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

Greece
 
At Last! Group 4 Enters Greece

British Officers and Antartes Greet Us


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We were warmly received by 50 Antartes and a four-man British mission. Antartes is a general term for the Greek guerrilla fighters. These Antartes were members of the EAM/ELAS, the most viable and by far the most potent guerrilla force in Greece.

Our first night in Greece we followed the two British officers and two signalmen and two Antarte scouts, walking winding trails until we reached our temporary base on a mountainside. We did not have a clue where in the hell we were. We were at the mercy of the Antarte scouts. The Antartes would always be present whenever we needed them to guide us through the mountains. Until we reached Drama we slept on the ground, usually on the side of a mountain; we never went into the valleys where we would be an easy target for the Axis.

In Greece I was again the last man in the column. Our medic, James Kavourhas, was in front of me. He would periodically hand me half of a pill whenever we were at the point of exhaustion. Later I realized it must have been a Benzedrine tablet. I can only surmise Karvouhas wanted me to be alert if anyone sneaked up behind us. A couple of times when I was "loaded" on a "Bennie" I was reprimanded by Georgalos because I became obnoxious, while the rest of my group was struggling to keep up after many hours of continuous walking in the mountains. Karvouhas asked me not to mention the pill to anyone. My buddies could not believe my energy level.

In Greece, as in Yugoslavia, we were under the British command. (Roosevelt, Stalin, and Churchill at the Teheran Conference, December 1943, agreed Yugoslavia and Greece would be in the British Sphere of Influence.)

Group 4 Base in the Mountains: Our Mission

Our base, and I use the word loosely, was set up in the mountains while we waited for orders from Major Miller, the senior British officer in charge of the mission. The Allies had invaded southern France, and it was imperative for Hitler to move as many troops as possible out of the Balkans that he desperately needed on the Western and Eastern Fronts before their avenue of escape to Germany was closed.

Our mission was to slow down the Nazi retreat. We operated near the Bulgarian border, north of the city of Drama and east of the Nesto River. During our missions only necessary weapons and personal kits were brought from base.

The enlisted men rarely fraternized with the British officers or the Antartes. The Antartes were in no mood to be too cordial. Having spent over four years in the mountains fighting, they co-existed with the British although they knew the British preferred the Royalist party to govern Greece when the Nazis left Athens.

We were ordered not to speak Greek to the Antartes and civilians; we believed this was ridiculous, but as obedient young soldiers we followed the orders, though at times we slipped and spoke Greek. Once in awhile we would come across a small village. We rarely fraternized with the citizens, but Alex slipped and spoke Greek to a woman who grabbed him and asked him to please not destroy enemy camps, railways, etc., because retribution to the nearest village by the Axis is swift and ruthless. This was the terrible downside of our type of warfare. We had no choice but to follow orders; our mission was to halt the Germans' retreat from Greece.



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