Operation Bunghole (i)

This was the Allied gliderborne delivery of a Soviet liaison team into German-occupied Yugoslavia to make contact with Marshal Josip Broz Tito and his partisan forces (19 February 1944).

The operation used three Waco Hadrian gliders flown by British pilots of the Glider Pilot Regiment and towed by UDS aircraft, and the gliders carried the 36 members of a Soviet military mission headed by General Leytenant Nikolai V. Korneyev with General Major Gorshkov as his deputy. The gliders were towed into the air at 11.00 from an airfield near Bari in southern Italy on the 250-mile (400-km) daylight flight to Petrovac in the valley of the Una river, and were released at 13.15 to descend onto the snow-covered landing zone. Cover on the outbound flight was provided by 24 Supermarine Spitfire fighters over the Adriatic Sea, and then by 24 North American Mustang fighters over Yugoslavia, while a force of some 50 Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress heavy bombers raided Zagreb as a diversion to draw off any German fighters in the area. The glider crews joined in partisan life for the next few weeks until a Douglas Dakota transport aeroplane of the RAF could get into the valley and collect them for return to base.