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Showing 1-10 of 953 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 1,098 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 September 26, 2016
What a story! For all of the volumes I've read on WWII, I'd never once come across this story. Freeman lays out the tale of POWs inside Yugoslavia and the OSS operation to airlift them out - this is behind enemy lines, mind you. The author does a great job of not only telling the story of the actual mission, but provides a good bit of the political nonsense that went on and nearly prevented it from happening. That is, how the U.S. was backing Tito over the Serbian general Mihailovich for political reasons, basically tagging Mihailovich as the enemy. The reality was the opposite as Mihailovich gave sanctuary to allied POWs and kept them moving to protect them from the Nazis. He was one of the real heroes in the story. The operation and Mihailovich's efforts were heroic. The saddest part of the tale was how long it took for the U.S. to recognize the risks and sacrifices Mihailovich and his supporters took and made to keep the allied troops safe and cared for, and how they helped in the rescue operation. A must read for any fan of history, especially WWII history.
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on June 30, 2016
The Forgotten 500
By
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 December 11, 2008
An exciting read about the downed US airmen who were shot down behind enemy lines and later were rescued by Yugoslavian Partisans and Militia. An emotional read for WW II history buffs and this is thus far the best book on the secret missions to save allied airmen from behind the Nazis and Italians' front lines. Every airman saved was later returned to serve the cause of freedom. The sad part however is that these Partisans were left without any support or life-line after the war was over and a few of them, wrongfully, tried for their alleged crimes. The Eastern European experience should not be done again. Poland, Yugoslavia, Czech republic and ... could very well be saved from the grips of the Stalinists if FDR had not left them alone. All in all, this is a great read on WW II and the politics of Balkans during the war. Highly recommended...
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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 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 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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on February 15, 2017
My wife gave this to me as a Christmas present knowing I am a WW II buff, and as far as "military adventures" go, it was a fairly good book to read. Just to mention a few elements in the story that I found noteworthy: (1) we learn of the importance of the Ploesti oil fields in Romania (reported to have supplied one-third of the Third Reich's energy needs) and thus of the importance of the repeated raids on these oil facilities by U.S. bombers flying from southern Italy, (2) since a ball turret gunner is featured among the airmen rescued, we learn about the particular hazards this gunner faces on the underside of a B17 where he's in a very tight space and can easily be trapped, (3) we try to imagine, if we can, how the airmen are able to clear a mountain-side field to create a viable airfield for their rescue without bulldozers and only with simple farming tools, and (4) we see the great difficulty the large C-47 rescue planes have in landing on, and then taking off from, such narrow "runways." Very interesting stuff.

The book is marred, in my view, by the author's political and strategic naivete. It makes for a simple and more "unified" story to make the downed airmen's hosts, i.e., Mihailovich and his Chetnik guerrillas, total "good guys", both politically and militarily, in the telling of the story, and I have no doubt that that is how the airmen felt about the Chetniks. But the story in Yugoslavia in WW II is much more complex. Like it or not, Marshall Tito's Partisans, while communist-affiliated, were much more aggressive in fighting the Axis powers in Yugoslavia than Mihailovich's Chetniks. After some initial raids in 1941 after the Nazi conquest of Yugoslavia, Mihailovich and his Chetniks made a sort of accommodation with the controlling Axis powers, which many historians have labeled "collaboration", and let the Partisans fight the Nazis and Italians. Mihailovich was a royalist and the long-term Chetnik goal was a build a "Greater Serbia" largely by "ethnic cleansing" of Croats and particularly Moslems in partial-Serb areas. Of course, the Serbs, including the Chetniks, were terrible victims themselves of ethnic cleansing largely at the hands of Croatian Ustashi fascists. In any event, the Chetniks participated with the occupying Italian army in anti-Partisan action, and even provided units to the Nazi puppet government in Belgrade. By the end of 1943 the Germans had 14 divisions in Yugoslavia to try and hold off the Partisans while the Chetniks had their "accommodation" with the Nazis. Since "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" and Tito's Partisans were doing most of the fighting in Yugoslavia, I don't blame the British and the Americans from switching their support from Mihailovich to the Partisans in 1943 before the air rescue took place. After all, the more German divisions in the Balkans meant less German divisions in Normandy to fight the coming Allied invasion. Mihailovich would have been a fool in the summer of 1944 NOT to have helped the downed airmen; he was receiving no Allied help and could have used some support, some of his forces were deserting to the Partisans, the Red Army was approaching the Danube River across from Belgrade during their offensive in Romania, and he still may have had hopes of an Allied incursion through the Balkans.

In many ways, Mihailovich, the "host" of the downed airmen, is a tragic figure. He was found hiding in Yugoslavia in 1946 and given a trial for treason by Tito's communist government and executed. In a sense, he was on the losing side of the Civil War in war-torn Yugoslavia and paid the price. The rescued airmen gave him support during his trial, but our government, particularly our State Department, gave only muted support which the author criticizes. He also says (on p. 250) that Tito "all but gift wrapped Yugoslavia for Stalin." Not true. Tito's Yugoslavia was an independent Communist state, never joined the Warsaw Pact, and was essentially neutral in east-west relations. In fact, Stalin tried numerous times to have Tito assassinated. While it may not have reflected justice, it was politically pragmatic of our State Department to maintain good relations with Tito's Yugoslavia so long as Tito's independence from Stalin's communist bloc prevented Warsaw Pact armies from reaching the Adriatic Sea.

There are long memories in the Balkans. Currently, Mihailovich and his Chetniks are getting renewed appreciation by Serbian nationalists, but not everywhere. In 2004 a Serbian basketball player with a tattoo of Mihailovich on his left arm was banned by Croatian officials from traveling to that country for refusing to cover the tattoo as it was deemed equivalent to "provoking hatred or violence of a racial background, national identity, or religious affiliation." This incident reflects less of Mihailovich than of Balkan passions, something these brave and intelligent airmen got a very incomplete picture of.
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on August 11, 2015
This was a good read overall. The only thing I have against it is some of the information in the chapters felt unrelated to the point of the book. The escape experience of the George Vjunovich (if I remember correctly) was interesting in its own; however, it did not really add to the story of the Airmen escaping. Overall though, a good pace was kept; I was intrigued the whole time and could not wait to start the next chapter. The way the story was presented was also excellent. For any WWII history readers, this is a nice addition to a collection. From now on, I'll be more wary of Aunt Jemima.
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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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