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Showing 1-10 of 977 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 1,124 reviews
on August 4, 2016
This is a great book and reveals the inequities of USand British Policy during WWII. The US State Department turned away from the downed US airmen and those who saved them. Had it not been for the brave Serbian Villages and Soldiers under the leadership of Serbian General Mihailovich, fighting against the Wehrmacht, our downed airman would have ended up in enemy hands. If not for those brave Serbians and the US OSS, who put together a very risky plan to rescue the Forgotten 500 and it worked, most would have either not survived or been captured to suffer in POW Camps! All involved were heros. Our policy of the State Department and the administration, would have for political expediency just look the other way. The travesty of selling General Mihailovich down the river, having not supplied him in his efforts and then when he was given a show trial by Tito, Stalin's puppet, was a terribly sad day in American History. This book sheds the light on an amazing part of WWII history covered up by Washington intentionally sacrificing our heros and the heros who saved them!
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on June 30, 2016
The Forgotten 500
Gregory A. Freeman

Every once in a while you discover a book that envelopes your emotions and you wonder how those events could happen. This is one of those stories, a true story.

During WWII one of the Nazis’ main sources of fuel was an oil refinery in Ploesti, Romania. The Allied Powers made it their mission to destroy this refinery by sending countless missions from Brindisi, Italy, over Yugoslavia to Ploesti to bomb the facility. In the course of these missions, many B24 bombers were shot down and hundreds of Allied flyers (mostly Americans) were stranded behind enemy lines in Yugoslavia, a country that most did not know the language or customs.

At that time in Yugoslavia there were two ruling factions. Draza Mihailovich, a staunch friend of the United States hated the Nazis and wanted to free his country from their grasp. Josip Broz Tito, a communist and ally of Russia also hated the Nazis, wanted to get rid of them and, interestingly enough, the two men hated each other. You had a dramatic triad, Mihailovich and Tito, each commanding thousands of soldiers fighting each other for control of Yugoslavia and each fighting the Nazis, their common enemy.

Flyers would parachute into Yugoslavia, not having any idea how they would be received by the populace and wondering if they would be turned over to the Nazis. Much to their surprise and relief villagers would welcome them, hide them in their homes and share their meager supply of food. These villagers would risk their lives guiding them through the mountains of Yugoslavia to the troops of Mihailovich. English speaking Yugoslavians were few and far between and most communication was with gestures and pantomime.

After days and, sometimes weeks, the group would reach Pranjane, Yugoslavia and be united with other flyers. This was Mihailovich’s accumulation point and ended up holding approximately 500 airmen. They would spend months with nothing to occupy their time and no communication with the allies.

During this time, on a political front, Mihailovich was falling out of favor with the British because of the machinations of a Russian mole named James Klugman placed high in British intelligence. This had the effect of spoiling his relationship with the Americans, as well, though totally unfair. The few Americans who had spent time with Mihailovich behind enemy lines and had made it back knew the truth and were a small group trying to salvage the relationship and put together a rescue for the downed flyers.

After several failed attempts to land an initial team at Pranjane to help prepare for the rescue as a combined British and American effort, the Americans decided to go it alone because of their belief of British sabotage. The Americans were able to land the team and, using the men there, built a runway in the mountainous region with hand tools which was no small effort. C-47 cargo planes were the ones chosen for the exfiltration and required a landing strip of 700 feet. The one built was exactly 700 feet with trees and mountains all around it. There was no room for error.

Considering the fact that each plane only would hold 12 passengers and held just enough fuel to make the round trip from Brindisi to Pranjane, it is no small miracle that between August 9, 1944 and December 28, 1944, the Americans rescued over 500 airmen, 345 of them Americans with no fatalities. This, despite the fact they were flying over enemy territory in slow planes, easy targets for German Messerschmitt fighters.

The trumped up case of Mihailovich collaborating with the enemy got worse because of Klugman and other communists in the ranks and he was cut off from the United States. Despite this, he remained a friend to the end and saw to it the airmen were protected at Pranjane through the entire operation.

Not much longer the war ended and Tito gained control of Yugoslavia. He still hated Mihailovich and had him executed. Though Mihailovich was a friend to the very end, we aided in his execution and the eventual Communist control of Yugoslavia. Not our finest moment in history.

Winston Churchill was later quoted saying that his handling of Yugoslavia was his biggest mistake of the war.

In 1997 declassified British papers confirmed the Klugman/Mihailovich story and the truth was official. Mihailovich deserved much better.

Sixty years after this travesty on May 9, 2005 the Legion of Merit was presented to Gordana Mihailovich for the actions of her father for the United States in WWII,

In writing a review, it can be hard to decide what to include and not to include. It is a review, after all, not the book itself. Gregory Freeman has so much in this book that is not in this review and does a great job in telling this story that every American should hear. I appreciate him writing it.
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on August 22, 2016
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 book he was gone so I could not ask him about his knowledge of the thousands of downed crews over this area.

It is a story about real people both in the Army Air Corps., the OSS, the partisan leadership both pro the Soviet Union and Pro the other Allies fighting the Nazi’s.

The brave crews who flew bombing missions over the former Yugoslavia, suffered great losses in life and many survived after bailing out in the mountainous areas. They were trained on what to do and warned about partisans who were pro Soviet Union and those that were sympathetic to the Nazi’s and what precautions they should take after landing in these territories. How they negotiated these hurdles depended upon the training and instincts of the individual airmen. They were warned against falling into the hands of one faction led by General Draza Mihailovich and believed that the partisan General Josip Broz Tito was the better of the two partisan factions and supported by British intelligence. The opposite was the reality and because of the post was politics it was Mihailovich who was tried as a war criminal. The rescue of most of the surviving air crews was truly facilitated by Mihailovich and his cooperation with the OSS.

The book was intense in its presentation and the reader will be pleasantly surprised at how fast a read this book is. The book also outlined some of the struggles and brave risks taken by members of the OSS.

I gave this book five Stars and highly recommend its reading.
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on November 21, 2015
This is a well researched book by the author, Adam Makos. I have read and enjoyed
all 4 of his books; three covering events in World War 2, and one that occurred during
the Korean war.
The daring rescue of downed allied airmen was made possible by the help of the
Serbian people of Yugoslavia under the leadership of General Michailovich, some
highly skilled American pilots and a team from OSS (now our CIA).
Unfortunately, the Nazis had occupied the country in spite of a civil war existing
between the aforementioned general representing the elected
government, and the communist opposition under Tito. However, the allies favored Tito,
and that caused an unfortunate outcome that did not give the proper credit for the role
played by the Yugoslav government forces.
This is one of those stories that keeps beckoning us to read on and not put it down.
I highly recommend it.
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on April 9, 2017
Forgotten 500 Book Review
The Forgotten 500 was a accurate, intriguing, and informative book. The gripping pace tied into the book compliments the scattered accounts of real men who lived through the Eastern European conflict. The book covers the extensive story of men who were apart of the U.S. air force targeting oil refineries in Romania. Around 500 men were shot down by the Germans and were left stranded in Yugoslavia. Gregory A. Freeman depicts the personal struggle through the eyes of several different men each experiencing their own adventure in a situation only the most resilient could survive and thrive in. The detail in a book telling a story from mid 1900s is top notch and keeps the reader interested allowing him/her to completely comprehend the setting and situation. There is in fact, a counter argument questioning the substance of the writing style and accusing it of being somewhat elementary and juvenile in the way Freeman describes certain situations or tries to get a point across.
Freeman digs up a relic in one of the most unknown stories of World War II, and turned it into a best seller. The Forgotten 500 will slide off the shelves, but stay glued to you hands. It leaves you awestruck, changes your perspective on certain WWII events, and has you yearning for more, all of this conveyed in a style of writing that both informs and entertains to perfection.
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VINE VOICEon September 30, 2012
It's both a thrilling adventure and a depressing look into British and American duplicity and stupidity in dealing with Stalin at the end of WWII.

During late days of WWII Yugoslavia was occupied by the Germans but two bands of "patriots" occupied much of the countryside. Hundreds and perhaps thousands of Allied airmen had crash landed or bailed out over Yugoslavia. About 500 were being protected by General Mihailovich and his patriots. Civilians faced death or torture if the Germans even suspected that someone in the village had assisted the airmen to evade capture. Opposing Mihailovich were both the Germans and Gen Tito.

With the war nearing its end the Soviets were looking to assure their control over Eastern Europe at the end of the war. Tito was their guy. Unfortunately British intelligence, foreign service and Churchill's staff were heavily infiltrated with Communists. Only many years after WW2 would the extent of the infiltration become evident with the defection of Burgess, McClean and Philby to the USSR. The evidence against others was overwhelming. In the US there situation was the same with Roosevelt's staff and State Dept filled with Russian agents and sympathizers including Alger Hiss.

A plot was hatched by Stalin to discredit Mihailovich by accusing him of collaborating with the Germans. If he could be removed the USSR would gain control of Yugoslavia. After many attempts to contact the allies, an improvised code was used to send a message to an Army Air Force group that would be able to decode it. The message informed the Americans that there were several hundred US airmen, injured and near starvation, under the care of Mihailovich. It was not that he was denying food to the Americans but rather that there was no food for anyone.

Decoded the message created a real problem for the communists in the Churchill and US governments. They had been accusing Mihailovich of delivering American airmen to the Germans but in fact he was trying to save far more than the allies thought existed. The book details the betrayals in the attempts to get team into hookup with the Americans. The author believes that British intelligence attempted to sabotage the effort but it's very possible that both British and American traitors were involved. After several efforts an all American effort resulted in success in getting agents on the ground with Mihailovich's forces. However, they were instructed to promise nothing, offer no help and just get the airmen out.

The operation was a success but Mihailovich was betrayed by the allies and left to a terrible fate.

This is a great book and should open eyes to an important part of American history that's not taught in our schools. Operation Halyard as this was called was matched with other operations designed to assure Soviet control at the end of the war.

Secret Betrayal details the little known tragedy associated with Operation Keelhaul and related operations which delivered to several million patriots and former German POW's into Soviet hands to assure Russian control of Eastern Europe and their own territory. It included those who had fought on our side during the war as part of the governments in exile.

The lucky ones were exterminated as they were passed into Russian control or committed suicide on the way , the unfortunates went to the Gulags, a near certain death sentence but far worse than death by a bullet.
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on July 9, 2013
I gave it two stars because it is an engaging book. Like a few other reviewers, I question the legitimacy. For example on page 97, he says that there was a boat 12 miles inland that could take refugees to a British cruiser. I gave the author the benefit of a doubt and assumed that he meant upstream, but then came page 99 where he says that the British citizens who had made it on board the cruiser were arrested by the Italians. I chalked that up to an editing error but started doubting the author's credibility, and then came page 115. Here he tells us that a man flew in the Yugoslavian air force in WWI, when Yugoslavia only became a country after that war. I was hardly surprised when he says on page 122 that Draza Mihailovich was voted Time Magazine's Man of the Year: an assertion directly contradicted by Time Magazine itself. In the second half of Amazon's description of the author, they tell us that Hollywood is making movies out of two of his books. Perhaps the tail wags the dog when it comes to his research and his engaging anecdotes. I was left with serious doubts about the anecdotes themselves due to the author's author's inability to accurately record verifiable facts and an acute fear for the future because Hollywood seems to form the common man's knowledge of history these days.
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on March 12, 2016
Great story, and a good effort by the author to attempt an engrossing novel-like read, but ther were too many loose ends for that. As a history, the research seemed light, and too much was invested in single anecdotes or quotes. The result was that you walked away with the impression that the author had too little background that he was earnestly trying to streeeeettttcchh out into a respectable book length. The lack of first-hand evidence was inevitable, since ithe story was uncovered when the whole WWII war generation was dying. Add in the overwhelming Cold War paranoia, the dissolution of the OSS, and the secrecy of the mission, and it becomes clear that gathering recorded evidence of the breathtaking courage and defiance demonstrated as the story unfolded would have been a Herculeann task.

It was frustrating and painful to read the unrelenting misinformation that was circulated at the time and long after about Tito and Mihailovich, but the intentional cruelty of Great Britain and the U.S. in refusing all humanitarian aid to the peasants who kept the pilots safe, was abhorrent, shameful and infuriating.

This could have been a great book, but I guess journalistic writing really is very different from historical or literary writin. The great story boosted the rating I would otherwise have given the writing.
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on February 19, 2009
I have just passed the book, The Forgotten 500, on to my son in Iraq. What a terrific read and one I know that he and his fellow soldiers will enjoy. I cried, laughed and got very angery as I read this book. Those Airmen and the civilians who helped them return to their homes should never be forgotten. I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in WWII history.
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on June 28, 2015
Freeman writes a thorough and very readable account of the largest, riskiest, and most successful rescue of U.S. Servicemen behind enemy lines in history. He respectfully discusses backgrounds of many of the airman who were downed in Yugoslavia during bombing runs and the behind the scenes activities within the US and the British intelligence services. He provides context for the internal politics of Yugoslavia, particularly the animosity between Draza Mihailovich, the nationalist commander who was abandoned by the U.S. and Great Britian and yet was a loyal ally that risked his life and those of the Serbian people to protect the downed airmen, and the corrupt communist Tito, who ended up allowing the Russians to take over the country after the war. He brings to light the corruption, petty bickering and politics that occured among the allies, with serious consequences. If you enjoy history, this is a great and moving read.
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