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

Camp Carson, Colorado: The Greek Battalion

FDR and George Marshall visit the Greek Battalion

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In May 1944, President Franklin D. Roosevelt and US Army Chief of Staff General George Marshall paid a special visit to the 122nd. It was a thrill to see these two great men; of course in those days there was no television to view our leaders and they were not unlike a myth to most Americans. As I mentioned, FDR founded the Greek Battalion and had a special interest in our battalion.

Army's Caste System

There is a huge caste system in the armed services which I discovered early on at Camp Carson. On one of my first visits to Denver I met a young lady, Kay Argiropoulos, whose father hosted us at his home and at the picnic grounds. Kay was very cute and a wonderful young lady. At one of the picnics we spent the whole day together, dancing, playing softball, just spending an enjoyable afternoon at the picnic. I was anxious to return to Denver the following week and meet her again, but Captain Milton, my commanding officer, ordered me to be the orderly that weekend: a skeleton crew was always left behind on weekends to handle the company's business. The next two weekends I was confined to quarters because I was told my rifle was not clean. I confronted Captain Milton, but he would not change his order.

I could not understand Captain Milton's decision until I was given a pass the following week to visit Denver. After Sunday church services I rushed to Lakeside Gardens anxious to meet Kay. She was very aloof and then, Eureka! I saw her walking and holding hands with an officer. He turned out to be Lieutenant Frank Blanas of B Company, my executive officer, who had just returned from Fort Benning. He was an engineer and Major Clainos had sent him to Fort Benning to receive infantry training. He was Captain Milton's best friend, and Blanas had been dating Kay before he left for Fort Benning. The caste system worked. Needless to say I did not fraternize with Kay again.

Blanas was a terrific guy and a fine officer. Kay and Frank were married after the war and settled in Denver. Years later my son Jamie's Greek-American basketball team played in the AHEPA national tournament in Denver, and Mary and I met both Kay and Frank Blanas. Frank came to all of Jamie's games, Kay was a little distant. We later discovered Frank was in very bad health and unfortunately he passed away soon after the tournament. Mary and I met up with Kay again at our OSS reunion in Denver in 1991, and subsequent reunions, where we enjoyed her company and became good friends.

Jitterbug at the Stockade

Alex Phillips and I were ordered to guard the maximum security stockade at Camp Carson; it was tedious and boring duty; soldiers who had committed serious crimes were incarcerated in this stockade. Every unit at Camp Carson took turns in guarding the stockade. Alex and I were joined by two Greek Americans from A Company, Alex Psomas and Gust Mukanos. Psomas and Mukanos, as were Perry, Alex, and me, were lifetime friends from Western Pennsylvania. Our paths had not crossed because we were in different companies; but later, in the OSS, we became great friends.

Stockade duty is a 72-hour boring chore; four hours on guard duty and eight hours off. We were told if a prisoner escaped while we were on duty we would have to take his place in the stockade until he was recaptured. Whether this was true or not, it left a great impression on us. The stockade was a square with runways on the outside of the wire fences where we would walk back and forth. The four of us had guard duty at the same time and we were ordered to remain in the adjacent barracks and not leave the premises when we were off duty. To pass the time and get over the boredom, we read and played cards. We were provided with a GI Victrola, a record player that you wound with a handle, and three or four contemporary records. The boredom got so bad that Alex Phillips and I would practice jitterbug dancing. Psomas and Mukanos did not join in but seemed amused.

Later, when the four of us had joined the OSS and we were at the Port of Embarkation at Camp Patrick Henry, Virginia, preparing to leave for overseas, Perry Phillips and Bill Georges of Lowell, Massachusetts, promoted a USO variety show for 5,000 GIs. Two USO girls on stage invited volunteers to jitterbug with them. Psomas and Mukanos were standing next to Alex and me when they immediately ran up and jumped on the stage. We were dumbfounded as we watched them jitterbug; our dancing paled compared to these two guys. Before I was drafted I had seen many excellent dancers at Sweet's and McFadden's ballrooms in Oakland, including our two home buddies Sam Tasoulas and Tom Chavalas, both excellent dancers, but Psomas and Mukanos were sensational. Needless to say Alex and I were pissed, but they had a logical answer; there was no reason to show us up at the stockade. Alex and Gust were the John Travoltas of 1943. They had the strut, the swarthy good looks, and the blue collar background similar to that of the character Travolta played in Saturday Night Fever. During our OSS days the four of us, along with Perry, Tom Georgalos, and Nick Cominos, became very close friends. Psomas introduced Tom to his cousin in Brooklyn and they married after the war. Unlike the aforementioned Okies and Southerners, Californians were very compatible with western Pennsylvanians and the men from the Boston, New York, New Jersey corridor.

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