An American plane was shot over Italy during World War II. It made an emergency landing in Belsh, and local people and partisans helped dismantle the plane and housed the 22 US passengers on board. They were medical staff, volunteers. Albania was Nazi territory at this time so the rescue was a big deal. The crew was taken to Durres within the next 3 months. There they hopped on a boat to Italy and were taken home. Not much is known about this event, because for a long time it was kept secret. If volunteers back in US knew that medical staff was not safe, they would refuse to volunteer and help the war.
Villagers in Belsh today have ruins from the plane (doors, chairs), and 2 witnesses are still alive. TIFF sent a camera crew to document their accounts of the event. It is likely that these materials would end up lost if TIFF didn’t find a good way to expose them and open it to the public.
An Albanian archive expert is helping TIFF explore this event more, and turn into a major tourism magnet to the area. A book was published on this event in 2014, a Wall Street Journal Nr. 1 Bestseller titled The Secret Rescue by Cate Lineberry. The museum (very small) commemorates the event, houses relics, builds a tribute to the whole mission and the sacrifice. TIFF works to preserve all we can, organize it, and open it up to the public.
- Expected investment: $21,000
- Local partner: Municipality of Belsh
- Local investor: Municipality of Belsh
- Expected payback: 32 months
- Expected employment: 3 people