EXCLUSIVE:  Gulfstream Pictures has acquired feature film rights to the Gregory Freeman book The Forgotten 500: The Untold Story of the Men Who Risked All for the Greatest Rescue Mission of World War II. Gulfstream partners Mike Karz and Bill Bindley will use it to tell a fact-based WWII escape tale. Based on declassified documents and exclusive interviews, the book tells a story kept secret more than 60 years, of the young American airmen shot down in the hills of Yugoslavia during bombing runs, their daring escape, and the secret agents who came to their rescue.

The airmen, eager to join the war and fight the Germans, took part in often-deadly trips from Italy to bomb German oil fields in Romania. They found themselves parachuting out of crippled planes and into the arms of Yugoslav villagers who, despite being surrounded by the Germans, risked their own lives to help the downed airmen in the fight against the Nazis. With crucial fighter support from the Tuskegee Airmen, American cargo planes descended into Nazi territory for the greatest secret rescue mission of World War II. The U.S., British and Yugoslav governments kept the rescue effort quiet, denying credit to the heroic rescuers and the foreign allies who sacrificed their lives to save the airmen.

Bindley and Karz will produce for Gulfstream and Porter Farrell will be executive producer through his Turnpike Pictures banner.

“In an era of comic book heroes, the men and women in The Forgotten 500 harken back to real-life characters from classic films like The Great Escape in a nonfiction adventure story that will have audiences of all ages on the edge of their seats,” said Bindley.

Added Karz: “Much like we saw with Argo, this story was kept classified for a long time, in this case for over a half century. Greg’s book reads like a novel – it tells of daring heroism, loyalty, and self-sacrifice.”

Freeman, whose most recent book is The Gathering Wind: Hurricane Sandy, the Sailing Ship Bounty, and a Courageous Rescue at Sea, is repped by WME.

Gulfstream is separately percolating King David for Warner Bros based on David: The Divided Heart by Rabbi David Wolpe. Turnpike’s next film is Hate Crimes, followed by When Cowboys Die.