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

Camp Carson, Colorado: The Greek Battalion

Denver Greek Community

Even though our training was strenuous we took every opportunity to visit Denver on the weekends. The Denver Greek community welcomed us as its own children. We would attend church services and afterward be invited to various Greek homes, or during the summer to picnics at Lakeside Park. Families I recall are the Argiropouloses and Allisons. Most of the Greek-American soldiers enjoyed the wonderful Denver Greek hospitality that was not unlike that in our respective Greek communities.

Our relationship with the young Greek girls our age in Denver was similar to that with the young girls we'd grown up with ~ no sexual relations, just dancing, holding hands, some petting, playing games; we had the utmost respect for them and their families. While growing up in our Greek communities our parents and relatives had instilled in us: A Greek girl is not to be violated. Sex relations would be outside of the Greek community. Later I discovered the Greek nationals did not share the same moral attitude. Our parents brought from Greece values from a more innocent time. Most of them arrived in the United States around the turn of the 20th century and brought their conservative moral ethics and standards to America from the villages of mainland Greece. Most of the Greek nationals were from the islands and port cities such as Athens and Piraeus, and many had been in the merchant marine; they teased us about our Victorian attitude toward the Greek-American girls.

The Greek Orthodox Church in America in the vicinity of our training camps was the focal point of our social gatherings, primarily for the Greek Americans. The Greek communities, whose sons had entered the Armed Forces, welcomed us as their own. This was a special time in our lives.

The Boxing Match

Perry and a Greek-American staff sergeant, Harry Fergadiotis from Aliquippa, Pennsylvania, had never gotten along. He was a little guy with the Napoleon syndrome. He liked to push people around and could not handle Perry's constant chatter. Fergadiotis was a little older and because of his high school ROTC training, was a noncommissioned officer. One evening at one of our bivouacs, and after many weeks of bantering between them, Perry and Fergadiotis challenged each other to a prizefight. A general court-martial would be in order if an enlisted man punched out an officer or noncommissioned officer or vise versa; but when two adversaries decide to fight, they are allowed to box in a ring. Fergadiotis was not a popular fellow; Perry was the sentimental favorite. The Greeks were excited about this bout and a couple of them opened up a betting booth. I don't recall the odds, but Perry kicked his ass and became company B's favorite son.

Money was not scarce in the battalion. Some of the Greeks had left lucrative businesses in their hometowns, primarily restaurants or cafes. The fortunate ones, who were able to turn their businesses over to honest relatives or friends, were receiving large amounts of money from home. We were told the PX, adjacent to our barracks, had the highest income of any PX or service club in Camp Carson. Although I had played cards and dice in civilian life, I learned a new and exciting game played with two dice and is very popular in Greece and the middle East called Barbouti; a very equitable game; you have a 50/50 chance of winning. I tried it a couple of times, but like most gambling games you must have a sufficient amount of cash to back up your gambling. The Greeks had some incredible games in our day room (recreation room), hundreds of dollars changing hands-a huge amount in those days-with lots of hollering and swearing by the marvelous Greek personalities.

Easter Sunday at Camp Carson

Easter Sunday 1943 was the highlight of the 122nd's social experience in Colorado. Major Clainos met with the leaders of the Denver Greek Community and the good people of Denver decided to celebrate Agape services at Camp Carson. They arrived early Easter morning in a caravan of automobiles. The community brought 20 lambs prepared for souvla (barbecue), Greek salads, pasta, mageritsa, Greek pastries, dyed Easter eggs-a veritable feast. The men of the 122nd marched to an area a few miles from their camp, where the Denver community joined us in their automobiles. Agape services were celebrated followed by a picnic. Some Greek nationals helped the Denver parishioners prepare the souvla, and many played soccer; the Greek Americans played softball, volleyball, and football.

The extraordinary day was capped when the entire entourage, soldiers and civilians, returned to the barracks for dancing. B Company and C Company had cleared their bunks; one barrack had a jukebox with American music, another had live Greek music. The Greek Battalion was the envy of the entire camp. The Denver community's wonderful hospitality will never be forgotten by the men of the 122nd.

Hollywood could not have written a better script for our 1943 Easter celebration at Camp Carson.

The following day Major Clainos returned to business. He ordered a 35-mile hike and continued the rigorous training.

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