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95-year-old NYC man gets medal for WWII rescue


In this Dec. 28, 1944 photo provided by the U.S. ...

In this Dec. 28, 1944 photo provided by the U.S. National Archives, OSS Capt. George Vujnovich, right, …

OSS Capt. George Vujnovich

In this Dec. 28, 1944 photo provided by the U.S. National Archives, OSS Capt. George Vujnovich, right, is stands in Bari, Italy with a group of Allied airmen he helped rescue after they were downed over Nazi occupied Serbia, the largest air rescue of Americans behind enemy lines in any war. Joining them are OSS colleagues who helped coordinate the rescue Nick Lalich, standing center, with moustache, and kneeling second from right, Arthur Jibilian. On Sunday, Oct. 17, 2010, George Vujnovich will be given the U.S. Bronze Star Medal in New York at the age of 95 for his work as head of the rescue effort, Operation Halyard, in what was then Yugoslavia

NEW YORK – The U.S. government has recognized the World War II architect of a mission to rescue more than 500 U.S. bomber crew members shot down over Nazi-occupied Serbia.

It was the largest air rescue of Americans behind enemy lines in any war.

George Vujnovich (VOOY'-noh-veech) is credited with leading the so-called Halyard Mission in what was then Yugoslavia.

The 95-year-old New York City man was awarded the Bronze Star in a ceremony Sunday at Manhattan's St. Sava Serbian Orthodox Cathedral. He received a standing ovation from a crowd of several hundred.

He's long retired from his job as a salesman of aircraft parts.

Vujnovich says of the honor, "better now than never" — but he regrets most of the men on his wartime mission are no longer alive.

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