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Jim Downs

Book Excerpts
- WWII: OSS Tragedy in Slovakia

WWII: OSS Tragedy in Slovakia (Book Excerpt)
         by Jim Downs
Page 3 of 4
Day Team Leaves Banska Bystrica.

Captain Edward Baranski, Daniel Pavletich, Emil Tomes, Tony Novak, and Lt. Lane Miller, members of the DAY team, headed south on October 10 and found housing in the small town of Zvolenska Slatina, 20 miles southeast of Banska Bystrica. Baranski and Novak began collecting information of German army movements immediately. Pavletich coded and sent the messages to Bari.

October 9, Banska Bystrica.

Holt Green radioed Bari that General Viest believed the Slovak situation was "very grave and only speedy and adequate aid with arms and ammunition can save the threatened airport." The airport was vital to their survival.

Three days later, Major John Sehmer visited the front at Zvolen and notified SOE headquarters in Bari that the situation was again "grave. . . . Huns in great strength with many mortars." That same day Holt Green sent word that Lt. Bill McGregor and Ken Lain were doing a "splendid job" instructing the Slovaks. He also praised Jim Gaul and others.

On the 10th, Lt. Lane Miller checked out the P-51 which Lt. Bill Coloney had been unable to start at Tri Duby. Two days later Miller informed Bari that the Mustang was in "excellent mechanical condition with a few minor exceptions."

Sehmer's and Green's messages to their respective headquarters indicate subtle differences - Sehmer's were anxious and pessimistic and Green's upbeat and positive. Green did report General Viest's "grave" concern, but Green's choice of words did not indicate that he shared Viest's views. Green did make a strong plea for the shipment of more arms as the situation deteriorated.

The Slovaks desperately wanted more aid, but it was not forthcoming. General Gubbins headquarters at SOE clearly stated to all echelons that Allied aid was restricted to sabotage and guerrilla operations only, not for major uprisings.

October 13, Resupply Becomes a Problem for Holt Green.

Major Walter Ross radioed Green that it appeared impossible to resupply the mission unless they would could count on night landings or parachute drops. He said the 15th Air Force cited a shortage of long range fighters for escort service. He asked Green to join with Major Sehmer to appeal to the Slovaks and Russians to share the field for night landings. That same day Lt. Lane Miller notified Bari that he had located an alternate airfield. Miller was surveying the area by air, flying with the Slovak pilots.

That night 72 Russian planes flew into Tri Duby, bringing in troops and supplies, and taking out wounded and political figures. The Slovak army had recaptured Telgart earlier in the day (45 miles east of Banska Bystrica), and the situation was looking up.

General Jan Golian opted to put his wife on one of the Russian planes. The young general clearly was worried about the prospects of protecting the city. She would never see him again. The emotional parting took place on the Tri Duby airfield as the C-47's landed in the dark, kept their engines roaring, and took off as soon as the planes were loaded.

Lane Miller, meanwhile, was active. He had located several acceptable airfields and was advising the Slovaks on how to build new landing strips. The Germans were now bombing Tri Duby regularly.

Bill McGregor and Ken Lain continued to train the Slovaks. They traveled through the hills to the east and north of Banska Bystrica, but not without incident. One day they were caught in an open field and were strafed by two German Stuka's.

Copyright© 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002 Jim Downs, All rights reserved. No part of this may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the author.

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