Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Operation Greenup

 When they finally put me away in the home (the rubber room section, no doubt) I've left instructions to include a plastic mic (preferably drool resistant) and a cardboard cutout of a TV camera so I can spend my days playing radio and TV.

I've done that all my life, so why stop. And frankly, it's been more like "playing" than work. Am I a lucky man, or what!

As I've mentioned many times, the show I'm doing now up here in Fairfax County Virginia is broadcast on Cable throughout the state and it's on the web as well at www.otpshow.com

And the main attraction for me is it allows me the opportunity to continue to meet people who otherwise I could never meet. A TV show will do that for you.

For example Canada's History Channel recently produced a film titled THE REAL INGLORIOUS BASTARDS (as opposed to the ones depicted in the Hollywood movie). This one was based on Patrick K. O'Donnell's book, THEY DARED RETURN, the true story of Jewish Spies behind the lines in Nazi Germany.

It's the thrilling story of Operation Greenup, the WW2 mission that William Casey, the late CIA director called "the most successful intelligence-gathering OSS operation of World War II. 

And, perhaps the most dangerous.

Franz Weber  Hans Wynberg  Fred Mayer

Two young Jewish-American refugees teamed up with a conscientious deserter, parachuting one perilous night into the Austrian Alps. Their mission was to disrupt a vital supply route between Germany and the Italian front and bring about the surrender of Innsbruck to Allied Forces and bring the war to a close.

But first, they had to find a way to get there. The British air force (RAF) refused to fly them in claiming that it was too dangerous. Flying low among the Alps with their freakish winds, plus flak from German cannons and German fighter planes constantly patrolling the skies seemed to doom the mission before it even got off the ground.

21 year old John Billings



But there was one American pilot and his crew who thought it could be done. Lieutenant John Billings told his OSS boss (Office of Strategic Services) "... if those three spies are crazy enough to make the jump, then I'm crazy enough to fly them there."

Ed and John Billings

Now that's the kind of hero I want to meet! He told me, among other things last Saturday, that it didn't happen quite that way and there were many other details he mentioned that you will find fascinating. The show should be ready to link on this site in about a month and a half.  

After the war, Billings went into commercial aviation and flew for TWA and EASTERN AIRLINES. He's 90 years old now and .....still flying!  And.....serving others.  He flys Angel Flights.....for people too sick to fly commercial airlines, or people in areas not easily accessible to major airports, etc. 

He has one Hell of a resume:

John Billings still flying
Active Duty Dec 1942 – June 1947

Combat in B24s based In Italy Aug 44 May 45

14 Bombing Missions; 484th Bomb Group, 825Squadron

39 OSS Missions; HSSQ 885th

Post Combat: B24 engineering test at VAAF (Mojave Desert Calif)

General Aviation June 1946 to present

Flight and ground instructor Aug 1946 – June 1948

Airline Aviation

TWA June 1947 – June 1948 DC3

EAL July 48 – Aug 83

Douglas DC3,DC4 DC6 DC7 DC9

Martin 404, Convair 440

Lockheed Constellation

Angel Flight missions Feb 2005 to present 200 and counting

Over 28,000 total flying hours




John brought his lovely wife, Barbara, to the studio and before the show as we were exchanging small talk, she happened to mention that, like me, she was from North Carolina.

Barbara Barrett Billings 1956

What town, I asked.


What high school did you go to?


What year did you graduate?


Jimmy Kilgo At WIST

Barbara began mentioning some of the people she remembered from those days, like Jimmy Kilgo, Brooks Lindsay, Grady Cole, etc

Jimmy Stassinos

and the fact that before his untimely death, Jimmy Stassinos was a neighbor of theirs in Northern Virginia when he was working for the FBI.

Now, the reason those of us  in our class don't remember her is because she came in that group of kids from Tech who entered the year after we graduated.


Historical Conclusion of Operation Greenup

On the morning of May 3, 1945, the American 103rd Infantry Division of the Seventh Army was ordered to take Innsbruck. When the troops got closer to the city, they saw an approaching car with a white banner made out of a bed sheet. Major Bland West, an intelligence officer, saw a young man with a swollen face jumping out of the car. He introduced himself as Lt. Mayer of OSS, and explained he was going to take the major with him to accept German surrender. Later on West found out that Mayer was a sergeant. Thus, the German troops in this area surrendered to an American sergeant, a Jewish emigrant from Germany.

(John Billings talks to Fred Mayer, who lives in nearby Charlestown, WVA on a regular basis. I mentioned to John how nice it is that they have remained lifelong friends.

"Not yet," he said.

My thanks to John Lomax and Frank Clontz for sending me the picture of Barbara Barret Billings.

-Ed )