Myth: The Croatian government during World War II had a policy of executing downed Allied airmen and dozens of Americans were executed by the Croatians during the War.
Reality: The wartime NDH Croatian government, signatory to the Geneva Conventions, had no policy of executing captured airmen of any nationality. No American airman was executed by the NDH Croatian government during World War II. There is considerable evidence that Allied prisoners of war in Croatia were very well treated in captivity. As many as 1600 American airmen were rescued by Croatian and Bosnian Partizans and returned to service. Almost unique among myths, it is possible to actually trace the origin of this story back to its source; "the Balkan Intelligence Chief."
At INS headquarters in Los Angeles, kept under lock and key and marked "secret" is the file of Andrija Artukovic....According to the testimony of one American Intelligence chief in the Balkans section during the Second World War, he also approved orders that sent dozens of American pilots to firing squads
The preceding quotation made its international debut in the December 1973 issue of Reader's Digest magazine. No author or source was given. Like most myths, it took on a life of its own and more recent versions have added the "official policy of the Croatian government."
When asked to name the "American Intelligence chief' or cite their sources, the editors of Reader's Digest first claimed that the article had been "carefully checked by our research and legal departments and we believe they found adequate support for a.ll the factual statements." Despite hundreds of requests from scholars, political leaders, the media-watch organization Accuracy in Media, and others, the magazine was never able to produce the name of the intelligence officer or any evidence that a single American was executed by the Croatian NDH government during the War.
By April of 1974, Reader's Digest began refernng all inquires to their legal department. Finally on March 25, 1974 the editors, responding to a formal request by California State Assemblyman Doug Carter, admitted that the charges were "claims and allegations, not necessarily fully documented facts."