The US Army Special Operations Command published on its website a statement highlighting “Operation Halliard”, whose 75th anniversary was recently marked in the Serbian village “Pranjani” in the presence of numerous Serbian and US officials and was the largest a humanitarian operation launched to rescue downed American pilots and their counterparts from several Allied nations during World War II.
“During World War II, Nazi soldiers shot down hundreds of US and Allied planes over occupied Serbia. Serbs from Pranjan and other nearby villages risked their lives to hide the pilots and prevent them from falling into the hands of German occupation forces. These pilots were aware that they were going on risky missions before takeoff, but they did not know who awaited them if they were shot down. If they had been captured by the Nazis, they would have been killed. However, to their luck, they were greeted by the brave Serbs who rescued them.” ,US Army Air Force Major General Kirk Smith, commander of the US Special Forces Command said.
The announcement of that command also recalled that “Operation Halliard” had been organized and implemented by the so-called Office of Strategic Services, the precursor of the CIA and US Army Special Forces and that more than 500 US and Allied pilots were rescued during its lifetime. Thanks to that, it was the largest and most successful rescue of American pilots in history. The US Army Special Operations Command said in a statement that “Operation Halliard” was made possible by a small group of OSS operatives whose members, along with Serbian peasants, made a landing strip for US aircraft to evacuate the downed pilots and transport them to Italy, which was a salvation for them. That OSS team consisted of only four U.S. officers!