On a routine flight within Italy November 8, 1943, a U.S. Army C-53 transport aircraft carrying
13 nurses, 13 medics and a crew of 4 became lost in an intense thunderstorm. After five desperate hours, they crash landed behind enemy lines in Albania.
The ensuing rescue, in which everybody was returned to Italy safely with no major injuries, should have been one of the greatest rescue stories to ever come out of the War. Instead it’s details have remained largely a secret…..until now.
Immediately following their rescue, the Army required the rescued personnel not to reveal details of their ordeal to anyone for the duration of the War. After the War, the rescued nurses and medics chose not to publicly discuss the event, for fear of reprisals against the Albanian people who helped them to freedom.
The first full account of the rescue was by one of the rescued nurses, retired Lieutenant Agnes Jensen Mangerich, who published a book in 1999 based on her diary of the ordeal. This film is based on several accounts of the rescue given since then.
As the nurses trekked across Albania, they became an inspiration to all whom they encountered. Having the ability to withstand enormous hardships, yet keep their dignity and femininity intact, created momentum for their comrades. They refused to believe in a fate other than being rescued.
The Albanian villagers who secretly housed the nurses and medics took enormous risks, as mass executions of Albanians not sympathetic to the Nazi cause were taking place all around them. They also shared what precious little food they had, an enormous hardship, yet crucial for the rescue operation.
The little known, but highly effective network of U.S. and U.K. secret operatives working in Albania during the Nazi occupation, were able to effectively coordinate and guide the rescue. It was a constant cat and mouse game avoiding the Germans, with a swift execution if they got caught.