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

Greece: Drama

10,000 Greeks Massacred

One of the most devastating of my war experiences was discovering a mass grave in Drama. When the Nazis pulled out of Macedonia we came out of our mountain hideout and spent two weeks in Drama. The grave, approximately 100 to 150 yards long, was shown to us by the Antartes; 10,000 poor souls of Drama had been executed and buried by the Axis in 1941. The executions happened during a three-week period leading to the first anniversary of OHI Day. [note] For years afterward I heard not one word nor read any stories of this atrocity. None of the veterans remember seeing the grave, nor do recent Greek immigrants recall the incident. Sometimes I'd wondered if the story was true or if it had been a dream.

In October 1994, after the Greek/USOG reunion in Athens, my wife Mary, our son Soter, and I visited Drama. Soter had made arrangements to meet the editor of the Drama newspaper, Mr. Tselemahos Tselembilis. Mr. Tselembilis was kind enough to be our guide during our stay in Drama. During the tour of the city, I mentioned the story of the massacre to Mr. Tselembilis. He drove us to a knoll overlooking Drama and showed us the monument honoring the 10,000 Drama citizens who were massacred. Though I was hoping I was mistaken, the monument validated what I had seen 50 years ago.

Mr. Tselembilis had been 7 years old in 1944 and was living with his parents in a village a few miles from the area where we parachuted onto Oropethian near the Bulgarian border. He recalls the citizens of his village discussing the Americans and the parachute jump.

We asked Mr. Tselembilis, if it was convenient, to please show us the area into which my Group 4 parachuted. He was more than willing, but because of inclement weather, we were not able to travel on the narrow and muddy mountain roads.

We also visited the uncompleted hospital building in which our unit stayed in 1944, which has since been completed and is presently the main hospital of Drama. I have photos of both the monument and the hospital.


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Note

  • OHI Day was the day when the Greek goverment answered with a resounding NO to the ultimatum put to them by Mussolini's Fascists. The refusal set Greece in resistance against the Axis, instead of collaboration. OHI (transliterated here) is the word for NO in the Greek language. It is spelled as follows in the Greek alphabet: ΟΧΙ.


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