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

Camp Kallitsis and R & R

There but for the Grace of God


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The OSS camp in Torre Mare, Italy, was designated "Camp Kallitsis" after Corporal George Kallitsis who had been killed in action and buried in Vis. Upon our arrival at Camp Kallitsis we were issued fresh clothing and a seven-day pass for R & R. The five Californians, Georgalos, Cominos, Alex and Perry Phillips, and I, decided to go to Naples and Rome. We were looking forward to sleeping in a bed, drinking fresh milk, having a decent meal, and we hoped for some female companionship. Although most of our parents and relatives made their own wine or were in businesses that served liquor, the five of us imbibed very little alcohol.

Before leaving on our pass, I visited Bari where another interesting, albeit disturbing, incident and by-product of the war happened to me. I saw local teens and sub-teens roaming the streets trying to make a few lire to feed their families. They would use their guile, begging, shining shoes, and washing fruit in the public urinals' running water to sell to Allied servicemen; some were even trying to sell us their sisters. It was a devastating experience for me to witness. I was very troubled to see this pitiful scene. We Americans did not have to do such things to survive that terrible war.

Naples

From Bari we hitched a ride on a general's plane, a converted B 25 that was returning empty to Naples. It was luxurious by any standards. Two of us sat on the general's plush sofa in the nose of the plane, where the nose gunner would normally be positioned. The plane skirted Mount Vesuvius and landed in Naples. Except for Alex who had taken jump training, this was the first time any of us had been on an airplane. Looking out of the plane we all agreed it would be a piece of cake to jump from an airplane. The arrogance of youth!

Naples was overcrowded with soldiers, civilians, and sub teens selling everything from prostitutes to contraband. Poverty was widespread and the city was in horrible shape, and unlike Rome Naples was ravaged by Axis and Allied bombing.

We arrived in Naples in the morning and were told by other GIs there was a 9 p.m. curfew and if we were picked up by the Military Police (MP) after curfew we would be sent back to our base camp. We half-heartedly searched for lodging believing there would be no problem. Our interest was to find a restaurant serving Italian pasta. We located a bistro and the food was not too shabby. We found no fresh milk, but the Italian ice cream was more than adequate.

James Kaporis Living the Good Life


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While attending Salinas Junior College in 1942, I met James Kaporis from Chicago who was stationed at Fort Ord. His home away from home was my Uncle George and Aunt Helen Cominos' house. My uncle and aunt were wonderful hosts to Greek-American servicemen in the Monterey County area; their visitors' book is full of the names of Greek-American servicemen from every part of America who were stationed at Fort Ord. My cousin Sophie Cominoshad sent me Kaporis' address in case we visited Naples. We located Kaporis who was a chauffeur for a brigadier general (cannot recall his name). Kaporis picked us up in an army limousine and drove the five Californians to the general's beautiful villa located on a hill overlooking Naples. Kaporis was cordial and happy to see us. Cominos and Georgalos had met him in Salinas; the Phillips brothers had also met James when he had stayed a few days at my grandmother's home in Oakland.

Kaporis introduced us to the general who showed a great interest in our group, asking us a few questions, but he did not invite us into his villa. We spent an hour or so with Kaporis; we mentioned our difficulty in locating lodging, but James was unable to help us. James Kaporis was another of the many rear echelon soldiers living the good life, but hell, he was a nice guy and we were glad that he had a cush job and did not begrudge his good luck. Because I knew him better than the rest of the guys and he had met all my family, he secretly asked me if I had rocks in my head joining the Greek OG.

When we left Kaporis we returned to the central area of Naples and located 5th army headquarters. What a surprising revelation for battle-weary veterans. The 5th army was headquartered in a former state building, a beautiful edifice. We were not allowed to enter the building. It was late afternoon and we watched countless colonels and majors leave the building carrying their briefcases as they walked down the long steps to their waiting chauffeured automobiles like executives on Wall Street. GIs told us the officers were being chauffeured to private villas which had been commandeered by the 5th army for the duration of the war. Though lower-rank officers and enlisted men working in 5th army headquarters were not assigned automobiles, most had jeeps at their disposal. Our frustration deepened: we could not find lodging for one night while the rear echelon guys were enjoying the good life.

The Naples' Slammer

It was getting late and we could not find any type of lodging. Hell, we would have slept in a basement. Many of the neighborhoods in Naples were off limits to GIs. We were planning to travel to Rome the next morning and did not want to be picked up by the MPs and sent back to Bari. At my suggestion we went to Military police headquarters and told them of our predicament, hoping they could assist us. Like most guys in authority, the MP were initially aloof and not interested in our plight. We told these rear echelon guys this was our first R & R in five months and we just needed a place to spend the night. After a short conversation with the arrogant bastards, I asked the MP if they had an empty cell and a few blankets. They handed us some blankets and walked us down a couple of flights to a cell in the former Italian jail, where we spent the night sleeping on the floor. At least they did not lock the cell!



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