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

Greece
 
Examples of the Greek/USOG Missions Behind the Lines

Operations in Greece

This set of data and quotations from the National Archives tell us when, where, and how each of the Greek United States Operational Groups (Greek/USOG) went into Greece for hazardous duty. The material also indicates the effects on the enemy and indicates the targets in general.


Operational Group Command Greece

The Operational Groups went into the following areas of Greece in 1944 in the order given:

  1. 23 April. Group I. Captain Verghis, commanding. To EPIRUS, which is the region in the Northwest of Greece. Infiltrated by L.C.I.
  2. 16 May. Group VII (Balkan Operational Group).[note 2] Captain Andy Rogers, commanding. To NORTHERN PELOPONNESUS. Inflitrated by parachute drop.
  3. 21 May. Group V. Lieutenant George Papazoglou, commanding. To MOUNT PAIKON. Infiltrated by LCI.
  4. 18 June. Group II. Lieutenant John Giannaris, commanding. To ROUMELI, with a base about 25 miles southwest of Lamia.
  5. 16 July. Group VIII (Balkan Operational Group).[note 3] Captain Ronald Darr, commanding. To MACEDONIA near Vermion. Infiltrated by LCI.
  6. 19 July. Group III. Lieutenant Michael Manusos, commanding. To THESSSALY, east of Elason. Infiltrated by LCI.
  7. 19 July. Group VI. Lieutenant George Chumas, commanding. To OLYMPUS. Infiltrated by LCI.
  8. 8 September. Group IV. Captain Eichler, commanding. To MACEDONIA northeast of Drama. Infiltrated by parachute drop.

Movements to and within Greece

All the amphibious landings into Greece were by LCI manned by the British Navy. The boats left from Monopoli, Italy, and sailing between the islands of Paxos and Anti Paxos straight into shore, landed in a cove where the boat was met by Antartes with mules to unload the boat and move the load into the mountains. The movement was done during the dark of night to avoid detection, but as the boat neared the shore, the Antartes would light huge bonfires to put light on their work. This boat operation was known as bracing or glasshouse. The little boat was usually almost sinking from the heavy load it carried. The boat would touch shore near midnight and by dawn would be back in safe water. Never did any bracing meet with an accident, and the troops were infiltrated without incident.

The groups that parachuted into Greece were flown to their dropping areas by American planes of a troop carrier group. Of the two groups and one individual officer who jumped, no casualties were sustained.

Once on the ground, the troops could move only by walking, and since they stayed generally in the mountains, walking was the most difficult part of any operation and movement. Large strings of mules were available for carrying packs, food, ammunition, and etc. but not for carrying the men.


Effect on the Enemy

The effect upon the enemy of the operations was undoubtedly very detrimental to his spirits. The losses inflicted by the Operational Groups , if sustained at once, could be repaired quickly by the resourceful Germans. But these operations summarized above took place over a great length of time and in many places. They wore roughly on German nerves. In many places it was known to the ordinary German soldiers that Americans were fighting them, which did not improve their spirits, since they had been told that their only enemy was a peasant army. One case is of a B.A.R. belt being brought to a German commander who discovered it was American and hastily ordered it buried. And the man who allowed it to be seen by other soldiers was punished.


Targets General

The main targets of all groups were highways and railroads, as examination of the detailed reports will show. The main railroad in Greece is that which runs North-South from ATHENS to SALONIKA. The Germans maintained large numbers of troops in Athens, and Athens was important to them not only for itself but because it was the headquarters and focal point for all occupation administration of the PELOPONNESUS and the AEGEAN Islands.

Ordinarily as many as fifty trains per day passed a given point along this railroad. Groups II, III, V and VI were all within striking distance of the railroad.

A highway of importance was the IANNINA-LARISSA road, which ran east-west and could be struck by Groups II and VII. In Macedonia where Group IV was, a railroad leading to DRAMA , a great enemy stronghold held by the Bulgars, was the main target. The original plan of impeding the German exit from Greece contemplated striking these lines of communication. The object was to make the withdrawal costly. There was never any intention to keep them in Greece, however. The main plan envisaged a general striking of these targets on a given date all over Greece. Prior to such a concerted drive, the troops carried on against targets which presented themselves : trains, pillboxes, garrisons, convoys and so on.


Casualties among Americans

Despite the great number of engagements with the enemy, Company C. [Greek/USOG] sustained very light casualties. One enlisted man was killed during an attempted attack on a rail line; one officer was wounded in the same engagement; twenty four enlisted men were wounded; one officer was injured by a fall; one enlisted man was injured by a fall. The two officers Lt. John Giannaris who was wounded and Lt. George Papazaglou, who fell, were evacuated to Bari. The enlisted man was likewise evacuated. No others were evacuated for wounds, but all received treatment in the country and recovered.


Notes

  1. National Archives, Greek U.S. Operational Groups, Operations in Greece 1944, pp. 14-17 (report filed at OSS Headquarters, 24 December 1944).
    [Return to the text, note 1]
  2. Six groups (Groups 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6) comprised the Greek/USOG, also known officially as Unit B, Third Contingent (Co. C., 2671 Special Reconnaissance Battalion). See, for example, National Archives, Formation of Unit [Unit B, 3rd Contigent], Greek U.S. Operational Groups, Operations in Greece 1944, p. 18: the unit was organized into six combat groups. Also see Final Organization of Unit, ibid.: six groups.
     
    Group 7 in the report (as quoted) was comprised of men from the Yugoslavian/USOG who entered the missions in Greece.
     
    The Yugoslavian/USOG and the Greek/USOG were separate units within the 3rd Contingent. The Yugoslavian/USOG was Unit A. The Greek/USOG was Unit B.
     
    There were some OSS officers, such as Major Lovell, who wished to merge the units during our stay on Vis. Captain Houlihan strongly opposed the merger and insisted our units maintain their autonomous status. Colonel Russell Livermore, the CO of the 2671 Special Reconnaissance Battalion, concurred with Captain Houlihan, and agreed that we should maintain our units' respective names. The units were not merged.
     
    A number of reports were written by Major Lovell who projected his own preference by using the phrases Balkan Operational Group and Balkan Groups. A few recent publications have been influenced by his sort of (unofficial) nomenclature. They go so far as to call all of these operational groups collectively the Balkan Group, instead of referring to the officially distinct units.

    [Return to the text, note 2]
  3. Group 7 (comprised of Yugoslavian/USOG) entered the Peloponnese on 16 May, as shown in the report. They operated there for a while, and then returned to Bari, Italy.
     
    Now re-entering Greece, into Macedonia near Vermion on 16 July, they are referred to as Group 8. In northern Greece, this group co-operated with our Group 1, who had entered Epirus on 23 April.
     
    The specification of a (so-called) Group 8 in this report makes it appear as if there were another group. Contrast the specification of them in this report with the more proper specification for them as Group 7 (Unit A) in, for example, National Archives, [General Report about Greek Operations] Vital Statistics, Greek US Operational Groups, Operations in Greece 1944, p. 11, which states, Group VII (Unit A) participated in several convoy ambush operations with Group I.

    [Return to the text, note 3]


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