Wednesday, April 07, 2010

War and Remembrance

Arthur "Jibby" Jibilian, the last surviving member of the Halyard Mission, passed away on March 23. To his dying day, he fought for recognition of the people who helped him and his OSS colleagues rescue hundreds of Allied airmen shot down by the Nazis over what is today Serbia. They were given aid and shelter, in spite of both brutal German reprisals and Allied bombings of Serbian civilians in 1944. But this amazing escape remained secret and forgotten, because of the identity of their Serbian rescuers.

It was the royalists of Gen. Draža Mihailović who took part in the Halyard rescue. Meanwhile, however, the Western Allies switched their support to Tito and the Communists. Assisted by Soviet troops, they took power in Yugoslavia as the Nazis retreated. Mihailović was captured in 1946 and executed by the Communists for "treason." His grave is yet to be found.

In 1948, Mihailović was posthumously decorated by President Truman, for "organising and leading important resistance forces against the enemy which occupied Yugoslavia from December 1941 to December 1944". The citation stated that the royalists, "fighting under extreme hardships, contributed materially to the Allied cause and were materially instrumental in obtaining a final Allied Victory." It was never made public, though, for fears of alienating the Tito government. Meanwhile, Communist history books nurtured a narrative of Mihailović and his troops as Nazi collaborators, equating them with actual Nazi sympathizers, the Croatian Ustaša, and the Bosnian Muslim and Albanian Waffen-SS.

As Tito's Yugoslavia was torn apart in the 1990s, this rape of history went a step further: the pro-Nazi forces in 1940s Yugoslavia and their modern heirs were re-cast as "freedom fighters", while the modern-day Serbs as well as Mihailović were smeared as the actual "Nazis"! The ignorant Western public swallowed the story hook, line and sinker. One can only imagine how the few Americans that knew the truth, like Jibilian, must have felt.

In a March 30 letter to Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Mim Bizic explains the tragedy of it all:

Bill David, an Ohio pilot, was in the Boston airport when he learned of "Jibby's" passing. He wrote this in an e-mail to me: "Art and his fellow soldiers were honest-to-God real live American heroes, the kind that you would read about in comic books. Over 500 lives were saved during WWII and nobody knows about it. The guys they rescued went on to live their lives, father families, build careers, help make America great. Nobody knows of all of this.

"This is not the news of the day. We as a nation are worse off because of it. It disconnects us from our gallant values and what made us great as a country in the first place.

"Tiger Woods will take center stage for his indiscretions. That is the kind of stuff that is important to us now. Everybody knows who Tiger and Paris are, but nobody knows who Draza Mihailovich was and what he and the Serbian people did for our country, the sacrifices they made so that our boys could live."

Perhaps if Americans did know, this wouldn't have been written on the 11th anniversary of the illegal bombing of Serbia by NATO forces.

Rest in peace, "Jibby". And thank you.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Samo mi nije jasno zasto ovih "500 Spasenih zanemese?