Representatives of Halyard Mission Foundation visit Koceljeva
An exhibition of photographs, newspaper articles and other documents entitled "Operation Air Bridge in Svileuva", by Zoran A. Živanović, dedicated to rescued Allied Airmen during World War II, recently opened at the Koceljeva Local Museum. Koceljeva and the village of Svileuva were an important part of this operation, yet this has not been discussed. However, after further research on this topic, and at the initiative of MP Veroljub Matić, facts were presented to the public that unequivocally indicate that from September 15-17 1944, a makeshift airport was built near Koceljeva, on the property and near the house of Relja Marković in Svileuva. This airport was built under the command of the reserve captain, priest Miloš Jevtić of Brdarica, Chetnik commander of the Podrinje area, with the commander of the regional recruiting center in Tamnava, deputy sergeant Dragoljub Draga Asković from this village. From that makeshift airport, on September 17, 1944, 22 Allied airmen, one Frenchman, one Italian, and three members of Mission Halyard - two U.S. ambulance officers and one photographer, were evacuated in two Dakota C-47 military transport aircraft. On this date, representatives of Mission Halyard Foundation, who have been investigating the operation for more than 18 years, visited the municipality for the first time. Bojan Dragićević recalled that this year marked the 75th anniversary of Mission Halyard, and that the evacuation of pilots in 1944 was carried out in three phases. One was in Pranjani near Čačak, another in Svileuva near Koceljeva, and the third in Bosnia. Dragićević stated the importance of rescuing aviators in this municipality was unfairly neglected. Among the guests of the Koceljevo municipality was the president of the Foundation, John Cappello, a former U.S. diplomat in Serbia, a military attaché and pilot. John loves sharing the story of the largest rescue operation of downed Allied aviators in occupied Europe during World War II. From 1944 to February 1945, with the assistance of the Serb population and the Yugoslav Army, about five hundred airmen were transferred from makeshift runways in Serbia and Bosnia to American bases in Italy.