Community pays tribute to local WWII survivor

World War II survivor Arthur Jibilian.
World War II survivor Arthur Jibilian.
Reported by Tanieya Lewis - bio | email

Posted by Nick Dutton

TOLEDO (WTOL) -- As families remembered their fathers this weekend, the community paid tribute to a local World War II survivor.

Toledo Metcalf Field played host to the Plane Fun weekend, where the last living member of Operation Halyard was flown in on a bomber plane.

News 11's Tanieya Lewis shares Arthur Jilbian's story.

It is the first time in 60 years Arthur Jibilian is seeing these planes. They were flown by US pilots during WW II.

Jibilian is the last survivor of Operation Halyard. That mission returned more than 500 American airmen home to their families.

"I get goose bumps just thinking. It's unforgettable. This episode brings back a whole bunch of memories," says Jibilian.

As the plane took off, the memories played out before his eyes -- memories that date back to a time when Jibilian was merely a kid. The world was at war and he was called upon to serve his country.

"When you're 19, 20, years-old, death is not a thought... You're indestructible," Jibilian says.

As a radioman, Jibilian was key to Operation Halyard, known as the largest airlift operation behind enemy lines.

The US airmen were trapped in Nazi-occupied Serbia, with orders from General Draza Mihailovich. Villagers put the airmen's lives ahead of their own, until several rescues were made.

"At 60 years ago, America was revered, and that's why these people took the action that they did," Jibilian says.

Today the rescue is the subject of the book, "The Forgotten 500." Jibilian is one of its key characters -- and a living tribute.

"It's a story that's not known, that I think should be known. We owe them a debt and there aren't that many people that the American's owe a debt to," Jibilian says.