Barely ten pages into The Forgotten 500, the story hooked me. I had to read about the hundreds of American Airmen who abandoned their aircraft midflight above Yugoslavia, and the daring escape that would rescue nearly 500 of them from a desolate area surrounded by German forces. I hadn’t heard of this rescue, and I’m still baffled that such a daring event in history isn’t more well known. As the story unfolded, I found myself constantly thinking, this is amazing, this is amazing.
It was difficult for me to grasp the generosity of the people of Yugoslavia who harbored downed airmen and took them to the safe and remote village where they gathered and waited for an extraction. The townspeople held funerals for America’s heroes, shared their already small meals with the wounded, and risked their own lives to protect these men. The book focused on the main players of the operation, and provided a background of each of them. At times, there was a bit too much information about some of the not so interesting people, but overall, the author provided a cohesive tapestry of characters. For a dense topic, the simple and direct writing made the information manageable. What angered me the most were the actions by British pilots to sabotage the rescue efforts of Americans. I never tire of reading about American ingenuity, and was stunned that the trapped men created a secrete code that was not only understandable, but somehow not intercepted by the Germans.
A truly inspirational story, just perfect for Memorial Day Weekend!