Tales of courage and bravery among resistance groups and partisans fighting against the Nazis will be on display across two exhibits at the Airborne and Special Operations Museum beginning next month.
The exhibits tell the stories of the Chetniks in Operation Halyard and the Jewish resistance force, the Bielski partisan group.
“It fits our mission of being an Airborne and Special Operations Museum. Special Operation soldiers work with local and indigenous populations to often help win the hearts and minds of the people,” Museum Director Jim Bartlinski told Up & Coming Weekly.
When entering the museum, you will first see several panels set up in the lobby.
The panels will tell the story of how a three-person Office of Strategic Services team, Serbian partisans known as “Chetniks,” and the 1st Air Crew Rescue Unit of the U.S. 15th Air Force airlifted more than 500 U.S. airmen out of Serbia.
This exhibit, Operation HALYARD: The Greatest Rescue Mission of World War II, is on loan from the Halyard Mission Foundation.
“They did not lose one person or one plane, so they were able to do this under the Nazi’s noses,” Bartlinski said. “It was one of those untold stories that just came to light in the last ten years because it was kept top secret because of what was going on between the former Soviet Union, Serbia and America. But it was finally declassified.”
Weapons, equipment and three videos telling the stories of the three OSS men will also be on display.
As visitors move into ASOM’s temporary gallery, Courage and Compassion: The Legacy of the Bielski Brothers will be displayed. This exhibit tells the story of the three Bielski brothers who ran a partisan group out of the forests in Belorussia. The brothers helped rescue and keep more than 1,200 Jews alive in those forests for more than two years. More than 70% were women, elderly persons and children who otherwise would have perished under Nazi occupation.
While keeping people safe, the group also helped in several operational missions against the Nazis. They disabled German trains, blew up rail beds, destroyed bridges and facilitated escapes from Jewish ghettos.
“The Bielski exhibit will be coming with a number of artifacts from the Florida Holocaust Museum — items used in the camps, items worn by the Bielski brothers and some video components as well,” Bartlinski said.“We will also be supplementing the exhibit with items from our own collection like weapons and other types of materials that partisans would have used.”
Several programming events surrounding the two exhibits are currently being worked out and scheduled at the museum.
“I hope they [visitors] get inspired by both stories and get an appreciation for the difficulties that people, past and present, go through to fight for their freedoms and independence against oppressive governments and militaries,” Bartilinski said.
The two exhibits will be on display from July 4 through November 13. Admission to ASOM is free, but donations are highly suggested.