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

Office of Strategic Services (OSS)

The Foresight of Major Clainos

After the war my wife, Mary, and I visited Clainos numerous times in San Francisco where he made his home after his discharge from the army. He retired as a full colonel. We videotaped him over ten hours during different sessions in 1989-1991.

He told us that he was responsible for not allowing the 122nd to build up to battalion strength. He said there were two reasons. First, he was not satisfied with the physical and mental condition of many of the Greek nationals who were older and not physically able to compete; many had been forced to join the battalion because they were Greek immigrants. The colonel turned to Mary and told her that he discharged the physically or mentally unfit and, he said, I kept excellent soldiers like your husband.

The second reason was even more significant. He was informed by the Pentagon no American unit of battalion strength would be permitted to go into Greece since the Balkans were in the British sphere of influence and he worried that the battalion would be sent to the Far East. He was apprehensive some of the Greek nationals who had been promised to return to their homeland to fight the Nazis might desert in protest. He was also concerned the Greek Battalion would set a bad example for all of Greek America if there were desertions. Mainstream America would neither understand nor excuse the desertions and would not bother to learn about the political ramifications of the Balkans agreed on at the Tehran Conference by the three Allied powers, the United States, Britain, and the USSR. (This was 1943 and Greeks, the latest immigrant group to arrive in America, were second-class citizens in most parts of the country.)

As he told us in his own words, transcribed here from the video-taped interviews:

When I was briefed by the Pentagon in Washington, DC before going to Colorado Springs, I was told the Greek Battalion in American uniforms would never go to Greece. No American unit would be allowed in the Balkans because it was the British domain. By the time we completed our training and received assignment to a regiment, it would have been too late for the European Theater. We would have been sent to Japan. I couldn't visualize Greek nationals, who had suffered atrocities under the German occupation, putting on their belts and their bayonets to fight the Japanese on the other side of the world. It was not my job to decide where the Greek Battalion would go ~ it was up to the Pentagon.

Major Clainos continued the intense training, biding his time, eliminating soldiers who were not physically fit; keeping the battalion from reaching its maximum strength. This negative became a positive because the quality of Clainos' battalion improved with every dismissal. Clainos continued to remove the undesirables until fortunately a group from the OSS arrived on the scene and asked for volunteers.

The OSS recruits Volunteers;
The Greek Battalion is Disbanded

read the caption

In August 1943, the earliest recruits into 122nd had completed seven months of infantry training at Camp Carson and my group had over five grueling months of training under the superb leadership of West Pointer Major Peter Clainos when three officers of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) arrived at Camp Carson and were introduced to the men of the Greek Battalion. This was the first we heard of the OSS.

Before introducing the OSS officers, Major Clainos made a shocking announcement. He informed the officers and men that the 122nd Infantry Battalion would be disbanded. We were demoralized. In prime physical and mental condition and in a top-notch unit, we were prepared to do battle in Greece.

This blow was somewhat softened when the OSS officers requested volunteers to join the OSS. Slated to operate behind enemy lines in Greece, it was required that the men spoke Greek and were in excellent physical condition for commando and parachute training. The OSS advised the volunteers that it would be hazardous duty and the casualty rate would be very high. The full battalion volunteered, according to Colonel Clainos (Ret.) reflecting during interviews later in his life. He also said that initially the OSS requested 15 volunteers, but after reviewing the troops they raised the total to over 160.[note]

Here are some of his own words from the video-taped interviews:

When I was approached by the proper authorities in Washington for a possible assignment of a few men to work under General Donovan [Director of the OSS], I called the Battalion together in formation and asked if anybody wanted to volunteer. The entire Battalion raised hands; everyone volunteered, including me. The next day I called Washington and told them we did volunteer; we can furnish as many men as they want providing they take me with them. I was the first to volunteer and then came the rest of you. Originally the intent was to take a handful, maybe a dozen. But they found such great talent in the Battalion they took [many more] people.

Unlike the other OSS ethnic Operational Groups that had been recruited from various army units, we had trained together for seven months. We were fine tuned and ready for battle prior to receiving additional OSS training in Maryland. No doubt the "Greeks" were the best trained ethnic operational group before departing for overseas.

Fifteen officers from the 122nd (Greek Battalion) who joined the OSS Greek-American Operational Group did eventually participate in combat missions in Greece and Yugoslavia. The Greek-American officers were Captains Frank Blanas, Milwaukee; George Markoutsas, Chicago, Illinois; and George Verghis, Los Angeles, California. Lieutenants George Chumas and John Giannaris, Chicago, Illinois; Michael Manusos and Nicholas P. Paledes, New York; Angelo Pappas, Cheyenne, Wyoming; Nicholas G. Pappas, Dover, Delaware; Theodore Russell, Dearborn, Michigan; and George Papazoglou. The four non-Greek officers were Captain Robert Houlihan, Lexington, Kentucky; Lieutenants Lon Peyton and Paul Pope, Amarillo, Texas, and Lieutenant Paul Mackey. Captain Robert E. Eichler, Waltham, Massachusetts, joined the Greek operational group in Washington DC In addition, Captain Ronald J. Darr and Lieutenants Gilbert O. Bachman and Donald E. Mort, officers of the Yugoslavian Operational Group, also entered Greece. (Where omitted, hometowns are unknown.)

The enlisted men were pleased and honored when four non-Greek cadre men, Technical Sergeants Bernard Brady, Richard Daigle, Walter Gates, and Victor Miller, volunteered to join the OSS (cadre are old-line soldiers who train recruits). Though they did not speak Greek, their army experience was invaluable. The sergeants were anointed as honorary Greeks and were excellent leaders in the Greek/USOG during the many missions in Yugoslavia and Greece. Sergeant Gates was one of the 15 Greek/USOG volunteers who joined the French Operational Group in China, when the Greek/USOG operations in the Balkans were completed. The non-Greeks had other options, but they chose to go to war with the Greeks.

The 122nd Infantry Battalion was disbanded in September 1943. The soldiers of the Greek Battalion who did not join the OSS were transferred to different units of the army. This was the first of many break-ups of the unit and individual removal of men. During our seven-month training at Camp Carson the men of the 122nd had bonded. It was a cruel blow to all, especially the men who did not join the OSS; a sad day indeed for the proud men of the Greek Battalion.

What was surprising was the large percentage of Greek Americans that joined the OSS. Our combat unit in the OSS, Group 4 of the Greek/USOG, had 19 Greek Americans and four Greek nationals; the group commander and second in command were not Greek American.

For obvious reasons Group 4 was called the jitterbugs.

Popular songs: Stardust, Artie Shaw ~ Two O'clock Jump, Harry James.


  • The number, over 160, is a reflection during an impromptu interview in 1990 about the volunteers the OSS took in August 1943. Similarly in the same interview, the expression the full battalion volunteered is a spontaneous expression. Most of the battalion did volunteer, which is a remarkable fact.

    The number increased to seventeen officers and 205 enlisted men, according to the National Archives, Formation of Unit, Greek U.S. Operational Groups, Operations in Greece 1944, p. 18 (report filed at OSS Headquarters, 24 December 1944):

    During the summer a recruiting team from the OSS came to Camp Carson seeking individuals with language qualifications for duty overseas. So many men volunteered for this duty that the commanding officer, Major Peter Clainos volunteered the entire battalion. Negotiations were undertaken to procure War Department approval of this scheme and in September authority was given for the transformation and a recruiting team from OSS Washington appeared in Colorado.

    The officers and men were again given an opportunity to volunteer or not. Most of them volunteered and a screening began at once to pick out those fit. After the selections were made the majority of the officers and men volunteered, orders were cut out for them to report to OSS Hq. Washington DC 8 October 1943. Seventeen officers and 205 enlisted men went east to join the unit to be known as Unit B, third Contingent. The screening continued during training.

    Subsequently, 185 (consisting of sixteen officers and 169 enlisted men) landed in Egypt, January 23, 1944, according to the report titled Headquarters, Third Contingent, Unit B, Operational Group, filed in the National Archives. (At the time of our arrival in Egypt, our unit was known as Third Contingent, Unit B. The official name, Company C 2671 Special Reconnaissance Battalion, was established later.)

    Some of our operational groups were ordered from Egypt into Yugoslavia where a few men suffered wounds, injuries, battle fatigue, etc., and became unable to fulfill their personal goal to go into Greece. A few other men were diverted by orders to stay in Egypt or in Italy.

    I am glad to say the total number 185 from the roster at arrival in Egypt will be inscribed in a monument that is being erected in Athens to honor our unit: the total number because all the men were volunteers for hazardous duty to liberate Greece; each and every one intended to serve in Greece.

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