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Greek / American Operational Group Office of Strategic Services (OSS)
Memoirs of World War 2

Camp Carson, Colorado: The Greek Battalion

Alex P. Phillips arrives at Camp Carson


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July 1943, Alex Phillips, Perry's brother, joined us. Alex had been in the army only a few days, checked into Headquarters at Camp Carson and was immediately transported to our bivouac area. Perry and I, now "veterans," welcomed him and he was allowed to share our pup tent the first few nights. As luck would have it we experienced a hell of a rainstorm and our pup tent area was flooded. "Welcome to the army and the Greek Battalion, Alex." Needless to say we were happy to see him and he brought us up to date with the news of our families and friends in Oakland.

Previously I have mentioned that Major Clainos' training was intense, and many soldiers who could not keep up were removed from the battalion. We kept complaining that all of our hikes were always west onto the mountains; finally we got our wish to march east onto the plains. Major Clainos led us on a grueling 30-mile hike on a very hot and humid August summer day. On this day I was fortunate to be his runner during that hike. Major Clainos, who was at the head of the battalion, would give me an order for one of his company commanders; I would wait for the Company to march by and relay the order. A jeep would then pick me up and bring me back to the head of the column where the major was leading the battalion. Going back and forth, I noticed, unlike on the numerous other hikes, not only were there many stragglers but many soldiers were dropping on the roadside from exhaustion. We were a few miles from Camp Carson when the Camp Carson commander became aware of our predicament. The camp commander sent his trucks and ordered Major Clainos to bring us back to camp. After the war I mentioned this hike to Colonel Clainos. He told me that he knew that the hike would be difficult and that hiking on a flat road was much more strenuous than mountain climbing. He wanted to teach us a lesson. The camp commander visited the major that evening to reprimand him because he had heard that Major Clainos was not with us on the hike. He ordered Major Clainos to stand up, but to his surprise he found the major was soaking his feet, recuperating from that arduous hike. Nevertheless, he ordered Major Clainos to discontinue the 25-to-35 mile hikes for the Greek Battalion.

We were elated with the colonel's orders, but then the camp commander died two weeks later. The Monday after the colonel's death, Major Clainos resumed our training with another 25-mile hike and a week of maneuvers. Major Clainos was planning the ultimate hike to the top of Pikes Peak and a nine-day trek to Camp Hale, 9,000 feet in elevation, where the 10th Mountain Division trained. We were saved from these two grueling hikes when members of a group that was unknown to us, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), visited our battalion.

During our maneuvers and bivouacs we would simulate war tactics: Company C, for example, would try and capture the colors of Company B that were usually placed in the center of their bivouac area, and vice versa. Captured men would be tied up in the middle of a creek or river for the duration of the maneuver. They were treated like an enemy. Lieutenant Panagiotopoulos, a blowhard of sorts, joined B Company late in our training. He had transferred from the 101st Airborne Division and still wore the Screaming Eagle patch on his sleeve. Perry, Alex, and I convinced him that the officers got the worst treatment if captured and he was visibly upset listening to our stories, which we had embellished. So much for the vaunted 101st. Though Lieutenant Panagiotopoulos joined the OSS, he remained in Washington DC for the duration of the war. The only Company B officer to volunteer and join our OSS group was Lieutenant Frank Blanas.

Major Peter Clainos at 36 years of age was a great and tireless leader and always spearheaded our training. A tough disciplinarian, he honed a top-notch unit. When he was interviewed in 1991, this career officer repeated time and again, The Greek Battalion was the finest outfit of my army career. [note]


Note

  • Colonel Peter Clainos (Ret.) was videotaped by Mary and Andrew Mousalimas for over nine hours in 1989-1991. The tapes are in my files.


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