart for those wounds.

Of all the places in Yugoslavia to land in July of 1944, he was fortunate enough to land smack in the heart of Serbian territory. Unfortunately, it was also Nazi occupied territory, and the enemy had seen him coming down from the sky. The Germans had counted all ten of their chutes coming down and knew exactly where they were, but they could not get to them in the hills. That was the first stroke of good fortune. The second, and what would become the most significant, was that Felman was immediately surrounded by the Serbian Chetniks of General Draza Mihailovich, Commander of the Yugoslav Army in the Homeland, and the Serbian peasants loyal to them in the area. These were friendly hands Major Felman and his compatriots had fallen into. An immediate friendship was forged between them, and it was a friendship that would last for the rest of Richard Felman's lifetime.

In their briefings before the bombing mission, Felman and his crew had been told that if they ever had to bail out over Yugoslavia to avoid the men in the beards and fur hats - the Chetniks - for they would 'cut off their ears'. The crew was instructed to look for the men with the red stars on their hats - Tito's Partisans (the Yugoslav communists).

This contradicted everything Felman had heard about Mihailovich and his Chetniks from when Time Magazine had named Draza Mihailovich "Man of the Year" for being the leader of the first successful resistance to the Nazis in occupied Europe. Nevertheless, the first thing Richard Felman did when the strangers came running towards him was to reach for his ears. Not only did his ears stay intact, he was nursed back to health, fed, sheltered, clothed, and protected. He was also initiated into the benefits of Serbian shlivovitza, an exceptionally strong homemade plum brandy.

A story that Major Felman would tell over and over again after he returned home, everywhere he went, including the halls of Washington D.C., was about something he personally witnessed shortly after falling into the hands of the Chetniks. The Germans gave General Mihailovich an ultimatum to turn over the Allied airmen, or a village near Pranjani, Serbia of 200 women and children would be burned to the ground. Mihailovich refused. Felman would learn later how painful this decision was for the Serb general who did everything possible throughout the entirety of the war to limit the brutal German reprisals against Serbian civilians.

The Germans made good on their threat. The village was torched, and the Serbian civilians perished. That tragic event would fuel the rest of Richard Felman's life work. As the daily bombing offensives against the Germans increased and more and more Allied airmen were shot down over Yugoslavia, MIA, an OSS rescue unit commanded by Lieutenant George "Guv" Musulin along with Master Sergeant Michael Rajacich and radio operator Specialist Arthur Jibilian, in coordination with the U.S. Fifteenth Air Force, was formed and dropped at night deep into Nazi occupied territory in Serbia. With them they brought medical supplies, short wave radios, and a classified evacuation rescue plan that would come to be known as "Operation Halyard" or the "Halyard Mission". More than 500 American airmen and additional Allied airmen would be rescued, taken care of, and evacuated to safety over the next several months at great cost to the Serbian people who had protected them. Every single one of the fallen flyers would return to their families and their homes alive. It was nothing short of a miracle.

The rescue operations that began in early August of 1944 and ended at the end of December 1944 would become known as the greatest rescue of Allied airmen from behind enemy lines in the history of warfare. Major Felman, after spending enough time with the Chetniks running sabotage missions against the Nazis to witness and know first hand who was doing what on the ground, was among the first group of Americans airlifted out on August 10, 1944. The last evacuation was successfully completed in December of 1944 under the leadership of Captain Nikola Lalich.

For the Halyard rescue operation in August of 1944 that included Major Felman, Draza Mihailovich personally provided 8,000 of his best men to keep the Germans at bay while the C-47 planes flew in and took off without incident, carrying their human cargo to safety. Ironically, even after this magnificent rescue, Allied Intelligence continued to report that Mihailovich was collaborating with the enemy and turning the Americans over to the Nazis - the same kind of lies and falsified, phony reports that had caused the greatest betrayal of the war - the switch of Allied support from Mihailovich and his Chetniks to Tito's Partisans, the Yugoslav communists, in September of 1943, months before
Mihailovich would risk everything to rescue the lives of the Allied airmen. Though betrayed and abandoned, General Mihailovich resolved to do the right thing and did so without equivocation.

That would be one of the great ironies that marked the battle for vindication Felman would wage for the next 55 years. When it was learned after the war that General Draza Mihailovich had been captured by Tito's communists in the spring of 1946 and there would be a trial in Belgrade charging Mihailovich with being a Nazi collaborator and war criminal, Felman and his friends, including other airmen who had been saved by Mihailovich, went into action. Along with 21 others, he went to Washington in April of 1946 to petition President Harry S. Truman and the U.S. Government to be allowed to travel, at their own expense, to Belgrade, Serbia and present their testimonies to the "jury". They would soon learn the true nature of the new Yugoslav political reality and the realpolitik of their own country. Tito said "No". The U.S. State Department, to appease Tito, said "No". Refusing to give up, Felman and his group, along with other notable Americans, formed the Committee for a Fair Trial for Draza Mihailovich in May of 1946, and the committee set up a Commission of Inquiry that would hear firsthand testimonies in New York regarding the guilt or innocence of General Mihailovich as a war criminal. The testimonies of the airmen were presented and documented. The record was compelling and irrefutable. General Mihailovich was innocent of the charges against him. But it would do Draza Mihailovich no good. The word from the Belgrade regime was this:

"Mihailovich will be given a fair trial, but we have enough legal evidence to convict him, and he will be shot."

They could not let this happen. They tried everything, and at the time of the Commission of Inquiry hearings, Major Felman formed the National Committee of American Airmen Rescued by General Mihailovich, Inc. Felman was elected its president and remained so for the remainder of his life.

But Belgrade wasn't kidding, and the U.S. State Department wasn't budging. The U.S. had switched sides in 1943, at the behest of Winston Churchill and the British, and Tito, not Mihailovich, became their man. Tito now held the strings 5,000 miles away.

Draza Mihailovich lost his final battle and was executed and buried in an unmarked , unknown grave on July 17, 1946. But he had made friends during some of his darkest hours of the war, and, as it would turn out, nobody could have been a better or more loyal and dedicated friend than Major Richard Felman. I can only imagine how Felman and others like him must have felt on that day in July of 1946 when they heard the news, but what I know for sure is that the injustice would sustain Felman with a permanent stamina of purpose that defies the imagination. Mihailovich was gone, martyred, but Richard Felman was bound and determined to keep his legacy alive. He was relentless and would remain dedicated to his goal of repaying a debt of gratitude even when a new war began in Yugoslavia in 1991 and the global demonization of the Serbian people began.  No propaganda campaign against the Serbs could sway Richard Felman. He knew what he knew. He had lived it.

Thanks in great part to the efforts of Felman and his buddies, in 1948 U.S. President Harry S. Truman, on the recommendation of General Dwight D. Eisenhower, posthumously awarded General Draza Mihailovich the Legion of Merit - Commander in Chief Medal, the highest award America can bestow on a foreign national. The award honored Mihailovich for his material contribution to the Allied victory in WWII and the rescue of American Airmen from behind enemy lines. But the ironies would continue. For the first time in history, this high award and the story of the rescue was immediately classified as "top secret" by the State Department so as not to offend the communist government of Yugoslavia. Was the true fear publicizing the colossal mistake of switching sides from Mihailovich to Tito during the war? It would take 20 years and the dedicated efforts of those such as Felman and especially the Honorable Edward J. Derwinski, who would later become Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs, to uncover and declassify the "Legion of Merit" honor and make it "public" in 1968. Unfortunately, for all intents and purposes, the story remained "hidden" - unknown by the vast majority of Americans.

The Legion of Merit-Commander in Chief citation honoring
General Draza Mihailovich March 1948.

Yet another uphill battle would consume Richard Felman. He retired from the United States Air Force in 1968, but he remained a fighting man. His goal now was to have a memorial monument to Mihailovich erected, at private expense,  in Washington, D.C., honoring the Serbian General for having saved so many American lives in wartime. It was an honorable initiative that was soon confronted with obstacles for Felman and others who rallied to make it happen.

In 1970, for the first time, General Mihailovich was written into the Congressional Record and it was in Congress that the battle would be fought.

Felman would again go to Washington, to rally on the steps of the Capitol and get a bill introduced into the Senate by Strom Thurmond and Barry Goldwater in 1976 and 1977 for the establishment of a statue on Capitol grounds, on American soil, honoring General Mihailovich. The bill successfully passed in the Senate, but it would die in the House of Representatives due to a campaign waged by the State Department which again and again would cite "offense against the Yugoslav Regime" and the "ire of certain ethnic groups in Yugoslavia" as justification for denying the Mihailovich monument initiative. Again and again, year after year, the bill would be introduced, passed, then killed. Attempt after attempt was made. Felman, despite getting discouraged, furious, and frustrated, remained a bulldog. In the wake of repeated denial and the reasons given, he would courageously disclaim his group's apolitical stance and pass judgement on those he felt were perpetrating yet another great injustice. He was not afraid of losing his pension. He was not reckless, but he was not going to be intimidated. Such was the dedication and resolve of a man on a noble mission.

Over the years, Major Richard Felman would write countless letters and give countless speeches, interviews, and submissions to newspapers. He would travel throughout America at his own expense to spread the word and stay focused on the goal: Repaying a debt of gratitude and clearing the name of the man who had saved his life.

Those of us who had the privilege of hearing him speak over the years will never forget the stories he told and the passion of his purpose. He never minced words. Though he provided moments of levity from time to time, he was dead serious. In June of 1982, Major Felman let loose in the Tucson Citizen newspaper:

"Were the truth ever to be nationally known, there would not be a single American who would object to expressing, at no expense to the taxpayer, a nation's gratitude for saving the lives of over 500 of its fighting men. There is absolutely no rhyme or reason or rhetoric that should prevent the American Airmen from repaying their debt of honor. For 38 years we have fought for this right and been denied. In all good conscience, I cannot sit idly by and watch a 38 year effort go down the drain while the threats of another nation make our proud American eagle look like a plucked chicken."

Even after Yugoslavia's Marshal Tito was dead and gone in 1980, even with prominent sponsors endorsing the initiative, permission was not granted to erect the Mihailovich monument in Washington. Just over a decade later in 1991 the violent
dissolution of Yugoslavia began and its people once again became the casualties of war, a civil war in the Balkans that dominated news coverage throughout the world. With the dissolution of Yugoslavia, Truth became the ultimate casualty. The Croatians, one of the "ethnic groups" whose "ire" the U.S. State Department was concerned about raising, were relentless in blocking the establishment of the Mihailovich monument in the 1990s. And they were winning the battle in Washington with their vicious anti-Serb campaign.

To this day, there is no monument to Mihailovich in Washington, D.C. and so many that were at the forefront of that effort are gone. I have often wondered if the monument initiative will ever be resurrected, with Felman's dream finally becoming a reality. I think it's time to try again.


I first met Major Richard Felman on April 23, 1993 at the Congress Hotel in Chicago for the celebration of Draza Mihailovich's 100th birthday. I had "met" and gotten to know Felman personally over the phone in 1992 when preparations for the celebration began. My father had initiated the event, and we wanted it to be the "Serbian Celebration of the Century." Felman was thrilled, and his support was invaluable. We corresponded by mail and by phone regularly. My father had already known him for years. Felman's constant enthusiasm, support, wealth of knowledge, sense of humor, and ultimately his presence in Chicago as a featured guest speaker made the planning and presentation of the event extra special. On that April 23rd afternoon he was walking out of an elevator in the lobby of the Congress Hotel on Michigan Avenue as I was walking toward it. I immediately knew who it was. Sharp and handsome in his dark blue blazer and blue jeans and white shirt with a silver and turquoise bolo tie around his neck, he was tan and buoyant, the youngest 72 I had ever seen! Given that the big night was only hours away, I couldn't give him the proper welcome he deserved, but he didn't hold it against me. He had come all the way from Arizona at his own expense and would give a speech that night that I would hear for the first time. Felman was charismatic and wonderful on stage, mesmerizing, educating, and entertaining the capacity crowd, all 1500 of them, who embraced him. He gave the audience full of Serb patriots what they so desperately needed to hear at that juncture in their history. In those dark days of the 1990s, as Serbs were being horribly demonized by the West while those in the homeland were fighting for their homes, their land, and their lives in the midst of a brutal civil war, Felman was there to assure them that they had a friend in the American community. He was a friend who believed in their cause, who appreciated them, and most importantly of all, who knew the truth, because he had lived it.

I'll never forget how pleased Major Felman was that General Mihailovich's 100th birthday anniversary was celebrated in a big way in Chicago. He had been afraid that the milestone would be ignored and allowed to pass by without being marked properly. That's the depth of gratitude and loyalty he felt for the General who had saved his life.

We continued to keep in touch by phone and by letter, as the piles of material he sent me continued to grow. This was gold to me as were his words of support and appreciation for keeping Draza's legacy and the story of the Halyard Mission alive. The next time I would see him in person was a year later, in May of 1994, when he again came to Chicago for the commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the Halyard Mission Rescue Operation. This was very special for it was not a Serbian event, but an official American event honoring the Serbs. The Halyard Mission was designated to open a week-long commemoration of the 50th anniversary of D-Day, which had officially been sanctioned by Washington, D.C. and the City of Chicago. My father and I were organizing and managing the event, and both Serbs and non-Serbs would be participating. Most importantly, Americans would be hearing Felman's testimony as well as the testimonies of Captain Nick Lalich and the Honorable Edward Derwinski, all of whom were featured speakers at this event, and it was truly an event to remember, a worthy tribute long overdue. Serb patriots and General Mihailovich were illuminated in the bright light of history that they deserved.

Major Richard Felman, kneeling, placing the wreath
at the Eternal Flame at Daley Plaza in Chicago, IL
in honor of the 50th anniversary of the
Halyard Mission Rescue Operation
May 1994.
Photo by Aleksandra Rebic

Felman spoke the following words at the 50th Anniversary Commemoration of the Halyard Mission that May of 1994. They echoed then. They echo even louder now:

"Every one of the airmen sitting here and throughout the country...I believe I can speak with one voice for every one of them...They will all join me in saying that throughout the entire time we were evading capture, no sacrifice was too great for the Serbian people in making us comfortable. It was they who sheltered us in the hills and in their farm houses, often at great risk to themselves. Those of us who were wounded received whatever medical supplies were available. If there was one slice of bread in the house, or one egg, it went to the American. If there was one blanket or one bed, it went to the American, while our Serbian host slept on the bare ground. Many of the peasants were tortured, tortured to death because they would not tell the Germans where we were. The many heroic stories and sacrifices they made on our behalf is something the airmen will never forget. I recall these sacrifices of 50 years ago every time I read in today's American press that the Serbs are murderers and some sort of two-headed monsters.

"Those that we met were all fine, decent, God-fearing people who were fighting for their freedom and their country. Were it not for them, there would not have been a Halyard Mission, nor would we have survived the war.

"To all those all-knowing political analysts and politicians who were in their diapers, literally, when WWII was going on, they know absolutely nothing about the people and the war. I would say to them that if they want to know anything about the Serbian people, to talk to the thousands of American grandchildren who are alive today because of these so-called monsters they are condemning. I would also tell them in the strongest possible terms about the anguish that we Americans would feel to see our fellow Americans go charging in with their guns blazing to kill some of the very same people who saved our lives.

"I don't believe our government should return their kindness and sacrifice by killing them."

Just one year later, the first "Western" bombing campaign against the Serbs in the former Yugoslavia began. And then in March of 1999, five years later, the massive 78 day NATO bombing campaign again the Serbs began. Major Richard Felman was devastated.

Even if you never met him personally, to have known Major Richard Felman was to read his eloquent words on the printed page and to hear him. The tears were real, the passion was true and contagious, and the frustration was immense yet completely subordinate to inspiring, pure gut level determination.

I would spend time with him again in July of 1996 for the 50th anniversary of the execution of General Mihailovich which was marked at New Gracanica Serbian Orthodox Monastery in Third Lake, IL near Chicago. Then, for the final time, I would have the opportunity to spend time with him in June of 1998 here in Chicago as he came to receive the Award of Merit presented to him by the Serbian Bar Association. His health was beginning to fail, but his words were still magic and the love between him and his audience of Serbs who had come to honor him was as real as it had always been. Just as in May of 1994, he was wearing the military uniform that he had worn over over half a century before as a young man in a big world war. At 77 he was wearing it proudly! Imagine that!

I'm so grateful that Major Felman got to see some of his efforts come to fruition while he was still living and that he did receive some of the honors and recognition he so richly deserved. His story "Mihailovich and I" was published in both the Serbian and English language. He was given the honorary rank of "Chetnik Colonel" by the great Voyvoda Momchilo Djujich with whom he was friends and whom we lost in September of 1999, just two months before we would lose Felman. He was personally decorated twice by King Peter II of Yugoslavia, first in 1946 with the "Royal Order of Ravna Gora", Yugoslavia's highest military decoration, then with the "Commemorative War Cross, 1941-1945" of the Royal Yugoslav Army in 1968. In April of 1997 he was made "Vitez"-"Knight of the Serbian People" by the World Serbian Community in Geneva, Switzerland.

Richard Felman effectively corrected history books through a letter writing campaign begun in the late 1970s to both Encyclopedia Britannica and Encyclopedia Americana asking them to revise their biographies on General Draza Mihailovich which had, prior to Felman's
initiative, characterized the Serbian General and leader of the WWII Chetniks as a brave but compromised man who had collaborated with the Nazis. Both volumes revised their biographies of Mihailovich due to Felman's efforts in the mid 1980s.

Though his dream of a memorial monument to General Mihailovich being established in Washington, a dream he and others like him fought hard for, was never realized, he did succeed in having a life size bronze bust made of the General and at his own expense donated several to the Serbian Community in the United States and Canada and to significant American institutions.

For the first time in history, there is official recognition of the Halyard Mission Rescue Operation of 1944 by an American museum, the Pima Air and Space Museum in Tuscon, Arizona, one of the largest aeronautical museums in the world. This museum now holds Felman's donation of the Mihailovich bronze bust on permanent display.

In 1990 Major Felman met with the head archivist of the Air Force Academy Library in Colorado Springs who found it hard to believe there was no record of their rescue in their files. By providing his story and his extensive documentation of "OPERATION HALYARD", Felman ensured that future American cadets will know about one of the most glorious moments in the history of the U.S. Air Force.

In 1995, for the 50th Anniversary of VE Day, Major Richard Felman, accompanied by his wife Mary Anne, returned with Captain Nick Lalich, and Lt. Col. Charlie Davis, both Halyard Mission veterans, to Serbia after 50 years and was met on the hills of Ravna Gora by 50,000 Serbian people who gave him a thunderous ovation. That, Major Felman would later say, was his shining moment, a huge highlight in a remarkable life.

Major Richard Felman (U.S.A.F. Ret.) in Serbia 1995
for the 50th Anniversary of VE Day.
Photo courtesy of Richard Felman.

The 1990s was a remarkable decade indeed for Richard Felman. Fortunately, he remained healthy and strong almost to the end. In June of 1998 Richard Felman was diagnosed with ALS, Lou Gehrig's Disease, a degenerative and terminal neuromuscular disorder. It seemed inconceivable that a man of such endless energy would be sidelined by such an illness. Word of his illness spread throughout the Serbian community, and he would receive hundreds of cards and letters from Serbs all over the world saying "Thank You" to the man who had dedicated the last 50 years of his life thanking them. That same June, after he was diagnosed, he traveled to Chicago for the last time, and I was blessed with the opportunity to see him and hear him speak once again and spend time with the man who had been such a beacon of light to so many of us. It would be the last time I would see him alive.

I last spoke to him over the phone on May 29, 1999. I had called to let him know I was thinking about him and to thank him as I had so many times before. I hung up without realizing it was his birthday. It would be the last time I would hear that wonderful voice. We continued to correspond by postal mail. I would not come to know and use the benefits of e-mail until February of 2000. How I wish I had e-mails from Felman in my archives...

It never ceases to amaze me how much communication there was within the Serbian community and beyond during the "war years" of the 1990s, before the Internet became a reality and an indispensable tool for sharing news, corresponding, and getting people mobilized. I wonder now how Felman would have handled social media. Even without any of that, he was a star.

After I last spoke to him in May, later that same year in 1999, when it was clear that it was just a matter of time, I called him, but he was no longer able to speak on the phone. I asked his wife to ask Major Felman if it would be okay if I wrote his obituary after he was gone. She told me that she would talk to him and let me know. A short time later she informed me that he had said “Yes, he would be honored if I did that”. I remember thinking, he’s got it all backwards.  The honor was all mine. I received a package of material from Felman just a few days later.

Major Richard L. Felman of the United States Air Force fought his last battle on Saturday, November 13, 1999. He died peacefully, in hospice care, with his wife Mary Anne by his side. He was survived by her and his brother Irwin. He had no children. On Tuesday, November 16, 1999 he was laid to rest at "All Faiths Memorial Park" in Tucson, Arizona.

In memoriam, my father shared his thoughts about Richard Felman, and he spoke for so many of us:

"He was one of a small number of non-Serbs who dedicated his life to promote the truth about Serbs as they were going through some of the darkest hours of their history. With Felman's death, one of the voices that enabled the Serbs to persevere through the last half of the 20th century has been stilled. Sailing will be harder without Felman."

Somehow it seems especially appropriate that Richard Felman was born close to the Memorial Day holiday and died close to the Veteran’s Day holiday. There is something just right about that.

Richard Felman was my dear friend. I will forever cherish the conversations we had and all the gifts of his documents and his cards, letters, and notes, and how he made sure to be present for our events and to be a highlight of those events. He was always an inspiration and a true motivator to do good. He understood what was necessary to keep a legacy alive and did what was necessary. It is we who must carry on the fight. He never forgot us nor did he forsake us Serbs when it would have been most convenient for him to do so in the 1990s. He never stopped saying that "For as long as I live I will never forget the enormous debt that I owe to the freedom loving Serbian people who gave their lives to save me and my fellow Americans."

Felman didn't just talk the talk. He walked the walk.

Back in 1993 for the Mihailovich 100th birthday celebration in Chicago Felman proclaimed something that garnered him a standing ovation: "Although I am an American Jew, in my heart I am a Serb!" And Felman meant it with all his heart.

Richard Felman met General Draza Mihailovich a long time ago in a foreign land in 1944 by virtue of being a casualty of war who was fortunate enough to survive. They prayed in a Christian Serbian Orthodox church together. They shook hands. They went on sabotage runs against the Germans, their common enemy. They shared shlivovitza – the 160 proof plum brandy that no visitor to the Serbian lands ever forgets, and they found a way to communicate. General Mihailovich left quite an impression on Richard Felman, and his wrongful execution at the hands of the communist criminals in Belgrade two years later in 1946 would leave a permanent scar.

Now, somewhere out there, as we Americans celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday, I’m sure that the two of them are spending time together again, the American with the Serb, two military men with much in common despite their differences. I believe that the Serbian General is as thankful to the American as the American was to him for all those years.

Felman, it's been 20 years, and I still miss you. I can still hear your warm, enthusiastic voice. You would love some of the developments that have happened since your passing. Progress is being made in Serbia with regards to General Mihailovich and his patriots being "rehabilitated" and honored in the proper way they deserve, but there is still much work to do… And yes, I imagine that you would balk at the thought of General Mihailovich having to be "rehabilitated", but you'd be smart enough to know that any positive progress should be welcomed and celebrated. I think you might enjoy “Facebook”, something that wasn’t invented yet when you were living. The Mihailovich Legacy is being kept very much alive via the technology of the Internet and for that we can all be thankful. We will not cease fighting the good fight, ever. So many young people both in the diaspora and in the homeland are now carrying the torch, and I know that would fill your heart with joy and pride.

We will never give up.  That is our pledge and promise to you and all those like you. And that is our commitment to our beloved General, his Chetnik forces, and the people who were loyal to them. May God bless you and hold you in the palm of His hand, Felman.

Just as you never forgot Draza Mihailovich and his patriots, we will never forget you.

Aleksandra Rebic
Chicago, IL U.S.A.
November 28, 2019

To read Felman's personal story,
"Mihailovich and I",
 please click on the link below:


If you would like to get in touch with me, Aleksandra,
please feel free to contact me at


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