Has a film of Operation Halyard been made?

Has there ever been a motion picture depicting Operation Halyard produced?

L.T. Ricamore



Dear Mr. Ricamore,

Operation Halyard, the evacuation of as many as 512 downed Allied aircrewmen from behind German lines with the aid of Dragoljub Mihailovic’s Serbian Royalist Chetniks between August 9 and December 27, 1944, was long kept a repressed secret, more as a diplomatic sop to Mihailovic’s rival in the area, Josip Broz, aka Marshal Tito, to whom the Allies ultimately committed themselves, than against the Germans. In the wake of the disintegration of Yugoslavia, surviving participants in the operation unveiled a commemorative plague at Pranjani, the principal town from which the vast majority of evaders were airlifted, on September 12, 2004. To the best of my knowledge, however, there has yet to be any film, American, Serbian or otherwise, that has been released on the subject.




Jon Guttman
Research Director
World History Group

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4 Responses

  1. Robert Kapanjie

    One of the great betrayals of W W 2, Milhailovic and his Chetniks were responsible for the rescue of hundreds of downed allied airmen. They were shot down by the Luftwaffe returning home to base in Italy following the bombing of the Ploesti oil fields in Roumania.. The allies had initially supported Milhailovic until Tito managed to implant moles who relayed false intelligence that the Chetniks were collaborating with the Germans. The Brits were duped and repudiated Milhailovic. He was captured by the Partisans ( Tito’s group )given a rigged trial and executed after the war. Many of the rescued airmen and their supporters held rallies on Milhailovic’s behalf, wrote letters to the Yugoslav government pleading for mercy–to no avail.
    The partisans attacked the Germans wherever the opportunity presented itself often near towns and villages which then paid a terrible price from German retributions. Milhailovic on the other hand was more cautious and attacked the enemy away from population centers in order to minimize German reprisals. An excellent book to read on the subject is Gregory Freeman’s The Forgotten 500.

  2. Herb Harper

    If memory serves correctly, I believe I remember seeing a movie in the 1940s depicting the Germans, burning a village and killing all the residents, because they would NOT reveal details of Allied airmen being hidden in Yugoslavia during the war. I must admit I was a teenager at the time, however DID see a lot of wartime movies. I cannot recall the name or much of the details of the movie.

    Herb Harper, Historian, 98th Bomb Group Vets. Association

  3. Leo Brooks

    FOR CLARIFICATION: On 15 July 1944 while returning in a severely damaged airplane [B-17G, 840th BS, , 483rd BG,15th AF, Sterparone, Italy] for a mission to a vitally important enemy oil refinery and installations in Ploesti, Rumania, Captain Leo C. Brooks [West Point, June ’43] was forced to bail out over Yugoslavia [Ljig, Serbia]. Immediately on landing he was approached by members of the Chetnik army who offer him assistance. Upon Captain Brooks’ request to see their commanding officer [Kapetan Larko Muzikravic] he was led through the mountains for several days until on 26 July 1944 he reached a British landing strip [Pranjani, Serbia] that had been prepared for the evacuation of escapees. In the villages surrounding this field there were already some 150 American airmen who were awaiting an expected evacuation and more were coming in every day. As the ranking American officer he took command of the Americans present and in conjunction with the Chetnik area commander determined the best policy to follow in quartering and protecting the men and in effecting a high degree of camouflage discipline. Due to his careful planning, and superb tact and diplomacy, Captain Brooks obtained maximum aid and assistance from the Chetnik Army. Two entire army corps totaling 3000 men were provided him to insure ample defense against possible German interference. At Captain Brooks’ suggestion all men to be evacuated were split into six groups with an American officer in charge of each. The first of these groups was composed of all the sick and injured who were quartered near a hospital so that they could receive all possible medical attention. The rest of the groups were dispersed in the neighboring mountains, the most distant being two hours walking distance away. Keeping with him a staff of six officers to handle staff work, Captain Brooks then directed that, to insure the most orderly and expeditious evacuation possible a list be drafted by name, rank and serial number of all Americans in the area together with the date of their being shot down. Meanwhile two men [one was 1st Lieutenant Tom Oliver West Point, June ’43, B-24, 756th BS, 459th BG, 15th AF, Giulia, Italy and ironically academy roommate of Captain Brooks] who had been sent to contact General Mihailovic’s headquarters brought back word that on one of three specified nights friendly planes would land to effect an evacuation of those present. Captain Brooks inspected the airfield, improvised a night lighting system with a number of kerosene lamps and then set up a watch to signal the planes when they came over. Only one plane arrived, however, and this did not land, dropping supplies and three men by parachute instead. These three men [OSS team, 1st Lieutenant Musulin, Master Sargent Rajacich, and Navy Petty Officer Jibilian] had been sent in as an allied mission from Italy and had brought along a radio transmitter. The officer in charge of the mission brought word that the landing strip was not considered usable by 15th Air Force and that no landing would be made until a great amount of work had been done to it. After setting up an improvised radio station with the new equipment Captain Brooks left one officer in charge of the construction work necessary at this particular field, gave him detailed instructions on how to complete the project, and procured for him through the Chetnik Army Commander a large number of Yugoslav laborers. The remaining six officers, including himself, he divided into two man teams to investigate possible sites for another field. In this manner two better locations were discovered and work was immediately begun on those fields as well. In the meantime radio contact with 15th Air Force was again effected [sic], request made for certain urgently needed supplies and a message sent with regard to the work that was being done on the first field. Contact so established enabled two transports to come over shortly thereafter and drop considerable quantity of greatly needed material. Acting under instructions previously issued by Captain Brooks, the group quartered nearest the dropping site successfully brought in all of these supplies. Several days later when construction on the first field had progressed to the point where it was usable the 15th Air Force was notified and a message came back from that headquarters that 8 airplanes would arrive that evening each with a capacity of 12 men. Captain Brooks then sent runners to alert the first 96 men that were scheduled to go, the field was again cleared and signal fires built. One officer was put in charge of the men and ordered to have each group of twelve men leave the woods only when its plane was ready. During this time no one else was to be on the field. Another officer was detailed to meet the planes as they landed and park them for loading, while a third officer was detailed to guide them out for takeoff. Only 4 aircraft [C-47A, 60thTCG, 12thAF Brindisi, Italy] came in that night, the first a doctor, several assistants and medical supplies. These 4 airplanes were landed, unloaded, loaded with evacuees and successfully dispatched in extreme good order. From the pilot of the first plane to land, Captain Brooks learned the operation was to continue throughout the following morning with friendly fighter [said to be Red Tail P-51C, 332nd FG, 15th AF, Cattolica, Italy] cover. He immediately sent runners to all the different groups and by 0700 hours on 10 August 1944 all the remaining evacuees had been assembled in the woods adjacent to the field. To assist the evacuation planes Captain Brooks had had the field marked with strips of parachutes. As each airplane came in that morning 20 men were dispatched to it and it took off. Only after all the other evacuees had been loaded did Captain Brooks get aboard the last airplane. After this last airplane had been loaded, the pilot counted 21 men aboard, one in excess of the maximum. Assuming that one would have to be left on the ground Captain Brooks immediately left the airplane as the volunteer who would stay behind. A recount by the pilot of his passengers, however, brought out that he had had only 20 instead of 21 so that it was possible for Captain Brooks to reenter, but this he did only after assuring himself that the safety of the others would not be imperiled. Through the intrepid leadership, gallant courage, able direction, and superb diplomacy in his dealing with our Yugoslavian Allies, a total of 240 Americans, 7 British, 12 Russians, 5 French and 5 Italian officers and men were evacuated in this operation.


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