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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

Group 2 Operation and Personnel
September 8, 1944

The following quotation from the National Archives describes one of the many operations by Group 2. Their commanding officer, Lieutenant Giannaris, was seriously wounded in this operation.[note 1]

A photo of Group 2 is included towards the end of this page.


Group 2

On September 8, at 1100 hours, Lieutenant Giannaris and the entire group set out from Pappas (base) on a mission to blow part of the Salonika-Athens Railroad line north of Lamia at a point located 2 south of Develi. This portion of the track was heavily guarded. On the left flank was a pillbox about 250 yards away, and on the right flank German barracks about 250 yards guarding the approaches to the line from a 600-meter slope. These defenses had machine guns of heaviest caliber, heavy mortars, 20 mm AA guns, and a 105 mm Howitzer, the area heavily patrolled day and night, and all approaches already zeroed in for the event of attack. Participated in Operation:

The reconnaissance party, which consisted of Captain Ford and one enlisted man, left earlier in the day to reconnoiter the terrain surrounding the target area and later met the main party in an advanced assembly area. This operation was in conjunction with another party consisting of Antartes who would demolish a very large portion of railroad line, north of where Lieutenant Giannaris' party would strike. Our part in this operation was to mainly harass the enemy and draw attention away from the main demolition group working away from the party. In view of this, it was necessary for our party to make an early attack. So the hour of our operation was set for 2045. The main Antarte demolition party to the north would move in to place their charges after that time. At 1940, the entire party moved in and proceeded to cautiously move down the high slope to approach the railroad line.

As the patrol was approaching the line, an enemy machine gun opened fire at point blank range, hitting one man with an entire burst. Simultaneously, flares went up, and other machine gun emplacements opened fire. Lieutenant Giannaris gave the order to withdraw and attempted to reach the man who was hit with the first burst, but before he took more than a few steps, he had detonated a mine and was seriously injured and unconscious. In the meantime, the pillbox to the left and the emplacements to the right had commenced firing, and the barrage was terrific. The party was pinned down and unable to move, due mostly to the direct fire in front which was a grazing fire covering the immediate area with vision from flares. In view of this predicament, a corporal without personal safety took a few steps toward the machine gun emplacement and opened fire from 15 yards. This action silenced the machine gun and enabled the men to withdraw to safer positions and eventually retreat over the mountaintop to the rendezvous point.

From here, the party took off for a mountain hideout. Upon arriving there, the men found orders to move immediately to another area for another operation.

Officers and Men who participated in the operation:
[Skip the list of personnel]
  • Captain Bob Ford
  • Lieutenant John Giannaris
  • Tech Sergeant James Apostolopoulos
  • Staff Sergeant Mike Kountouris
  • Sergeant Peter Moshopoulos
  • Sergeant Stephanos Philippides
  • Sergeant SpirosTaflambas
  • Sergeant James Zonas
  • Corporal Lenares
  • Corporal Angelo Kaleyias
  • Corporal Steve Marthiakis
  • Corporal Theodore Markides
  • Corporal Alekos Orkoulos
  • Corporal Gus Palans
  • Corporal Hercules Sembrakis
  • Corporal CostasTheodorou
  • Corporal MichalisTsirmoulas

read the caption

Notes

  • A Greek doctor initially treated Lt. Giannaris' serious wounds. (The OGs in Greece had only medics with limited medical knowledge.) Lt. Giannaris was evacuated to Italy by a British fighter plane. He was then sent to America for a lengthy recuperation.
     
    I find it interesting that the corporal whose courageous actions are described in the report is not named in the report. Only the officers are normally mentioned by name in the official records in the archives. I was a member of Group 4, not Group 2; so, I had no personal knowledge of this corporal in Group 2; I cannot give him credit by name. He is the one in the report who without personal safety took a few steps toward the machine gun emplacement and opened fire from 15 yards. This action silenced the machine gun and enabled the men to withdraw to safer positions and eventually retreat over the mountaintop to the rendezvous point.
     
    Nor do we find a name in the report for the enlisted man of Group 2 who was hit with an entire burst of enemy machine gun fire.

    [Return to the text, note 1]
  • U.S. National Archives, Greek U.S. Operational Groups, Operations in Greece 1944, p. 130 (report filed at OSS Headquarters, 24 December 1944). There is no name at the end of this report to tell us who wrote it. Lt. Giannaris was wounded, and evidently one of the men produced the report.
    [Return to the text, note 2]


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