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

Office of Strategic Services (OSS)

Establishment of the Operational Groups

There were other ethnic Operational Groups in addition to the Greek: the French, German, Italian, Yugoslavian, and Norwegian. These Operational Groups made up the 2671st Special Reconnaissance Battalion.

The following quotation from a dedication ceremony at Fort Campell in 1996 describes the establishment of these Operational Groups and the valor of the men.

In June 1943, at the urging of William J. Donovan, director of the OSS, the Joint Chiefs of Staff authorized the creation of Italian, Greek, Yugoslavian, French, German and Norwegian Operational Groups consisting of specially selected, trained, and physically hardened United States Army soldiers capable of waging war behind enemy lines. The forerunners of today's Special Forces Operational Detachments, each Operational Group consisted of thirty enlisted soldiers and four officers, however most Operational Groups deployed fifteen to twenty-four man teams. OSS recruiters made every effort to select team members fluent in the language of the country in which they would be operating. All volunteered for exceptionally hazardous duty and were highly trained in special operations techniques. The self-sufficient Operational Groups possessed the ability to train and coordinate guerrilla operations, conduct acts of direct sabotage, rescue downed planes and collect intelligence.

With the exception of the German Group which deployed in Italy, the Operational Groups saw action in their respective areas of operations. With the defeat of Germany, some Operational Group soldiers returned to the United States for additional training before redeploying to the China-Burma-India Theater where they undertook the task of training Chinese guerrillas for combat against the Japanese. At this time, the Operational Groups numbered 1,100 soldiers.

Making their most significant contributions in Europe, Operational Groups turned in an exemplary performance far out of proportion to their numbers. Operational Groups organized and directed Italian partisans in combat actions aimed at disrupting enemy supply lines and forcing the Germans to divert combat units to rear area security missions. They performed similar operations in Yugoslavia and Greece. Here, the intention was to deceive the German High Command into believing the Allies seriously intended to mount an offensive through the Balkans. In the process, Operational Groups killed or wounded several thousand German soldiers and destroyed key rail and highway bridges as well as extensive sections of railroad track. In Norway, another Operational Group tied down significant numbers of German soldiers in a series of hit-and-run strikes culminating in the destruction of the critically important Tangen railway bridge. Operational Groups deployed into France where they rendered their most important service in preparing the way for Operation Anvil, the invasion of southern France. With the assistance of French Maquis, these groups produced over 1,000 German casualties, took 10,000 prisoners, and destroyed 32 bridges. As German resistance began to crumble, the Operational Groups also performed a valuable role in preventing the German Army from destroying transportation facilities crucial to the Allied pursuit.

The effectiveness of the Operational Groups can be measured by the severity of the German response to their presence. Despite deploying for combat dressed in American army uniforms, an illegal Wermacht order directed that they, as well as other special forces operatives, if captured, be slaughtered to the last man. All Operational Groups were officially disbanded on September 20, 1945, as a result of President Truman's executive order deactivating the OSS. Much of the Operational Group's team structure as well as their mission capabilities eventually transferred to the United States Army with the activation of the Tenth Special Forces Group in 1952.

[End quote]

Other than the German/USOG, the ethnic OG missions were in combat in their respective countries. During the war, we met the Italian/USOG group in Italy, the Yugoslavian/USOG group in Yugoslavia, and, in November 1944 after our mission in Greece, a few of us from the Greek/USOG joined the French/USOG in China.

The Best Kept Secret in the Armed Services: the "Unknown Greeks"

Many people, including my family, have asked why the Greek and other Operational Groups have only recently been recognized. A few cynics have gone as far as accusing us of fabricating the history of the Greek/USOG and questioning if any Americans were in combat in Greece in WW2.

There are numerous reasons that our group is unknown; following are four examples:

  1. The Greek/OG operated autonomously in Greece and was disbanded immediately after the Greek missions were completed. We barely had time to embrace our buddies much less to compare our battle records.
  2. We operated under British command and the American Army did not recognize our war record in Yugoslavia and Greece. Many of the Greek/OG veterans' separation papers do not include ground combat in Greece and Yugoslavia.
  3. Our records were sealed top-secret by the CIA, and they were not transfered to the National Archives until circa 1987. We did not see them until the 1990s.
  4. We were never certain of the official name of our unit. Originally known as OSS, subsequently we were swamped with numerous unofficial titles, such as Greek OG; Unit B; Greek/American Operational Group; Unit B, 3rd Contingent; and the ever popular Greek Battalion. Years after WW2 ended we discovered our unit's official name was Co. C 2671 Special Reconnaissance Battalion. The name was established in August 1944, almost one year from the day we volunteered for the OSS. At that time our six groups were in Greece and we were not advised of the official title.

Unfortunately, not only are we unknown in America but with rare exceptions the citizens and government of Greece, even today, do not realize Americans fought in Greece in WW2.

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