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The Forgotten 500: The Untold Story of the Men Who Risked All For the Greatest Rescue Mission of World War II

3.99  ·  Rating Details  ·  3,455 Ratings  ·  333 Reviews
An astonishing, never-before-told story of the Second World War, based on newly declassified documents and exclusive interviews.

In 1944 the OSS set out to recover more than 500 airmen trapped behind enemy lines in Yugoslavia. Classified for over half a century for political reasons, the full account of this unforgettable story of loyalty, self-sacrifice, and bravery is n
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published August 28th 2007 by NAL Hardcover (first published 2007)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Dec 04, 2013 Gail rated it it was amazing
I'm very biased about this book because my dad, Joseph Peter Hoffman, was one of the forgotten 500. I'm so appreciative to Gregory Freeman for bringing this event to a potentially large audience. My father never spoke much about his experience, but we would hear more about it from the more vocal crew members that he kept in contact with throughout his life. His crew bailed out due to mechanical issues with their plane. One of his crewmates broke his leg during the landing, and he was carried by ...more
Kevin Cole
Feb 01, 2016 Kevin Cole rated it liked it
I live in Serbia so everything in this book was familiar to me. I found it light reading that neither taxed nor insulted my intelligence.

Today, between Italy and Greece, there's a series of sovereign nations: Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia and Kosovo. But back in 1941, it was all one country called Yugoslavia. The Nazis invaded and conquered Yugoslavia and divided it up between themselves and their Axis partners. Within Occupied Yugoslavia there were two distinct resist
Jun 17, 2012 Jerome rated it liked it
The subject matter of this book is very interesting and certainly worthy of learning about. However, I found this author to be maddeningly juvenile in his style of writing. I felt like he was writing to four year olds.

After only a few pages, the author mentioned the first Ploesti raid from North Africa and said it was a high level raid, and that the subsequent raids on Ploesti were low level raids from Italy. I read the book, Ploesti, some years ago which described that first raid in detail. As
Mar 07, 2013 Paul rated it it was amazing
Just when I thought I knew all of the major aspects of WWII, along comes a book that shatters all those illusions. The Forgotten 500 is an amazing story of 500+ airmen who came down in the mountains of Yugoslavia and how they are saved from starvation and capture by the rugged Serb freedom fighters. And to that extent, I've read books like this before. But the back-story is filled with twists and turns that include espionage, lovers escaping to freedom, political wrangling between the US and our ...more
Jun 17, 2008 Larry rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Any WWII Buff or Historian
Recommended to Larry by: I picked it up in the Library
If you are a WWII buff this is a must read. The incredible, untold story of the rescue of over 500 US and Allied pilots from Yugoslavia over just a few weeks. Many personal stories and the heroism of the Yugoslav (primarily Serbs)people and how they gave us their food and shelter to feed and house these fliers. An important part of this book is the role of Communists in the US and British Armies and the OSS and British Secret Service and how they influenced the relationship between the US, Great ...more
Jan 18, 2008 Kevin rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-history
I'm afraid I'm going to have to burst a lot of bubbles with this review, because I know a lot of people really enjoyed this book. To be fair, the storytelling style is really gripping and chock-full of well-told war stories. I love war stories, especially when they're true. Problem is, this book is FULL of historical errors major and minor. The only reason I know is because I'm writing an article on Operation Halyard, and have talked to some of the veterans involved, including Tom Oliver and Geo ...more
Manchester Military History Society (MMHS)
Whilst this is a good yarn and provides some interesting back stories I felt it lacked substance.

The book descends into Brit and communist bashing where some of the facts are tenuous and at best circumstantial.

Following my own further research of the subject it's clear the author had been somewhat lax on his grip of the facts generally and totally ignores evidence that Mihailovich really did collaborate with Axis forces.

A good tale ruined by factual errors and a political agenda.

Nov 27, 2007 Grumpus rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, audiobook
This is based upon the audio download from

Narrated by: Patrick Lawlor

Wow, this is another example of why these men are known as the “greatest generation”. This book was non-stop action that script writers could only hope to come up with.

Kudos to Patrick Lawlor in his narration. I also enjoyed him in another worthy read/listen The Colony The Harrowing True Story of the Exiles of Molokai. He is quickly becoming another of my favorite readers.

This is the story of downed pilots in Y
Mar 02, 2009 Alex rated it it was amazing
When I asked author Gregory Freeman what drew him to the story of ‘Operation Halyard’, he didn’t hesitate:

“My interests as an author usually lead me to stories of heroism and sacrifice that went unrecognized for too long, and the story of Operation Halyard fits the bill perfectly. I was drawn to the idea that not only was this an amazing tale of intrigue and bravery, but it had been purposefully hidden from the American people for decades. A dramatic story is one thing; a dramatic story that has
Feb 24, 2011 Joe rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Forgotten 500 tells an interesting yet largely unknown story of World War 2. During countless Allied bombing runs of Germany, hundreds of downed airmen found themselves caught behind enemy lines in Axis-controlled Yugoslavia. Once on the ground, many of these airmen found themselves caught in the middle of yet another conflict between warring factions of Serbians: the Royalist Chetniks led by Draza Mihailovic and the Communist Partisans led by Tito. Each fought the Germans, but with differen ...more
Nov 19, 2009 Sue rated it did not like it
This book covers some of the experinces of American fliers forced to crash-land behind enemy lines in Yugoslavia/Hungary/etc., and the top-secret rescue effort to airlift them out. However, I never got that far to find out how they pulled it off...

While the topic is fascinating, I found the writing so melodramatic and repetitive that I've quit a couple of chapters into it. Granted, I'm listening to this on CD while commutting, so much of that drama is due to the overwraught reading style of the
Arthur Gibson
Jul 21, 2015 Arthur Gibson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Tells a story that is not well know
Give great background information leading up to the operation
Continues after the operation to inform the reader what the results were

Can sometimes get caught up in the information and not focus as much on the individual experience
Can be hard to get into in the beginning

Really enjoyed the book! Would love to add it to my collection one day. I really could not put it down. A really good book about an amazing story!
Jan 09, 2016 Don rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Book Review – The Forgotten 500 by Gregory A. Freeman

While historical in nature, this book reads like a novel. If you have an interest in World War Two, you will not be bored.

My friend Kate knew that I enjoyed reading about World War Two and gave me this book for Christmas. When I read the back of the book to learn what it is about all I could think of was; this is amazing why haven’t I heard about this before?

The Forgotten 500 is the story of how General Draza Mihailovich’s Chetnik’s and the pe
Dan Krehnbrink
Great story buried in revisionist history

Operation Halyard is a great story and I would have enjoyed hearing more about the logistical and technical challenges in pulling off the extraction. But the historical perspective was largely from the point of view of those rescued, and they were arguably in the dark about such details.

However, the main thrust of the book seemed to be focused on clearing the name of Chetnik leader General Draza Mihailovic, who was executed as a collaborator by the Commu
Jun 04, 2014 Dana rated it it was amazing
Barely ten pages into "The Forgotten 500", the storyhooked me. I had toread about the hundreds of AmericanAirmen who abandoned their aircraft midflight above Yugoslavia, and the daring escape that would rescuenearly 500 of them from a desolate area surrounded by German forces. I hadn'theard of this rescue, and I'm stillbaffled that such a daring event in history isn't more well known.As the story unfolded, Ifound myself constantly thinking, this is amazing, this is amazing.

It was difficult for m
***Dave Hill
I've read about the Greatest Rescue Mission of WWII (Ghost Soldiers: The Epic Account of World War II's Greatest Rescue Mission), and this mission, sadly, doesn't live up. Neither does the book.

Not that the mission in question isn't epic in its own way. Some 500 Allied (mostly American) fliers, shot down over Yugoslavia, are protected by the local Serbian villagers until a mission can be mounted to fly C-47s in and airlift them out.

But in reality, this would have made a nice, lengthy article in
Tiana Dalichov
Jul 24, 2012 Tiana Dalichov rated it it was amazing
They don't realize what Communism really is, the way it works to overpower a country's people and take everything from them. They don't understand that Communism is a cancer that can spread all over if you don't stop it.

The Forgotten 500 tells the story of the American airmen who were trapped in Nazi territory during World War II and the courageous citizens of Yugoslavia who risked everything to help them. With riveting details, undeniable truths, and downright appalling military policy, the sto
Kathy Kline
Apr 25, 2014 Kathy Kline rated it really liked it
I agree with those who've said the book is a bit (okay, fairly) repetitive. Still giving it a big thumbs up for an amazing story that few of us know. I had a much loved college professor, now deceased, who was a Royalist Serb partisan in Yugoslavia during this timeframe. I loved hearing his stories then, and having even more background and perspective now puts me in awe of the risks taken by ordinary men and women to save Allied soldiers-- in this case primarily American airmen. I particularly e ...more
Apr 30, 2016 Banner rated it really liked it
The Forgotten 500 Critical Review

During World War II, there were many mission that took place all across the world. Some of these missions were to rescue soldiers the have been captured, or stranded behind enemy lines. Because of the shear number of airplanes that would attack Axis controlled areas, many planes ended up getting shot down. The book The Forgotten 500 is a book about the American Bomber crews, based in Italy, that were shot down over Yugoslavia and the heroic mission that was cre
Rob Kitchin
Nov 16, 2014 Rob Kitchin rated it liked it
From 1942 on the Allies started to systematically bomb the Romanian oil fields at Ploesti flying first from North Africa and then Italy. Given their vital strategic value to the Axis the refineries were heavily defended by flak defences and fighter squadrons and the attrition rate on Allied bombers and crews was high. Many of the crews bailed out over Yugoslavia, occupied by German and Italian troops and divided by complex internal divisions: the Fascist Ustase, collaborating with the Axis, and ...more
Kameron Ray
Sep 11, 2014 Kameron Ray rated it really liked it

"The Forgotten 500: The Untold Story of the Men Who Risked All for the Greatest Rescue Mission of World War II" by Gregory A. Freeman is an amazing read that really captures your attention once you are power through the first few chapters. Freeman used an enormous amount of first-hand and second-hand experiences on Operation Halyard, of which he collected before many of the members of the secret rescue mission perished, or lost memory due to old age. Freemen extracted this information from vario

Nov 30, 2014 Peter rated it really liked it
Shelves: military
During the WWII air raids on Ploesti’s oil fields hundreds of downed allied airmen were trapped behind German lines in the Balkans, particularly in Yugoslavia. “The Forgotten 500” is the story of a major mission to extricate as many of them as possible. The story is well written and an insight into the heroic efforts (and the bureaucratic turf battles) that marked that war.

Intelligence sources in Yugoslavia had informed the British (who spearheaded operations in the Balkans) that Chetins—one arm
Jan 24, 2014 Sarah rated it it was amazing
Excellent! L am a little obsessed with World War II books. This one reads like a fiction novel. Such a great story about the rescue mission that went on in Yugoslovia, and the politics behind it.
Jan 24, 2016 Ebirdy rated it really liked it
This is actually 4.5 stars. Very interesting and largely unknown episode from WW2. The author did a good job of explaining background factors so the decisions that were made were understandable in context.
Michael Kerr
Apr 08, 2014 Michael Kerr rated it it was ok
Shelves: war
This book covers a little known episode of the second world war. A large number of allied bombers went down on their way back to Italy after bombing the Nazi-held Romanian oil fields. Many airmen bailed out over the former Yugoslavia - which was not only occupied by the Germans, but also fighting a civil war. The bomber crews were protected by a rebel faction and 512 were rescued in an unlikely mission involving building an airstrip in occupied territory.

Unfortunately, Freeman's writing style is
Liam Porter
Overall, I found this to be an amazing story of daring rescue during WWII. I was entirely unaware of the complicated political battle that occurred in Yugoslavia during this time period. What an unfortunate outcome for Mihailovich despite helping rescue the American airmen.

In my opinion the book wasn't written in the most readable style, but contained great content. I found parts of the book to be repetitive and below the average reading level. Combined, it made for a difficult read. I felt tha
Curtis J. Correll
Jun 29, 2015 Curtis J. Correll rated it really liked it
I loved this book because of the audacious rescue mission, the revelations of the impact of the infamous Cambridge Spy Ring on British/American political decisions, and the sacrificial support of some rescued American pilots for the unfairly condemned Nazi-resistance leader.
This book will make you mad at how a group of spy traitors, through their stupid Communist ideology, could have misled Britain and America into actively supporting a Communist tyrant in Yugoslavia at the expense of the more
Carla Hostetter
Apr 15, 2016 Carla Hostetter rated it it was amazing
A slow beginning as the author lays out the political situation in Yugoslavia prior to World War II, but the story picks up when the first person stories of airmen shot down over that country while trying to bomb oil refineries in Nazi hands begin. Gathered up by locals and taken to the military camp of the Serb commander, a man they were told to distrust, the airmen find protection. The horrors endured by the people of the region, none of whom turn in the Americans, is terrific. Finally, when o ...more
May 29, 2013 Bailey rated it it was amazing
LOVED this book!!! I know my grandfather went through something similar to this and it makes me want to research his past and see if he was one of these men!!!! Great great great read, thoroughly enjoyed learning about such brave men.
Jun 26, 2014 Diane rated it really liked it
An absolutely incredible story kept secret all these years. British and US politicians side with a communist leader in Yugoslavia, Tito, while MI6 British agents spread lies about the army leader in Yugoslavia, Mihailovich. Meanwhile, over 500 downed airmen sit and wait in the mountainous regions of Yugoslavia, hoping and praying for rescue. The ambitious and dangerous rescue of the mostly American downed airmen is an incredibly brave and lucky but successful operation. The heroes are, to this d ...more
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Men's Book Club: (BoM) Feb. 15 - The Forgotten 500 3 25 Feb 18, 2015 10:51PM  
A basic review of the book 2 25 May 25, 2013 11:55AM  
A basic review of the book 1 7 Jun 17, 2008 04:52PM  
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“A sense of duty pursues us ever. It is omnipresent, like the Deity. If we take to ourselves the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, duty performed or duty violated is still with us, for our happiness or our misery. If we say the darkness shall cover us, in the darkness as in the light our obligations are yet with us.   —Daniel Webster Argument on the Murder of Captain White, APRIL 6, 1830. VOL. VI., P. 105.” 1 likes
“So he pointed to the unit patch on his uniform shirt and said, “U.S. . . . Air Force . . . American.” The sturdy, gray-haired woman nodded and seemed relieved, understanding Musgrove. The women nodded their heads and pointed to themselves, saying, “Yugoslavian.” 1 likes
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