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

The Greek/USOG Disbands

Volunteers with the French/USOG

The French American Operational Group was selected to go to China to train Chinese commandos and lead them into combat. The French/USOG command requested 15 Greek/USOG and 15 Yugoslavian/USOG enlisted men to join the French Group. We were informed that we would return to the States and have one month's leave to visit our families. We would then return to Area "F" (Bethesda, Maryland) for further training, including a crash course in Chinese. The month's leave was a great incentive to volunteer. Many Greek/USOG volunteered. It was the last week of November 1944, and at this stage of the war we believed that as soon as Germany was defeated we would eventually be sent to the Pacific to fight the Japanese, without the possibility of coming home.

Two of the three Greek/USOG officers selected to go to China were from the Group 4: Captain Robert Eichler, and Lieutenant Paul Pope; the third officer was from Headquarters Company, Captain Nicholas Paledes. The enlisted men did not have a clue, nor did we find out, who selected the volunteers. I surmised it was Captain Eichler because among the 15 volunteers chosen from our unit, there were no Greek nationals while five of the chosen were Americans of Greek descent from Group 4, including Tom Georgalos, Alex Phillips, George Kalliavas, David Christ, and me.[note]

Other volunteers from the Greek/USOG joining the French/USOG included, from Group 2, Stephanos Phillipides (Buffalo, New York); from Group 3, George Basiardanes (Galveston, Texas), Nicholas Caragianny (Chicago, Illinois); from Group 5, Walter Gates (Mt. Vernon, New York), Alex Psomas (Aliquippa, Pennsylvania), and Peter Stamates (Chicago, Illinois); and from Group 6, Alex Haritakis (Brooklyn, New York); from the Yugoslavian/USOG, Konstantine Solaris (Peabody, Massachusetts), James J. Zevitas (Roxbury, Massachusetts), and Gust Kitakis (Detroit, Michigan). This group of volunteers bonded in China.


Later we learned the remaining Greek/USOGs who were physically and mentally qualified ~ those who had not joined the French/USOG ~ were reassigned to various combat units.

Most of these men were assigned to the 17th, 82nd, or 101st Airborne Divisions in Germany. The 17th Airborne Division made the last American combat parachute jump in Europe across the Rhine River. A few of the Greek OGs, including Captain Robert Houlihan and First Sergeant Theophanes Strimenos, joined the Italian Operational Group in northern Italy.

What happened to the "California Five"? Three of us were fortunate enough to stay together through the selection of volunteers for the French/USOG operations in China: Tom Georgalos, Alex Phillips, and I ~ while Nick Cominos was assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division in Germany; and Perry Phillips, because of a physical difficulty, was placed on limited service and assigned to a PX in Caserta, Italy. Perry was distraught that his brother Alex would be assigned to a combat unit, while he would be assigned in a rear echelon area. The separation was very traumatic for all five of us, especially for the Phillips brothers.

After the war, three of the OGs who were Greek nationals settled in northern California: Angelo Lygizos and Anargyros Antonopoulos (Group 5) in San Jose, and Marcus Valvis (Group 6) in Castro Valley. Antonopoulos and Valvis joined Cominos in the 82nd Airborne, and Lygizos the 17th Airborne. Bill and George Portolas, who were Greek nationals as well, had settled in Richmond, California, before WW2.


  • My memoirs of the CBI Theater of Operations (China, Burma, India) will be deposited as a manuscript in the Library of Congress. As a member of the OSS in China in WW2, I was one of 15 American military advisers who trained the 4th Chinese Commando. Prior to the 4th Commando's parachute jump into Southeast Asia we were briefed by OSS officers who recommended that we use the o-pill, rather than surrender to the Japanese, who would first torture and then kill any Allied soldier captured behind enemy lines. The officers also warned us to not trust the Chinese and Burmese because they were fragmented and it would be difficult to discern the friendly natives from the unfriendly and we may be betrayed. We were advised that we had only one loyal friend in Southeast Asia: Ho Chi Minh. The big bomb ended the war a couple of weeks later, and my unit was sent instead to Nanking to roundup Allied POWS.
    During the terrible Vietnam War, especially at the beginning of hostilities when the huge majority of Americans supported the war and before thousands of body bags were being shipped home, I was very vocal in my disapproval of that immoral war. In fact a few of my friends were so upset they branded me, Lefty. More importantly I was disappointed a couple of my OSS buddies who supported the Vietnam war, had a sudden case of amnesia when I would remind them of our briefing in China. (Interesting that 35 years after hostilities ended I cannot find anyone who admits supporting the Vietnam War.)

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