The Forgotten 500: The Untold Story of the Men Who Risked All For the Greatest Rescue Mission of World War II
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

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

3.93 of 5 stars 3.93  ·  rating details  ·  1,662 ratings  ·  231 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...more
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published August 28th 2007 by NAL Hardcover (first published 2007)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.
John Adams by David McCullough1776 by David McCulloughTeam of Rivals by Doris Kearns GoodwinThe Guns of August by Barbara W. TuchmanThe Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William L. Shirer
Best History Books
223rd out of 1,331 books — 1,234 voters
Band of Brothers by Stephen E. AmbroseBlack Hawk Down by Mark BowdenLone Survivor by Marcus LuttrellFlags of Our Fathers by James D. BradleyThe Guns of August by Barbara W. Tuchman
Best Non-fiction War Books
179th out of 679 books — 895 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
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
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 5 of 5 stars
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
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...more
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
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...more
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...more
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
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...more
***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...more
Tiana Dalichov
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...more
Kathy Kline
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
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.
Michael Kerr
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...more
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.
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
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...more
A truly amazing book about events that most people know absolutely nothing about. The story of the preservation and rescue of downed airmen in Yugoslavia is something that needs to be told. The presence of ONE Communist mole in British Intelligence doomed an entire nation to the scourge that is Communism, and resulted in the execution of the man who worked along with his followers to protect the downed men. The resourcefulness of the airmen and those who sheltered them is something that every fr...more
I normally don't get real caught up in books like this but I had a hard time putting this one down! Freeman did an awesome job of researching the back-stories on the various airman trapped behind enemy lines and couched their stories in an overall context in Yugoslavia that was gripping! I loved hearing about how loving and supportive the poor local peasants were of American airman and how the airman later came back with thousands of pairs of shoes for the villagers to thank them, despite violat...more
Paul Callister
Pretty good read about a little known and amazing story to come out of WWII.

A fascinating and little known piece of World War II history is nicely detailed in "The Forgotten 500" by Gregory A. Freeman. I have read hundreds of WWII books and never heard this remarkable story of the OSS-led rescue of hundreds of downed American bomber crews from Nazi-occupied Yugoslavia. It hasn't been included by history writers for the simple reason that the story has been suppressed for 60 years by embarrassed British and American governments. This book is absolutely worth reading and...more
Jeff Williams
A book that is not quite what the jacket advertises. The actual rescue of the pilots is more of a backdrop against which the author examines the political difficulties of dealing with a soon-to-be-Communist Yugoslavia during WWII. For example, the description of the construction of a level, long runway in the rugged mountains of that region - all with hand-held tools - only takes a two and a half pages, even though this is billed on the back of the book as a major part of the story. In contrast,...more
Earleen Smith
This is an interesting, riveting read. Gregory Freeman seems to have teased out a story the US government would still rather not have known. What a shame!

The book gives background stories on the men involved in the rescue as well as has a section of pictures. It only lightly illustrates the brutality of the German soldiers of that time frame, with which we are all familiar. But it is abundantly clear about the warmth and generosity of the Yugoslavian people, including Mihailovich. What sacrific...more
This book gives an amazing historical account of a bold and daring rescue mission to save 539 Allied Airmen (97% were Americans) late in 1944. The stranded Airmen were trapped behind German enemy lines in Yugoslavia. The stranded Airmen were being fed, clothed and sheltered by Royal Chetnics, led by General Mihailovic, who was rebelling against the German occupation. Freeman offers the reader much more than just a historical account of this little known story. He gives a chilling account on how...more
Dan Bell
The Forgotten 500 was an interesting book about the rescue of stranded airmen in Yugoslavia during WWII. While providing some history of the region prior and during the conflict, and background on those involved in Operation Halyard, I felt like the actual rescue was only briefly touched on by the author. The author spent a good portion of the book providing the history and background of the event, and a chapter on the actual rescue, he only provided a cursory summation of the rest of the operat...more
Carl Nelson
"The Forgotten 500" recounts the successful rescue of more than 500 Allied airmen, downed behind enemy lines in Yugoslavia, and how they are rescued by dedicated OSS agents and the Serbian people. History makes it a bittersweet tale at best, as it is also the story of the Allied abandonment of General Draza Mihailovich and his subsequent arrest, show trial, and execution as Yugoslavia was handed over to Communist rule.

Gregory A. Freeman writes with a thorough style that gives a good overview of...more
The Forgotten 500. This is a well written, untold story of a truly remarkable rescue undertaken by a fledgling group of men ( the OSS- the early CIA), using lumbering aircraft to snatch 500+ airmen from right under the noses of the Nazis, in the daylight, from rural, mountainous Yugoslavia. Even a herd of cows entered the picture at just the right time (coincidence you say?).

These airmen had to evade capture while awaiting rescue with the aid of Serbs who loved the USA and valiantly fought the...more
The forgotten 500. I have not read any others but this has to be the most comprehensive book detailing the rescue of American airmen in Yougoslavia during WWII.

The story details personal accounts from downed airmen and pilots, OSS officers who orchistrated the plan to get them out and a broad background of the political climate and other obstructions that they had to overcome to make the rescue happen. The book also details the aftermath of General Mihalohivich who without his say so the protec...more
Regina Lindsey
The Forgotten 500 by Gregory Freeman
3.5 stars rounded to 4

One of the major strategic campaigns during WWII for American bombers was to destroy oil fields in Romania. These oilfields were vital to supporting the Axis and, thus, fiercely protected by the Germans. Routinely American airmen were shot down during these strikes. For those fortunate to go down over Yugoslavia they were greeted by villagers showering them with kisses, sacrificing the comfort of their beds, and eating only after the Amer...more
Doug Dams
This book is the story of rescuing the bomber crews that had to bail out in Yugoslavia from the raids on the Ploesti oilfields in Romania. During the second world war there were two resistance groups operating against the Germans in Yugoslavia: the communist partisans led by Tito and the Chetniks led by Draza Mihailovich. Mihailovich was loyal to the allies and was helping downed fliers evade the Germans and trying to contact allied command to rescue the fliers. But communist agents and moles ha...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
World Travel thro...: * October-November 2013: Forgotten 500... 1 3 Nov 20, 2013 01:27PM  
A basic review of the book 3 21 May 25, 2013 11:55AM  
A basic review of the book 1 7 Jun 17, 2008 04:52PM  
  • Okinawa: The Last Battle of World War II
  • The Liberators: America's Witnesses to the Holocaust
  • The Longest Winter: The Battle of the Bulge and the Epic Story of World War II's Most Decorated Platoon
  • Devil at My Heels: A Heroic Olympian's Astonishing Story of Survival as a Japanese POW in World War II
  • Islands of the Damned: A Marine at War in the Pacific
  • The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors: The Extraordinary World War II Story of the U.S. Navy's Finest Hour
  • The Ghost Mountain Boys: Their Epic March and the Terrifying Battle for New Guinea--The Forgotten War of the South Pacific
  • Hitler's Panzers: The Lightning Attacks that Revolutionized Warfare
  • We Die Alone: A WWII Epic of Escape and Endurance
  • Tears in the Darkness: The Story of the Bataan Death March and Its Aftermath
  • Escape From Davao: The Forgotten Story of the Most Daring Prison Break of the Pacific War
  • Brotherhood of Heroes: The Marines at Peleliu, 1944--The Bloodiest Battle of the Pacific War
  • The Pacific
  • Shattered Sword: The Untold Story of the Battle of Midway
  • The Candy Bombers
  • Parachute Infantry: An American Paratrooper's Memoir of D-Day and the Fall of the Third Reich
  • Patton, Montgomery, Rommel: Masters of War
  • Goodbye, Darkness: A Memoir of the Pacific War
Sailors to the End: The Deadly Fire on the USS Forrestal and the Heroes Who Fought It The Gathering Wind: Hurricane Sandy, the Sailing Ship Bounty, and a Courageous Rescue at Sea Lay This Body Down: The 1921 Murders of Eleven Plantation Slaves Red Tails: The Tuskegee Airmen and Operation Halyard: An All-New Update for the Forgotten 500 Troubled Water: Race, Mutiny, and Bravery on the USS Kitty Hawk

Share This Book

“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.” 0 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.” 0 likes
More quotes…