Operation Halyard photos from Ted Connolly and Arthur Jibilian....
Gathering up the chutes....
Draza Mihailovich and Villagers
Doc helping check medical supplies....
General Draza Mihailovich and his Religious Leaders
Reviewing the troops.....
Shoes left for the locals....
Here is Tom Connolly with a cane for his injured foot, and the other crew members behind....
Courageous pilots flew into the cleared fields to rescue their fellow Americans. Imagine doing this with the limited equipment they had at their disposal! No GPS systems like we have now!.
Last day in Serbia..... the author of the essay is in this photo... along with Nick Lalich in the middle.
Greeted in Bari, Italy! 12-28-44.
February 1, 2012: Info from Nikola Simanic, a Facebook friend, who sent us a photo of his grandfather, as a Chetnik, kneeling in front, left, with an American airman who was a professor, but Nikola didn't know his name, and the other airman was a Greek captain.
Young Nikola says he is from Ilijas (Sarajevo, Bosnia & Herzegovina) and is now living in Bijeljina, Republic of Srpska! He said he found me on the Halyard Mission page. I'll wait to see if more information develops here. Thanks, Nikola!
Update: Feb. 9, 2012: 2. comandant of backround and president of the district of Visoko, Sreto Erić.
God bless them all!
Like this Chetnik Officer, the Serbian Chetniks would give their lives to protect the downed American fliers.
Plotting the next course of action....
(Robert Eckman has since passed away, but his son shared this info with Ted Connolly to share with all babamim.com readers. We are so grateful for the story and the photos shown here gathered from a variety of sources.)
"Then I realized that what I felt was the tug of my harness as I descended at the rate of 1,000 feet per minute.
It was very quiet. Within moments I counted eight other parachutes so I knew everyone who was alive got out. Then I noticed that the airplane had begun a slow turn about five miles away and maybe three
thousand feet above me. The turn became an ever- widening circle, and another thought struck me. Is it
possible that the plane could come right through the group of parachutes? You bet it's possible, but a few worried minutes later I saw that it was at last below us. I watched it gradually wind into smaller and
smaller circles and although it seemed to fly forever, it finally hit the ground and exploded into a ball of
fire. It took almost 15 minutes before I landed. As I came closer to the ground, I heard gunfire and saw people running. Fortunately, I landed in a farmer's newly- plowed field. The ground was relatively soft and
that lessened the impact. At that time I weighed 190 lbs. stark naked, but when you add two sets of underwear (one set was a pair of "long-
johns"), plus my uniform, army high-top shoes, an electrically-heated flying suit, bomber jacket and
pants plus a weapon and miscellaneous equipment, I weighed quite a bit. We used small 24-foot parachutes so I came down fast.
As soon as I hit the ground, I rolled over and began to take off my chute harness. Then I saw what I thought were a couple of nuns. They were dressed like the B.V.M.'s who taught me for eight years in grammarschool, except that they weren't in black. I
decided that if my luck held up I could spend the rest of the war in a convent and not in a P.O.W. camp. I
called to them, but they were frightened and ran into the woods.
Then I saw a group of men coming toward me carrying rifles. They didn't have uniforms, but they all
had caps with the same insignia. The leader was about 30 feet from me and I drew my .45 pistol. He called "Russki?" and, although we were allied with the Russians at the time, I did a very smart thing. Ihollered back "No, American!" That saved my life.
I pointed to the flag that was sewn on my sleeve, and he jumped for joy. "Roosevelt," he said with a huge
smile on his face. As a young man from the 48th Ward in Chicago who had only recently cast his first-
ever vote (absentee) for the president, I hollered back, "You bet, I'm for Roosevelt, too!"
These were "Chetniks." They were a part of the first underground fighters in Yugoslavia. After the Germans overran the country, Draza Mihailovich, who was an officer in the Royal Army, took the remain-
der of his troops into the hills and formed the first organized resistance. King Peter, who escaped to London, named him commander-in-chief of his forces.
All this happened while the Communists in the country sat on their hands. Later it was a different story. As soon as the Germans invaded their "ally" Russia,
the Communists became anti-German. Politics being
what they are, what little help had gone to Mihailovich went to Tito instead. Except the help was
many times what it had been. It wasn't until several years later that the western allies realized what Stalin
was all about.
Both the Chetniks and the Partisans were fighting the Germans, and they also were fighting each other.
When the Chetniks saw us coming down in parachutes, they thought we were Russian paratroopers
invading their space. Had I said yes to the question "Russki?" I wouldn't be writing this now.
No one spoke English, but they convinced me that we needed to get away from where we were in a
hurry. We walked, ran, and jogged for a few miles until we came to a safe house. It was late afternoon when we arrived at the small farmhouse and the first person I saw was "Shorty" Shay, our tail gunner. He had some minor injuries from flak but was in pretty good shape. We were both excited to see one an-
other and very happy to be alive.
A couple of hours later there was more excitement when Tom Connelly, our engineer, arrived with only an injured leg. The next one to arrive was Roscoe Teal, our nose gunner. We all enjoyed the reunion,
and eagerly ate the food and drinks offered by our benefactors. After hours of communicating with
sign language and a combination of German, Serbian and my high school French, we finally went to sleep
fully-clothed except for shoes -- all four of us in the same bed.
The next morning, after some warm goat's milk and dark bread, Tom and I left with some Chetniks to go to the plane and bury Pete. When we were within a mile or so of where the plane hit, we were warned that it wasn't safe ahead. A "Ustashi" patrol was in
the area looking for us. The Ustashi were Croatian sympathizers who fought both the Chetniks and the
Partisans and committed atrocities against any German enemy.
We returned to the farmhouse. Shortly after our return, we were reunited with Marv Stoloff, our navi-
gator, and Franz Holscher, our ball-turret gunner. Later, we met Carrol Sanderson, the waist gunner,
and Gene Thomas. We didn't catch up to Art Farnham for a few more days.
It was time to move to an area considered safer and one that was a minor local headquarters. We had an
escort of uniformed soldiers in addition to the armed peasants who made up a major part of the Resis-
tance. There were a couple of commissioned officers on horseback with us. We walked and also rode in
ox carts and I even had the chance, along with Franz, to ride one of the horses. That night, we slept in a safe-house and spent some
time enjoying a new-found drink -- Slivovitz. It is made from plums, looks like vodka, and is smooth
going down, but kicks like a mule! We were enjoying our new friends and the prospect of evading the
Germans. We had all landed in the same general area, but there
was some local fighting going on that slowed things down a little bit. Now that our crew was almost complete, we were anxious to travel to the headquartters to see if help was available for our escape.
We were in a very primitive part of the country. Oxen were used as farm animals for plowing and hauling things in carts. Except for the mounted officers we didn't see a horse the entire time that we were in Yugoslavia. There was no electricity, and all plumbing was the outhouse-type, -- when they had
one. Water came from a well, and food was very scarce.. We ate lots of boiled cabbage for the next several
weeks. There was virtually no meat, but we did have warm goat's milk in the mornings with a slice of dark
bread. Between the light diet and all the exercise, I lost about 20 pounds in six weeks, but except for a
slight case of malnutrition, I never felt better in my life. It was dangerous because the Germans occupied the country, but they couldn't be everywhere. They were
in every important part, and controlled the cities, the
highways, the rail lines, and whatever else they deemed critical. However, they couldn't be in every
house, on every farm, hill or mountain. That was to our advantage. So although we were in danger, we never had to fight the war 24-hours-a-day like in the old Errol Flynn movies.
To sum up our situation: we were in a strange country, we didn't speak the language and we knew no one. We had no food or transportation except our feet, and we were 300+ miles from the sea, where we could begin a very long 100-mile swim home.
We needed help almost right away. If we didn't get it in a day or two we wouldn't survive. We were lucky and landed in a rural area where the native people had temporary control and we were relatively safe.. The Germans may have known we were around, but it would have taken some real effort to find us. Luckily, they were busy moving troops north to relieve other divisions who would shortly begin the "Battle of the Bulge."
We finally got to the local headquarters and found the only English-speaking person in the area. That was when we learned where we were and who we were with. We also learned that they had a short-wave radio and had advised Mihailovich's headquarters that we were with them. It looked like help might be on the way.
It was suggested that we split up and stay at different houses for safety. We decided we'd rather stay together, even though it meant all of us sleeping on the floor of a small bedroom on a blanket of straw. That is when we met the Panic family and my good friend Yugo. Marko Panic was the head of the house. His oldest son Milosh was married and had a young son and lots of aunts and a brother named Yugo. Yugo was my age and a bachelor, and like all Serbians, was filled with great respect for Americans.
They all thought we were Supermen.
All through the war, they witnessed the Germans as they beat Belgium, Norway, France, then drove the
British into the sea at Dunkirk. Although they had some problems with the Russians, they would have
reached Moscow if people like the Chetniks didn't tie down four divisions in Yugoslavia who were needed at the Eastern Front."
Be sure to read the rest of Bob Eckman's story in the #461 LIBERATOR....Vol. 23, No.2, 2006!
Let the facts speak for themelves!