D-Day (part 3) - Pranjani and Ub
D-Day was best known for the Allied invasion of Normandy, but it was also a very exciting day in the skies over Serbia. Axis defenses over Romania were very strong, and many damaged aircraft could not return to their bases in Italy. One of these was Liberator No 42-52717, which was hit by flak over Brasov. Every engine was damaged, the plane fell out of the formation, and started losing altitude. The crew tried to eject all of their excess weight, but it was not enough, and they had to bail out. They jumped out in the vicinity of Pranjani, where only a week earlier aircraft had departed with the Allied mission to General Mihailović. The entire crew was quickly gathered by civilians and Chetniks, and they stayed in the nearby villages until they were rescued two months later. Joseph Buchler
Robert Cole George Salapa Charles Davis George Koch Thomas Pettigrew George Hurd John O'Grady Frederick Zuercher David LaBissionere
After the war, four of the airmen from this crew joined the Committee for a Fair trial of Draža Mihailović.
In recent years the families of Charles Davis and Robert Cole traveled to Serbia to attend commemoration ceremonies in Pranjani.
Last year, the family of Robert Cole displayed on our Facebook page more than 100 photos taken during the escape, which were never seen before.
The only B-17 Flying Fortress that crashed on that day was No 42-38114, which was damaged during the bombing of railroad marshaling yards in Belgrade. Previous bombings of Belgrade were infamous due to a large number of civilians killed, but on June 6th no civilians died.
The entire crew bailed out in the vicinity of Ub.
Georgalas was captured by quisling forces and handed over to the Germans. The remaining crew was rescued by Chetniks and taken to Pranjani from where they were evacuated on August 10.
This crew was also involved in the Trial of Draža Mihailović, but without knowing. A translator who was brought in by the Chetniks to assist them with communication wrote down their names. After the war, he went to the American embassy to check if they returned to the US safely. He was told that they were still missing. He reported this to authorities, and later testified at the trial of Draža Mihailović. Draža was, among other charges, indicted on the killing of two unidentified airmen. Since the names of the airmen were well annotated by the translator, it was quickly realized that those airmen were not killed, but rescued by Chetniks. There is a famous photo of one of the airmen, David O'Connell protesting for Draža.
One of the photos of Robert Cole, his crew during the rescue in Serbia
Airmen from Barrett's crew, with Draža Mihailović and Zvonko Vučković (sitting, third from the left)