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

Camp Carson, Colorado: The Greek Battalion

Gays in the Battalion

During the time I spent in the army and OSS, I was aware of two gays, or queers as we called them at that time, in our outfit. Following are two interesting albeit different stories: the first involved Perry (always in the eye of the hurricane), who was slightly built but had an athletic body. Perry and I, after completing intelligence school, a misnomer at best, were placed in headquarters barracks. Only a few soldiers lived in that barracks, including the cooks of Company B. One was Sgt. V. who had a class "A" pass because his wife was visiting him in Colorado Springs. He was allowed to leave camp on the nights he did not have duty and return in the morning before reveille. Sgt. V. had an excellent voice and when he would return to camp he would wake us serenading with Greek songs. Perry, who was musically inclined, was always anxious to learn any new Greek song, and he befriended Sgt. V. Ultimately Sgt. V. would sit by Perry's bunk and wake him singing Greek songs. Perry and I were from the streets of West Oakland and had been approached by gays many times when we sold newspapers on the street corners. When a gay would make his move, we would con him, ask for street car fare to meet him, stash the money and never show up. We were not naive, but we believed that Sgt. V. enjoyed singing and appreciated Perry's enthusiasm for Greek music. Up to this time Sgt. V. had not shown any gay tendencies. One morning, loud noises and a scuffle woke me. Perry in his shorts and undershirt had his rifle in his hands with bayonet out of the scabbard and was cussing Sgt. V., who was up against the wall. I jumped out of my bunk and grabbed Perry from behind and asked him what the hell was going on. Perry said, I'm going to kill the son of bitch; he tried to crawl into my bunk! Sgt. V. was scared to death and ran from the barracks. We did not report this incident, but a few days later Sgt. V. was transferred out of the battalion.

The second gay, Cpl. A., did not hide his homosexuality. In fact at short arm inspection, mandatory venereal disease inspection by the unit's medical doctor, he would wear pink panties and strut like a model. He was a handsome man of 6 foot 1 inch in height and about 175 pounds in weight. He was with company D in the Greek Battalion and I did not meet him in Colorado. He volunteered and was accepted in the OSS and assigned to Group 6. During our long voyages on troop ships from Virginia to Egypt and later from San Pedro to India, Cpl. A. not only trained with the unit, he was indefatigable. After our training session he would run laps around the troop ship numerous times on his own. When we reached our staging area in Torre Mare, Italy, we became acquainted with Cpl. A. and found him to be very docile but friendly. I do not recall if he had any close friends or with whom he socialized.

During our short stay at Torre Mare, a boxing match was held in neighboring Bari; the light heavyweight champ of the British fleet challenged American servicemen to a match. Perry and I found out Cpl. A could box, although he never flaunted or bragged about his boxing prowess. We asked if he would fight the British soldier and he accepted. Perry and I were his managers/seconds. The boxing ring was jammed, with a large contingent from our OSS unit. The Greeks placed big bets on their "boy" and Cpl. A. did not let them down. He won the decision pummeling the Briton. Our group celebrated the victory but Cpl. A. did not join in the festivities. It was all in a day's work for him.

After the Nazis withdrew from Greece, Cpl. A. again volunteered and with 15 Greek/USOGs, joined the French/USOG to go to China. The troop ship, the General Callan, took 31 days from San Pedro to Calcutta, India, and the weather was very hot. In our sleeping quarters we wore only shorts and as young men in excellent shape, we were very horny. We had been combat veterans together in Greece and Yugoslavia, and Cpl. A. knew by this time we weren't interested in homosexual sex, but once in awhile he would wear his pink panties, strut around our bunk area, jab us on the side, and shake his ass. We would tell him to take a hike and he would giggle and back off. Cpl. A. was an outstanding soldier, a man I was very proud to soldier with, and someone you could always count on in combat.

The Frauds

America by the summer of 1943 was totally behind the war effort with the exception of a few pacifists, cynics, and opportunists. Prior to the United States entering the war, the isolationist America First group and a large minority of German sympathizers tried to keep the United States from entering the war. All this changed after the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7 1941, and the subsequent defeats of American forces in the Philippines in 1942. Japan had conquered all of Southeast Asia and was primed for an attack on Australia. The Americans had a couple of successful campaigns late in 1942: the battle of Guadalcanal in the Pacific and the invasion of North Africa. Most of us who had not reached draft age worried the war would end before we had a chance to serve. Receiving a draft card with a 1A was a badge of honor. Those who received a 4F rating (disability) were stigmatized.

This was the climate in the United States in the summer of 1943. The soldiers in our outfit almost to a man were loyal and proud to be members of the Greek battalion and especially the ones that volunteered for the OSS. American young men and women were for the most part willing to serve their country in WW2.

But in every war there are shirkers. My platoon was detailed to guard three members of the Greek Battalion who had decided to feign mental illness in order to receive a medical discharge. One man was from New York; the other two were from Northern California. Before they were drafted, they'd had lucrative businesses that were not suffering during their absence. Large amounts of money was sent to them while they were in Camp Carson. While in custody they were held in a small room with one tiny window. We had to guard the entrance to the room while these three men were incarcerated. One tried to persuade me to join in his escapade and go into business with him, where we would make millions. Another said that he wasn't going to take any army crap from the Okie noncoms. One became a flamboyant man about town in San Francisco and a friend of the governor of the state of California. Much to my surprise all three were given a Section 8 discharge. It would be interesting to ask all three if they had to do it over again would they take the same road. In retrospect I don't hate them for what they did 50 years ago. I believe if they have a conscience, it left a lasting mark on their psyche. I have never understood why they even bothered to volunteer for the Greek Battalion. Our paths have crossed since the war; once with the New Yorker; often with the Californians; I have chosen to ignore them. I often wonder if the New Yorker made his millions. I never mentioned this episode to my family; one of the few negative episodes of my army career.

Summer 1943 at Camp Carson

Adjacent to Camp Carson the Army had set up a German prisoner of war camp. There was no fraternizing with these prisoners. I found these soldiers, though POWs and incarcerated, were arrogant and proud, unlike the Italian POWs we met later, and I realized how formidable they would be in combat.

Many historians agree by the summer of 1943, four of the most important battles of WW2 had been won by the Allies. The Russians and General Winter stopped Hitler at Sevastopol; the British defeated General Rommel at El Alemain in the African Campaign; the Battle of Britain was won by the RAF; and the American Navy won the major Battle of Midway, sinking four Japanese carriers.

Frustrated that the war would end before we had a chance to go into battle, the men of the Greek Battalion were combat ready with no place to go.

Popular Songs: You'll Never Know, Tommy Dorsey ~ All of Me, Frank Sinatra.

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