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The Forgotten 500: The Untold Story of the Men Who Risked All for the GreatestRescue Mission of World War II

3.96 of 5 stars 3.96  ·  rating details  ·  2,665 ratings  ·  282 reviews
Now in paperback the "amazing"( James Bradley, New York Times bestselling author of Flags of Our Fathers) never-before-told story of the greatest escape of the Second World War.

In 1944 the OSS set out to recover more than 500 downed airmen trapped behind enemy lines in Yugoslavia. Classified for over half a century for political reasons, the full account of this unforgetta
Paperback, 313 pages
Published September 2nd 2008 by NAL (first published 2007)
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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
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
Jun 17, 2008 Larry rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Brittany Howell
The Forgotten 500 was the perfect addition to my WWII "have-read-list." I love learning about the events of WWII by means of the supposed fringe stories--stories of those lesser-known heroes who deserve much, much more credit than they received for their efforts during the war, and yet expected none. General Mihailovich was one of those men.

I was fascinated to learn about the events and politics in Yugoslavia during and after the war, and the characters Freeman uses to tell that story helped to
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
Rob Kitchin
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

"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

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
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
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
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
Aaron EVHS Thomas
The Forgotten 500 is great book about the "greatest rescue mission of WW2." The books main purpose is to help the reader realize the bravery and sacrifice of General Draza Mihailovich who commanded troops to fight the Germans. He had a rival named Tito who the U.S.A supported as well as Britain but did not contribute to the war. General Tito took credit for Mihailovich's work. America and Britain only realized how much Mihailovich had helped only after he was captured and executed. This book des ...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
Jan 01, 2015 David rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: WWII history buffs, Thos interested in Yugoslavia's history
The book covers some unique aspects of WWII that occurred over and in Yugoslavia. It covers the 15th Air Force's bombing of Ploesti oil fields, the plight of down US airman as a result of this conflict, the infighting within Yugoslavia between Mihailovich and Tito, the creation of the OSS, the infiltration of communist into US and British political engine, the desire of men to protect other men, and the desire of men to return home.

Most of all it presents the actions of a few select men to do wh
Paul Callister
Pretty good read about a little known and amazing story to come out of WWII.
Chad Manske
Superb story about American Airmen rescued in the hills of Pjanye, Yugoslavia during WW II. Though thoroughly surrounded in nearby areas with Nazi encampments, German soldiers and a Luftwaffe base, the heroics of this tiny village and the help of Yugoslav Army general Mihailovich, downed Airmen bombing the nearby Ploesti, Romanian oil fields were all safely rescued. Many of the details of this operation (Operation Halyard) remained classified until 1995 and into the new century. Compliment your ...more
This was a very interesting read. This was such a significant event that had a profound impact not only on the outcome of World War II, but also on the development of the Cold War which would last for decades. Yet, it was hidden from the rest of the world for may years. I couldn't help wondering, as I was reading this and learning about the rescue mission, how different the latter part of the twentieth century would have been if the Allies had acted differently. I would recommend this book to an ...more
I had never heard this story before. It was so sad to hear the ultimate fate of Mihailovich and just as inspiring to read of the escape of SO MANY SOLDIERS! There is so much I didn't know about. This book was such a great read. I was so touched to read about the relationship between the Serbs and the Allied soldiers. Very infuriating to know it took the USA so long to recognize the heroic efforts of Mihailovich, and too late for any personal benefit for him personally. Amazing story made even mo ...more
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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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