WWII: OSS Tragedy in Slovakia (Book Excerpt)
by Jim Downs
Page 3 of 4Day 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
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
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
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
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