The true story behind Red Burning Sky


Europe in the midst of World War II: Adolf Hitler’s Stukas and Panzers have stormed across most of the continent. This new kind of mechanized warfare moves faster and hits harder than anything the world has ever seen. To stop it, the Allies need to starve it of fuel. The German-held oil refineries in Ploesti, Romania become a prime target for American bombers.

The Germans defend the refineries with ferocious zeal. Their fighter planes and anti-aircraft artillery often blow bombers out of the sky as they transit over Yugoslavia on the way to or from Ploesti. Surviving crewmen parachute into the green hills of Yugoslavia.

On the ground, they find themselves surrounded by a civil war in the midst of a world war. Chetnik and Partisan guerrillas battle each other when not fighting the occupying Nazis. Both factions shelter the downed airmen, and the number of stranded fliers grows into the hundreds.

With so many American airmen in enemy territory, it’s only a matter of time before the Germans catch on. The fliers—and anyone who helps them—could find themselves at the mercy of the Gestapo.

The U.S. Office of Strategic Services—a forerunner of the Central Intelligence Agency—organizes a rescue plan. Agents parachute into Yugoslavia to coordinate the construction of dirt airstrips. The Yugoslav fighters, along with local villagers and the downed fliers, build clandestine airstrips by hand. In an audacious mission known as Operation Halyard, aircrews fly in on C-47 Skytrains, the military version of the DC-3. They recover more than 500 aviators. Operation Halyard goes down in aviation annals as one of the greatest—and least known—rescues in military history.


  1. Buzz Bernard on October 21, 2021 at 10:12 am

    The perfect story to set a historical novel against, one of the great under-publicized missions of WWII. Looking forward to RED BURNING SKY.

    • Tom Young on October 21, 2021 at 2:35 pm

      Thanks, Buzz. I appreciate the kind words.

  2. Edd Lawhon on October 22, 2021 at 5:50 pm

    When will it be released Tom. I’m just about finished with; The Renegades. Edd

  3. Tom Young on October 23, 2021 at 6:39 am

    Thanks for asking, Edd. It’s coming out February 22.

    • Mila Evanovich on February 26, 2022 at 3:20 pm

      Enjoyed hearing about your new novel, Tom, and will be purchasing for friends and family.
      This little known story has been buried for far too long, hopefully in your trusted hands, millions will read about the sacrifice and goodness of our Serbian peasants, the Chetniks,and the American downed airmen,who helped build an airfield on their hands and knees.
      Best in writing,

      • Thomas W. Young on February 28, 2022 at 6:07 am

        Thanks for those kind words, Mila. I’m delighted that you’ve enjoyed the novel, and it’s certainly great to hear from you. Yes, people need to know about this inspiring event from WWII.

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