The Forgotten 500

The Forgotten 500The Forgotten 500: The Untold Story of the Men Who Risked All for the Greatest Rescue Mission of World War IIThe Forgotten 500: The Untold Story of the Men Who Risked All for the Greatest Rescue Mission of World War II by Gregory A. Freeman by Gregory A. Freeman

Whenever I think I’ve read about almost every aspect of World War II, I discover how mistaken I am. This time, my knowledge gap was about the war efforts in Yugoslavia, and how that related to the political situation there post-war.

Freeman has written an interesting account, but it’s not a *great* account in the way that Unbroken or Boys in the Boat are great. That said, it’s still a somewhat worthwhile read, especially since the events it describes aren’t ones you’ll learn about elsewhere.

However, I’m torn about recommending it. The storytelling was repetitive and occasionally clunky, and reviews seem to indicate that he gets some of the easily verifiable historical facts incorrect (things related to military aspects which I have zero interest in, and no desire to dig deeper into it to see if the criticisms are valid or not.) But, if he is getting these sorts of things wrong, it doesn’t give me much faith in the rest of the account, which is a shame.

It’s also surprisingly political, in a way that seems to draw the ire of some reviewers. Again, my ignorance regarding Serbian politics means I can’t fairly judge if he’s going too far in his interpretation of events. He’s very pro-Draza Mihailovich, and critical of Josip Broz Tito and the British and American maneuverings that helped put Tito in control post-war. It was fascinating, if quite discouraging in many ways.

The best part of the book was getting to know some of the personalities involved, and learning about the incredible rescue that took place against unbelievable odds. I just wish the story-telling had lived up to the potential.

Publisher’s Description:
The astonishing, never-before-told story of the greatest rescue mission of World War II—when the OSS set out to recover more than 500 airmen trapped behind enemy lines…

During a bombing campaign, hundreds of American airmen were shot down in Nazi-occupied Yugoslavia. Local Serbian villagers risked their own lives to give refuge to the soldiers, and for months the airmen lived in hiding, waiting for rescue.

In 1944, Operation Halyard was born. The risks were incredible. The starving Americans in Yugoslavia had to construct a landing strip—without tools, without alerting the Germans, and without endangering the villagers. And the rescue planes had to make it through enemy airspace and back—without getting shot down themselves.

Classified for over half a century for political reasons, the full account of this unforgettable story of loyalty, self-sacrifice, and bravery is now being told for the first time. The Forgotten 500 is the breathtaking, behind-the-scenes look at the greatest escape of World War II.

Book Details

Title: The Forgotten 500: The Untold Story of the Men Who Risked All for the Greatest Rescue Mission of World War IIThe Forgotten 500: The Untold Story of the Men Who Risked All for the Greatest Rescue Mission of World War II by Gregory A. Freeman
Author: Gregory A. Freeman
Category: Nonfiction / History
My Rating: 3.5 Stars

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