It proved a race against time -- American troops rescuing hundreds of thoroughbred horses from the Nazis and ensuring they weren't eaten by advancing Russian troops. American General George Patton, nicknamed "Old Blood and Guts", gave the all clear for the secret operation to get under way in the final days of the Second World War. Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
A horse among those captured by Nazis is inspected by American Colonel Hank Reed at the stables in Hostau at the end of April 1945. Patton Museum
Hubert Rudofsky was the German officer in charge of the stables at the time of the surrender to the US troops.
Rudofsky, here in military uniform, was described as a good man by his nephew who "never did a bad thing in his life".
Lieutenant William Donald 'Quin' Quinlivan was the first of 70 US troops on the scene after the Germans surrendered. Courtesy Maureen Quinlivan Nolan
However the next day, a group of Nazis determined to fight to the death attacked the US soldiers at Hostau -- after a five hour battle, two lost their life. Some 500 thoroughbred horses were successfully saved. Courtesy Maureen Quinlivan Nolan
Austrian Colonel Alois Podhajsky, director of the Spanish Riding School from which many of the horses were captured and taken to Hostau, performs for General Patton. PhotoQuest/Archive Photos/Getty Images
Colonel Reed returned to the Spanish Riding School in Vienna in 1964 to see survivors and descendants of some of the horses he helped to save, ensuring the bloodline of the finest US and European thoroughbreds.