Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Congratulations to the winners of the "The Forgotten 500" Book Report Contest!

The book report contest was sponsored by a number of people including Mike Papich of California; Branko Terzic, U.S. Delegate of HRH Crown Prince Alexander of Serbia; and Milana (“Mim”) Bizic of Pennsylvania. It was supported by Aleksandra Rebic, who promoted it at her wonderful web site www.generalmihailovich.com.

I was thoroughly impressed by the quality of the book reports submitted by young people across the country. The winners received cash awards and the first place winners received first edition hardcovers of "The Forgotten 500" signed by the author.

First place is a tie between Michele Popadich, 15 years old, in Chicago, IL, and Jovanka Potkonjak, 11 years old, in Milwaukee, WI.

Second place is a three-way tie between Marica Potkonjak, 15 years old, in Milwaukee, WI; Andjelka Potkonjak, 12 years old, in Milwaukee, WI; and Djuka Potkonjak, 14 years old, in Milwaukee, WI.

Third place goes to Vasilje ("Vaso") Katanic, 10 years old, in Hermitage, PA.

Honorable Mentions go to Dusica Solic, 15 years old, in Hermitage, PA; Natasha Ignatowski, 11 years old, in Franklin, WI; and Peter George Majetich, 12 years old, in Poland, OH.

These are the two winning essays:

First Place
Age 15
Chicago, Illinois

I was first introduced to the Halyard mission by my grandfather who was a Chetnik in WWII. His battalion rescued three American soldiers during the war. I only knew stories of the mission and brief facts about Mihailovich, but I was unaware of the amazing rescue that took place and all of its achievements.

The Forgotten 500 tells a story about a rescue mission that was made possible by General Draza Mihailovich and his troops under the most unfavorable conditions. Americans unexpectedly dropped from the sky in huge numbers in the mountains of Yugoslavia. With Nazi’s surrounding the area and the defense diminishing, Mihailovich made, what seemed to be an impossible mission, possible. With the collaboration of Mihailovich, the villagers of the area, the downed airmen and the few OSS agents that knew Mihailovich didn’t work with the Nazi’s, operation Halyard was a success in many ways, but a failure in others. Five hundred American airmen were rescued even with the overwhelming obstacles they encountered. But the deceit and manipulation of several British agents cost Mihailovich his life and handed over the 15 million people of Yugoslavia to a communist government.

The Forgotten 500 is an important story that should be told for numerous reasons. It was an inspiring, powerful event, which was made possible by brave and strong people. The immense amount of work, determination, and courage that was needed to make the project a success, should be recognized and appreciated. The mission should not be an event that is only known by the Serbian community. The work of the villagers, Chetniks, OSS agents, and Mihailovich should be written in history books. It should be thought of when WWII is mentioned. It should be celebrated in the United States as a triumph made between Yugoslavia and the U.S. in harsh and erratic times. War may often bring new problems, but the bond between countries can result in a powerful and inspirational force.

The Halyard operation is symbol of determination and total bravery. What seemed to be an impossible mission, which included limited resources, few connections, and endless enemies, turned out to be a successful rescue that should never be forgotten. It shows that there are still are people who are willing to risk everything to help one another. In times like WWII and even today when events are unpredictable, successes like the Halyard mission represent more than just a rescue; it represents what a world could be if there was more trust and kindness. It is the epitome of human values. This story inspires hope in the darkest of times.

The Halyard mission is an unforgettable and empowering rescue that should never be forgotten as told in The Forgotten 500. In a remarkable historical event, the weakest part of Yugoslavia performed one of the most amazing rescues in history. It shows that nothing is impossible. WWII was a time when countries would do anything to be victorious. But it was also a time where a small part of Yugoslavia and its collaboration with the OSS and immense amount of bravery, achieved a victory that should never be forgotten.


First Place
Age 11
Milwaukee, WI

Gregory A. Freeman’s “Forgotten 500” is a very important book that should absolutely not be forgotten. This great book contains many historical events that happened in a rescue mission during World War II. It tells how helpful the Serbian people were towards the downed American airmen. This historical book also explains how the OSS helped the airmen escape from German occupied territory and what the Americans did to help.

One of the reasons why it shouldn’t be forgotten is for the benefit of the Serbian people. Serbia has not gotten very much credit for all the good things they have done for the United States of America. When the American airmen parachuted into former Yugoslavia, the Serbians did everything they could to keep the airmen safe. They fed them, housed them, and the Cetnik soldiers kept them safe from the Nazis. Sometimes, the Serbs would not have a meal that night because they gave all of their food to the Americans. In addition to the rest of their sacrifices, innocent Serbian villagers who allianced themselves with the Americans were discovered by the Nazis and they were killed. The Americans told Draza Mihajlovic and the rest of the Cetniks that they would turn themselves in but Mihajlovic said that it was an honor for the Serbians to risk their lives for them. Would you ever risk your own life to protect someone that you don’t even know?

The OSS also played a huge role in Operation Halyard. The OSS set out to recover all 500 downed American airmen. Without their work and effort, the Americans would be trapped behind enemy lines for a much longer time.

Operation Halyard was the mission that the Americans did in Serbia. The Serbians helped the Americans assemble and build a landing strip big enough for C-47 cargo planes to land. Those airmen and Serbs had to do this all with no knowledge of the Serbian or English language, without causing danger to the Serbian villagers, without tools, and without letting the Germans find out. Can you imagine how difficult it would be to do that?

“The Forgotten 500” should never be forgotten. It tells how determined the Serbian people [the Cetniks and the villagers etc.] were to keep the Americans safe and healthy in that tough time. My grandparents, Nikola and Marica Potkonjak, were Cetniks and under the command Vojvoda Djujic. They fought against communism. So this book really means a lot to me and my family because the Cetniks did not get any credit for all the things they did and fought for. Everyone should know about everything this book talks about. This mission had a huge impact on not just those 500 Americans, but their families and friends and many others. Operation Halyard was perhaps the best rescue mission of World War II.

No comments:

Post a Comment