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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

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  9,280 ratings  ·  608 reviews
In 1944 the OSS set out to recover more than 500 airmen trapped and sheltered for months by villagers behind enemy lines in Yugoslavia. Classified for over half a century for political reasons, this is the full account of Operation Halyard, a story of loyalty, self-sacrifice, and bravery.
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published September 1st 2007 by Nal Caliber
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Larry Orr Most of the action takes place in the summer of 1944, when Allied fliers downed over Yugoslavia came together under the protection of Yugoslav resista…moreMost of the action takes place in the summer of 1944, when Allied fliers downed over Yugoslavia came together under the protection of Yugoslav resistance fighter General Dragoljub Mihailović as plans were hatched to rescue them. It continues through July, 1946, when the fliers tried to save Mihailović from being murdered by his Communist captors.(less)

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Start your review of The Forgotten 500: The Untold Story of the Men Who Risked All For the Greatest Rescue Mission of World War II
Gail
Mar 31, 2009 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 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
...more
Jerome
May 22, 2012 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
...more
Hannah
A very inspiring story about how a few men's refusal to give up hope resulted in the rescue of many. I'd read another book about the rise of Tito and it was chilling to see how he didn't mind slandering his rival and taking credit for the good he'd done in order to take power; it was also sad to see that Yugoslavia would fall to unrest and a totalitarian government simply for lack of good leadership.

I'd have enjoyed it even more without the frequent profanity and with the addition of a bibliogra
...more
Kevin
Jan 18, 2008 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
Paul
Mar 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
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
JD
Mar 29, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ww2-escapes
A very disappointing book, as the actual story of the rescue is less than half of this book. The first part is just about the airmen walking through the Yugoslavian mountains, and this gets very boring. Then there is a lot of time spent on the back story of one of the OSS agents that helped them, and although there were more than 500 airmen rescued, only a handful of them are mentioned throughout the story. Not recommendable.
Cold War Conversations Podcast
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.

Larry
May 29, 2008 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
Grumpus
Nov 05, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, audiobook
This is based upon the audio download from www.audible.com

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
BAM The Bibliomaniac
Jun 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: own, audiobooks, wwii
Audio #59

I knew nothing of this secret mission. I had never heard of the save from Yugoslavia. This was very impressive.
Andrea Cox
A quick read that often read like a novel, this book was very engaging and informative. I had never heard of this story before now, and I hope others discover it too, because it’s incredible. Honestly, it should be made into a movie (keep it PG-13 or under, please!), because this story needs to be shared time and time and time again. It’s definitely a keeper for me.

Content: profanity, expletives, nudity (not graphic), alcohol, tobacco
Renee
Fab must-read! As another reviewer said—this is a nonfiction book that reads like a novel. Suspenseful, uplifting real-life story . . . (Why is there not a movie about Operation Halyard?)
Jonne A. Wheadon
Excellent history book of a forgotten events that should be remembered

I was fascinated with this World War 2 book. There are many unsung heroes that history forgot. This book shows that kind people do good when no praise or recognition is given. The failure of the government to acknowledge this war hero was very sad.
Alex
Mar 02, 2009 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
...more
Tiana Dalichov
Jun 15, 2012 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
...more
Anthony
Aug 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The Forgotten 500

A Review by Anthony T. Riggio of the book “The Forgotten 500” written by Gregory A. Freeman

I purchased this book on Amazon in a paperback edition. It was recommended to me by a fellow lover of history.

I am so glad I read this book, which I unhesitatingly give Five Stars as a rating. This book is well written and follows a logical story line. I have an Uncle (now deceased) who flew missions over Yugoslavia during World War II and had many great stories. By the time I read this bo
...more
Joe
Feb 24, 2011 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
Kellie Sullivan
A good story, but a little to biased for my tastes. It's clear the author wants to rehabilitate Draža Mihailović's reputation, and it is definitely possible that he was treated badly, but Freeman goes on and on about what a friend he was to the American airmen without even mentioning any of his faults. Undoubtedly he was a great ally during the war, and his trial was definitely rigged, but I would have preferred to read about a real man with ideals and failings than this glorified saint-figure.
Betsy
Apr 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A great read for those that love history, especially involving the US and an event that was disturbingly kept a secret for many, many years. During WWII when the Germans were occupying Yugoslavia, hundreds of American soldiers were shot down during a bombing campaign. At the time, there were two sectors of Yugoslavia. One was in support of Russia, also fighting the Germans. The other was a group of rebel Serbs doing their best to keep the Germans out along with communist Russia. These US soldier ...more
Courtney Judd
Nov 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I highly, highly, highly recommend this book. I've read a lot of WWII books and even though I like them, I tend to get sick of them. What the Jewish people under Hitler was unimaginable and horrific. I am amazed by their stories. However, I appreciate that this book covers a completely different aspect of the war.

I had no idea that Romania played any part in WWII. I learned that Romania had oil refineries that the Germans took over for fuel supply. The Allies sent missions to bomb those oil refi
...more
Lyden Orbase
Mar 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Well, it made me cry.
Sue
Nov 19, 2009 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
...more
Bailey
Apr 08, 2013 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.
Sarah
Jan 08, 2014 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.
Rich
Aug 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is a gem, a rare find to rate a book 5 stars.
Debbie Evancic
Jun 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: historical
This was written as a true, untold story of American pilots who had to parachute down into Yugoslavia during World War II. The pilots had been sent on missions to bomb German camps and artillery holdings. After dropping their bombs, many planes did not have the fuel to return to the base of Italy, or they had a mechanical failure due to being shot or not. The Serbian townspeople protected the servicemen, moving them eventually under the care of Mihailovich. It is there where they were grouped an ...more
Don
Jan 01, 2016 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
...more
Robert DeZurik
Jun 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
WWll 's Biggest Secret

This is an excellent story that probably not 10% of the US citizens know anything about. Even GI's who fought in European battles, and survived, never knew about this rescue. This story brings every one of my emotions to light.
Being born in 1941, I was a mere child when this took place. One would have thought that there would have been at least one newspaper reporter, after the fact, who could have written this story while it was taking place.

Exceptionally well written. I b
...more
Timberlee
May 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book hit close to my heart since my father was shot down over Yugoslavia in WWII. I now understand the politics during the war between the US, Britain, Allies, Axis, Communists, Chetniks, Tito’s Partisans and more! All while learning the courageous story of Operation Halyard. I hope all the descendants of WWII veterans will read this book to further their understanding and respect of the Greatest Generation.
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UCAS English 10 H...: September Reading Assignment 1 23 Oct 16, 2017 09:07PM  
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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.” 2 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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