Rescue Behind Enemy Lines

The field in Pranjane, a small village in central Yugoslavia, that was turned into an emergency airstrip
for the evacuation of Allied airmed in 1944

Muted cheers erupted when the crowd caught the sound of the approaching C-47s. Rajacich rushed out onto the field with an Aldis lamp to give the identification code, squeezing the trigger three times with the predetermined signal: Red, Red, Red. The lead C-47 responded with the same signal. Rajacich gave the go-ahead signal for landing, to which the plane responded with the prearranged code word, X-ray.

“We’re on boys! This is it!” Musulin shouted to his men, who again burst into cheers. On Musulin’s orders, his men torched hay bales and set off flares to mark the edges of the field.

Now came the trickiest, most terrifying part of the operation for the pilots of the Fifteenth Air Force’s 60th Troop Carrier Group—landing in near-darkness on an improvised runway deep in enemy territory. The first of four C-47s overshot the runway and was forced to go around again. The other planes touched down successfully, followed by the first aircraft on its second try. The only mishap was one aircraft’s minor run-in with a haystack, which dented the C-47’s wingtip.

Within a half-hour of the lead aircraft’s touchdown, the first evacuees had said their emotional farewells to the Serb families who had sheltered them, and the fully loaded planes were ready to go. Seconds before takeoff, the side doors of all four planes swung open to reveal the rescued airmen unlacing their boots and holding them up for the villagers to see. One after another, the airmen tossed their boots out to the Serb villagers as a final expression of gratitude to their caretakers, many of whom had nothing to wear on their feet but traditional Serb felt slippers.

Allied airmen marching to work on the improved airstrip in Pranjane, Yugoslavia

All four C-47s took off successfully, though just barely. Two more flights of C-47s duly arrived at the makeshift airfield the next morning, this time with a strong escort of P-51 and P-38 fighters. The fighters peeled off, shooting up neighboring German garrisons as a diversion, and the C-47s were able to land much more safely than they had the previous night.

In only the first two days, Operation Halyard successfully retrieved 241 American airmen—but the OSS team was less successful when it came to obeying the government edict that the agents not furnish any supplies or give any aid to Mihailovich’s men. George Musulin, who approved the evacuation of two seriously wounded Chetniks along with the Allied airmen, was ordered home in August 1944 for aiding Mihailovich’s forces; he was replaced as mission commander by Lt. Nick Lalich.

But as Halyard continued, events in the rest of Yugoslavia conspired to interrupt it. Tito, now firmly in control of all Yugoslav provinces except Serbia and parts of Bosnia, launched a final drive in September 1944 to solidify his grasp on power, surrounding Pranjani with his Partisan army and crushing Mihailovich’s forces. The Chetniks were forced to evacuate Pranjani on September 10, and from that point forward, Operation Halyard resembled a traveling road show throughout Serbia and Bosnia. Evacuations over the next three months were improvised affairs, using whatever broad, flat spaces were available—mostly farm fields. And even as the Chetniks moved into Bosnia in Halyard’s final phase, they collected airmen to be brought for evacuation: not just Americans, but British, French, Italian, and Russian aviators as well.

By December 1944, the OSS decided that Operation Halyard had run its course. The end of the Ploesti campaign meant there were no more planes flying over the region, and no newly downed airmen requiring rescue. By the time of its termination, Vujnovich’s team had airlifted 512 downed Allied airmen without the loss of a single airman or plane—a truly impressive accomplishment. The last evacuation flight, which also carried the operation’s OSS team, left Boljanic, Bosnia, on December 27, 1944. In a final and surprising gesture of generosity, Nick Lalich’s OSS superiors radioed Draza Mihailovich an offer to evacuate him on the last flight out. Though he was in desperate straits due to Partisan resistance and the Allied ban on material aid and support, Mihailovich declined, preferring to share the fate of his people instead.


Source: historynet.com: http://www.historynet.com/rescue-behind-enemy-lines.htm/4.


Forced Evacuation


One of the Khmer Rouge's first acts in power was to completely evacuate Cambodia's cities, sending urban residents to the countryside for "re-education" via hard labor. Ly-Sieng Ngo and her sisters tried to take the family's 10 puppies with them. "When we left home, we did not know what war meant to us. We were just very naïve, very protected by the family. We did not know what living meant, what life meant, what survival meant." In a scene reminiscent of Schindler's List, the family joined the rest of Cambodia's urban elite on a long death march into the jungle. "You only think it happens in books and movies, not in real life," she recalls. "I saw people crying, carrying things, elderly family members on hospital beds with the I.V. pole on the side. I said to myself, 'I have to go on. I have to go on.' And from that moment, I blocked myself out from the reality. For four years of war, with all the family members I lost, I never cried."

The Khmer Rouge forced all city residents into the countryside and to labor camps. During the three years, eight months, and 20 days of Pol Pot’s rule, Cambodia faced its darkest days; an estimated 2 million Cambodians or 30% of the country’s population died by starvation, torture, or execution. Almost every Cambodian family lost at least one relative during this most gruesome holocaust.

Source: diogenesii.wordpress.com/2009/04/

The Arrival of the Khmer Rouge

Khmer Rouge arrive in Phnom Penh

Khmer Rouge entered Phnom Penh on April 17, 1975.  Ly-Sieng Ngo's life — and that of virtually every other Cambodian — was turned upside-down. For the next four years, the people of Cambodia lived a nightmare; a holocaust that would result in the deaths of more than a million, perhaps as many as 2 million people, out of a population of 5 million. No one came out unscathed; but the educated and professional classes, the elite, the rich, city folk, and the Chinese minority, were all singled out for extermination. Ly-Sieng Ngo and her family qualified on all counts.

Phnom Penh fell under the control of the Khmer Rouge, the communist guerrilla group led by Pol Pot.  He immediately directed a ruthless program to “purify” Cambodian society of capitalism, Western culture, religion, and all foreign influences.  He wanted to turn Cambodia into an isolated and totally self-sufficient Maoist agrarian state.  Foreigners were expelled, embassies closed, and the currency abolished.  Markets, schools, newspapers, religious practices, and private property were forbidden.   Members of the Lon Nol government, public servants, police, military officers, teachers, ethnic Vietnamese, Christian clergy, Muslim leaders, members of the Cham Muslim minority, members of the middle-class, and the educated were identified and executed.  Anyone who opposed was killed.

Source: diogenesii.wordpress.com/2009/04/


Mitsuye Yamada--American



Mitsuye Yamada
(1923-    )

Born in Japan, in 1923, Mitsuye Yamada, grew up in Seattle, Washington.  She was incarcerated with her family in Idaho in 1942.  She and her brother were released from the camp when they renounced loyalty to the Emperor of Japan.  She began her studies at the University of Cincinnati in 1944 and completed her degree at New York University in 1947.  She earned a Master’s degree from University of Chicago in 1953.  Yamada’s first book, Camp Notes and Other Poems, addresses the internment of Japanese-Americans.  Desert Run: Poems and Stories, is another book work that speaks to how the Japanese were discriminated against during the war. 

"Cincinnati," in Camp Notes

Freedom at last
in this town aimless
I walked against the rush
hour traffic
My first day
in a real city

no one knew me.

No one except one
hissing voice that said
dirty jap
warm spittle on my right cheek.
I turned and faced
the shop window
and my spittle face
spilled onto a hill
of books.
Words on display.




poetry . . .has been my spiritual guide throughout 
my incarcerationin the darkest of times I turn
to Neruda and Hikmetand Rukeyser and Ritsas 
and Chrytos and Whitman. . .
                               – U.S. Political Prisoner

They mean to kill
the sentient being in me

White white
no poetry in
white floors walls ceiling white
white chairs tables sink white
only when I close my eyes do I see
beyond the white windowless walls
remembering springtime of
lacy trees lightly green against baby blue.

There is silence silence more silence
to drown out the incessant silence
I fill my inner ear with robinsongs
melodious and soothing
but how to quell deafening
nonhuman screeches and scrapes
sounds bouncing against the white walls?

Dull smells of dead air in the cell
but through the olfactory nerves
in my mind
I can tickle with the zest of lemon
and the sweetness of wildflowers.

Willfully bland diet aimed
to erase use of my tongue
Add a pinch of salt with the taste
of sweat or even of blood
anywhere on my body
Remembering the taste of cheese.

One human touch allowed
my own arms enfold me
my fingers move over my sagging breasts
my nipples and soft parts of my body

They mean to neutralize me but
poetry keeps me alive.



The Question of Loyalty

 If I sign this

What will I be?

I am doubly loyal

to my American children

also to my own people.

How can double mean nothing?

I wish no one to lose this war.

Everyone does.



Recruiting Team

Why should I volunteer?

I'm an American

I have a right to be





As we boarded the bus

bags on both sides

(I had never packed

two bags before

on a vacation

lasting forever)

the Seattle Times

photographer said


so obediently I smiled

and the caption the next day


Note smiling faces

a lesson to Tokyo.