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Preservation of American Hellenic History

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

Part 3
North Africa and Italy

USS Pierre L'Enfant

December 23, 1943, the officers and men of the Greek/USOG boarded the liberty ship Pierre L'Enfant at Newport News, Virginia. Christmas Day, 1943, the USS Pierre L'Enfant departed from Newport News, via Chesapeake Bay, onto the Atlantic Ocean, where it joined a large convoy of 185 ships.

For security reasons, this top-secret unit was assigned to a liberty ship. These ships normally transported supplies. (Another sidelight: the USS Pierre L'Enfant was named after the architect who designed Washington, DC, the city that was the headquarters of the OSS.) The enlisted men were placed in the ship's no. 3 hold. The hold was not unlike a quad, with bunks, four high, rimming the hold, and tables and benches in the middle of the room where, between meals, the men played cards, checkers, barbouti and craps. We had a portable Victrola (phonograph) and three contemporary records.

Typical of navy ships, steep steps descended into the hold. The latrine was located halfway down the steps and onto a loft on an extended platform above the bunks. The urinal was a trough the length of the platform with seawater continually running through it. There were also three or four toilet bowls on the platform. Pity the OGs whose bunks were located beneath the platform. The five Californians were among the unlucky ones.

The Greek/USOG galley was a small room adjacent to the sleeping and eating quarters. Two meals were served each day. The remaining four holds on the ship carried freight. Large military vehicles such as tanks and trucks were anchored on deck. Unlike most troop ships there was decent space in the hold and substantial space on deck where we exercised and lounged when the weather permitted. At dusk garbage would be thrown overboard so that it would not be discovered by the German U-boats until morning. By then the convoy would be many miles away from the garbage drop.

The Greek/USOG officers were quartered above deck in the ship's officers' quarters.

Many ships in the convoy, including the Pierre L'Enfant, had torpedo nets parallel to the ship on the starboard and port sides. The nets were nearly the length of the ship and extended approximately 25 feet from the bulkhead. Theoretically, the torpedo nets would detonate enemy torpedoes before they struck the ship. The nets slowed the ships to a speed of 8 knots and every convoy moved at the speed of the slowest ship. At this critical period of the war, convoys in the Atlantic were under constant attack by German U-boats. Other than a few alerts, fortunately, neither submarines nor the Luftwaffe attacked our convoy. Although it was winter, the weather in the Atlantic was mild for January and the ocean fairly calm. Numerous United States Destroyer Escorts and a small aircraft carrier escorted our convoy to Gibraltar.

The Convoy Greets Gibraltar

Approximately three weeks after embarking from Newport News, we reached the African coast near Dakar. It was around midnight and I was on deck anxious to see Gibraltar; ships were receiving and sending orders by signal lights and moving into new positions. The convoy split into three parts: a few ships were sent to Dakar, Africa, with the majority deployed north to England or through the Strait of Gibraltar, which is where our ship headed. Approximately 75 ships remained in our convoy when we crossed Gibraltar into the Mediterranean Sea. The many ships maneuvering in the dark, appearing as silhouettes, was a spectacular sight.

The convoy was escorted by a few British Corvettes. There was no need for an aircraft carrier in the Mediterranean because we skirted the North African coast, where the Allies had air bases. At this time in the war, the Axis occupied southern France, most of Italy, Greece, and the island of Crete.

The Horrendous Storm

Our convoy was not attacked by the Nazis, but we encountered a hurricane type of storm off the Libyan coast in the Gulf of Sirte. The ship was bobbing and weaving in the turbulent storm, and the lifeboats filled with water. The captain of the Pierre L'Enfant decided to cut loose the lifeboats because he worried the weight of the water in the lifeboats might capsize the liberty ship. Fortunately, the heavy vehicles remained anchored on deck.

During the height of the storm I was on guard duty from midnight to 4:00 a.m. on the port side close to the bow. I found it amusing that I was on duty with my rifle, on a ship that was in distress, and I could not see two feet in front of me. I could hear the crew shouting orders and cutting loose the lifeboats.

When I was relieved from guard duty I returned to number 3 hold. I found it in shambles; the tables and benches had collapsed, the latrine trough had flooded, and water, debris, vomit, and feces were on the deck of the hold; the debris was so deep it virtually reached the lower bunks. The top bunks directly underneath the trough were showered with the rubbish. Most of the troops were in their bunks, so I crawled into my lower bunk and waited out the storm. Fortunately there was no damage to the ship.

The Gulf of Sirte, because of its close proximity to the Nazi airfields on Crete, was called Blood Alley. Years later, First Lieutenant Theodore Russell, the OG liaison to the captain of the Pierre L'Enfant, recalled the captain's words: The horrific storm was a blessing since it prevented the Nazi planes from bombing our convoy. This was one of many lucky breaks that I encountered throughout my three years of service.

There were other interesting highlights on the trip. A day or two after leaving Gibraltar and continuing our journey in the Mediterranean, a huge silver blue shark was trapped in the torpedo net on the starboard side of the ship, just below the water line. We observed this tremendous creature struggling and fighting to free itself for days, but finally after a week or so it succumbed. When we docked at Port Suez the net was raised, the shark still attached to the net was placed on deck, where we got a good look at this marvelous fish. The shark was at least 15 to 20 feet long.

Suez Canal and the Greek Flag Ship Averoff

When the Pierre L'Enfant entered the Suez Canal, it passed the flagship of the Greek Navy, the Averoff, docked in Port Saïd. The Greek nationals were thrilled to see the fabled Greek ship and yelled out pleasantries to the Averoff's crew. In turn, the crew was surprised and delighted to hear Greek spoken from an American ship.

A few additional experiences on the Pierre L'Enfant: Some of the members of our group, primarily the Manghes from Pireaus, discovered that the no. 2 hold, adjacent to our quarters, was stashed with beer. Needless to say the trip was made more enjoyable for these young men who would appropriate a few bottles each evening.

One night Perry, Alex P., and I were on garbage detail. After we had thrown the garbage overboard, we noticed one of our sergeants, a member of the cadre from our Co. B days at Camp Carson, was on deck. It was pitch dark and we decided to terrorize the poor guy. We hollered and called out blasphemous names, then moved to a different location on the ship. The sergeant, who was an excellent cadre man but not too bright, went ballistic. After 10 or 15 minutes of harassing him we sneaked back into our hold. When he returned to the hold, he had his pistol drawn and was cussing, trying to locate the culprits. He was never the same after that experience. When we landed in Egypt he left our outfit and we never heard of him again. This incident was probably best for him and our group; the sergeant probably could not handle pressure and would have been a detriment in combat.

We exercised a few hours every day, there was ample room on deck, and we would end our day running around the ship many times. When we would complete our training for the day, our gay soldier, Cpl. A., would run additional laps on his own. The man was a terrific physical specimen.

The OGs rarely fraternized with the crew of the Pierre L'Enfant. We respected the crews' diligence and the arduous conditions they worked under in that small ship; we particularly admired their work during the storm on the Gulf of Sirte.

The Pierre L'Enfant went through the Suez Canal and anchored at Port Suez, the southern end of the canal. We disembarked at Port Suez January 22, 1944 one month to the day after leaving Newport News. In the following year and half I boarded numerous troop ships and landing crafts, but I can honestly say that the USS Pierre L'Enfant was the most memorable troop ship.

On the Pierre L'Enfant, the men had very little contact with their new commanding officer, Captain Robert F. Houlihan. When we landed at Port Suez, Captain Houlihan exhibited a sense of humor when in his Kentucky drawl he told the men to obey the rules of the host country and to be cautious of the food and ladies in these foreign lands. In combat, Captain Houlihan was a brave and respected commanding officer.

Camp Huckstep, Egypt

In my wildest dreams I would have never imagined at the end of the war almost two years later, I once again would be on a troop ship crossing the Suez Canal on the way home .

Waiting to transport us to our camp in Egypt were the reliable and ever present 2½-ton trucks. GIs would often argue which truck was the best, the GMC or Ford. I am certain that whatever pre-WW2 automobile was popular in civilian life was the truck of their choice. How naïve to argue over a multimillion-dollar business. Such trivial discussions helped to pass the time during the interminable periods of hurry up and wait. The 2½-ton trucks were multipurpose: they hauled personnel, ammunition, food and water, fuel, clothing; they seated approximately 14 soldiers.

The OGs were transported to Camp Huckstep, an American army camp approximately 15 miles from Cairo. During the trip to Huckstep, the road skirted the pyramids and passed the town of Heliopolis. In a fortnight we had crossed the Strait of Gilbraltar and the Suez Canal and scanned the pyramids: a great experience for young Americans who had recently studied these historical monuments in school. Most of us had never left our home areas.

We settled in at Camp Huckstep for a couple of weeks. During a respite from training the OGs challenged Camp Huckstep's championship basketball team and defeated them. The members of the OG basketball team were all Californians. Unlike today when basketball is so popular, the Greek- nationals didn't know the game, and our group of Easterners were not into baseball and basketball (to the Californians anyone east of the Sierras was an Easterner).

Uncle Bill Caredis, who had owned the café in San Miguel, was stationed at Huckstep. I looked him up at camp headquarters but unfortunately he had been transferred to another base in Dakar one month before we arrived in Egypt.

Greek Hospitality in Cairo is Wanting

The first weekend at Huckstep we were given a pass to visit Cairo. We were excited to have the opportunity to visit a bustling foreign city but not prepared for the cultural shock we would experience. As I have mentioned, when we checked into hotels in Denver, New York, and Washington, DC, two of us would register for one room and the rest of the group would join us later and sleep on the floor. When we discovered the Grand Hotel in Cairo was owned by Greeks, our Greek philotimo took over and each man registered for an individual room. We soon realized we had made a big mistake. In our first exposure to Greek hospitality overseas, the hotel management treated us with blatant contempt as soon as they learned we were from the United States rather than Argentina. This was the harbinger of treatment the Greek-American OGs would receive from many Greeks overseas.

We were told by management there would be a horoesperida at the hotel's roof garden that evening. Excitedly, we donned our Class A uniforms and attended the party. We were not welcome. The same question was asked, Are you from Argentina? The Greek girls refused to dance with us; there were no Greek line dances, only American-European dancing. Additional insults and disappointments for the young Greek Americans.

We learned that Greece's premier vocalist, the famous Sophia Bembo, who was very popular in Greek America, was performing at a local theater the following night. Searching for the theater, we met a Greek on a street corner and asked him for directions. He answered gruffly, What's the matter, are you blind? It's at the end of this street. Disgusted and disappointed with the attitude of the Cairo Greeks, we decided to head back to the local bars.

While passing through Cairo and later in Calcutta, on our way to the front lines, we witnessed the good life the Greek citizens in these countries were living during the war. We were disappointed with them and could not understand why they were unfriendly. We appreciated even more the warm hospitality of the Greek-American communities. After the war many of these Greeks who spent the war years in exile became leaders of the new Greek government while the Antartes who fought bravely in the mountains against the Nazis were treated as traitors.

The Good Life of Rear Echelon Soldiers

Camp Huckstep had excellent food, refreshments, and fine living quarters. We settled in and continued our training for a couple of weeks, including maneuvers in the sand dunes. One day Captain Houlihan had the trucks drive us to a secluded area in the desert where there were no landmarks; we had to find our way back to camp with our compasses. We imagined how difficult it would have been without our experience and training. It would be hell to be lost in the desert. While returning to camp the maneuver reminded me of those great movies of the 1930s, Gunga Din and Beau Geste.

During this maneuver we shed the black boots we wore in Charleston and were issued the new combat boots with the side buckle. They were much more comfortable. We had one pair of the excellent jump boots, but we only wore them when we were on leave, during parachute training, and when we parachuted into Greece.

The training of the OG was finalized in Egypt. We had one year of extensive training that would eventually be a huge plus when we went into combat. A few years later, I was dismayed when young American soldiers and marines were sent to Korea with just a few weeks of training.

Camp Huckstep was the first of many American camps that our unit passed through in noncombat areas. GIs who were stationed in these camps, especially in the European Theater, were very fortunate. They had good food and fine facilities and were able to visit a nearby city and fraternize with the "natives." The American soldier had terrific "working conditions" in non-combat areas. In Naples I saw first hand how high-ranking army officers lived like royalty in non combat areas.

The Unit is Split Up

We received our orders to leave Huckstep. Sadly our unit was once again split up. Three of the groups (Groups 1, 2, and 5) were sent to Haifa for parachute training then flown to Brindisi, Italy. These three groups at different times in the spring of 1944 left by LCI from Brindisi and landed behind German lines in northern Greece. We wished each other good luck, not realizing that we would not meet again until November 1944.

Groups 3, 4, and 6 were sent to Alexandria where we embarked onto a British troop ship, the HMS Stratfordshire that transported us to Taranto, Italy. The British troop ship would be an extraordinary experience.

HMS Stratfordshire

We had hoped to receive a pass to visit Alexandria, but we were shuttled immediately onto HMS Stratfordshire. The only significant thing about the ship was its elegant name. We had been told British ships, compared to American or Scandinavian ships, had poor food and terrible hygiene. We were not disappointed.

The Greek/USOG was the only American unit on the Stratfordshire. Before WW2 the Stratfordshire was a cruise ship. Cruise ships were mobilized by the armed services of both the Allies and the Axis and were utilized as troop ships. Our port of debarkation was Taranto, Italy. Fortunately, the trip from Alexandria to Taranto lasted only three days. In my army career I spent many days on troop ships; the Stratfordshire was the worst experience I had. We were bunked near the bow of the ship below the watermark. Our "hold" had tables for our meals, card playing, and letters to be mailed when we landed in Taranto. We were issued hammocks that we would hang on the bulkhead after the afternoon meal. A few of our men never left their hammock during the whole trip. The ship had an awful roll and most of us became very seasick. The latrine, as on the USS Pierre L'Enfant, was above our living quarters. The ship was filthy and there was little maintenance. We were served two meals a day: in mid morning codfish, bread, and tea; and in mid afternoon mutton, bread, and tea. After our first meal we stood in line to clean our mess kits which were very greasy from the codfish. When we approached the cleaning pot, unlike the American ships that always had hot water, we cleaned our utensils in a large wooden vat filled with saltwater. After the first experience, many of us used our hot tea to clean our mess kits. Fortunately I had a few cans of fruit in my duffel bag and shared them with my buddies. Troop ships rarely have navy escorts because they can outrun a submarine, but they are at the mercy of air raids. We were worried that the Luftwaffe would discover us; the Nazi airbases in southern Italy were in close proximity, but once again we were fortunate that the Nazis did not locate our ship. At that time the Luftwaffe probably did not have the luxury to seek out individual ships.

A sidelight was the continual dice games on troop ships. Dice games on American troop ships would begin immediately after embarkation and end at debarkation. A GI blanket would be laid out on the floor, usually in the latrine, and a soldier would usually bank the crap game. A few GIs made a big hit and returned home with a large nest egg. Our unit received regular pay; in addition we received another $50 a month, a substantial amount of money in those days. Paratroopers, commandos, and submariners all received extra pay for hazardous duty. The British pay was meager and they were mesmerized with the wild betting of the Americans. I recall how fascinated members of the Long Range Desert Group (LRDG) were with the Americans and their dice games. We gambled with Egyptian pounds; at that particular time the rate was $4.80 per Egyptian pound. Money would fly in from the GIs to place a bet, and the British could not get over how the Americans trusted each other. They would holler out look at those blokes, they fling all that money on the blanket and they know who made the bet. One pound was a month's pay for the British. Later in Yugoslavia we met up with the LRDG and discovered that theirs was an elite British outfit that almost captured the Desert Fox, General Rommel, in the African campaign. The LRDG were the first of the Allied Special Forces, as we call them today.

Deep Chasm between Officers and Enlisted Men

One of the American armed forces' on-going secrets was the disparity between the officers and enlisted men on navy ships. While enlisted men were cramped in holds three and four decks below the main deck, officers were housed on or above the main deck in two- or four-man cabins with ample space to sleep and, depending on the troop ship, extra space for desks, typewriters etc. They dined in spacious rooms with chairs and tables with white tablecloths, silverware, and cloth napkins, and were waited on by Filipino and Black navy enlisted men.

The gap between British officers and enlisted men was even larger. The officers on this once beautiful luxury liner were housed in its former first class facilities.

A year later, going overseas the second time as veterans of many battles, we were much bolder and brasher than in our rookie days. On the troop ship General Callan sailing from San Pedro to Calcutta in terrible heat, once a day for one hour the officers had fresh water for showers. The enlisted men had saltwater showers that dripped on us like syrup. On board were a group of Chinese officers returning to China from training in the States. We located their showers and, wrapped only in towels, we would occasionally join the Chinese officers in their shower room. I am certain the Chinese knew we were not officers but they were probably uneasy or too intimidated to report us to the American Navy officers. The officers' dining area was on the deck above the showers. One day we sneaked onto the dining deck and peered through the huge windows into the officers' dining area. We were shocked and pissed to observe how elegantly the officers dined. The officers ignored the enlisted men who were from steerage peering through the windows like wild animals.

Italy: Taranto to Manfredonia

After three long days and nights on the Stratfordshire we landed in Taranto, a port on the heel of Italy. Our friends, the 2½-ton trucks, were waiting for us. We were shuttled a few miles to a billet next to a cemetery near the city of Taranto. There was also a replacement depot (repple depot) for all the new arrivals from America. These soldiers were replacements for the various divisions in the Italian campaign. I had empathy for these GIs because they did not have a chance to bond in a unit like our group. They were slated to join a division, regiment, battalion, etc , that needed replacements for their casualties. A repple depot was not unlike a meat market.

That afternoon we explored; the port of Taranto had been bombed the night before we landed (lucked out again) and also the cemetery near our base (air bombing at that time was not very accurate). The cemetery was surreal, with many graves exposed from the bombing and some of them recent burials. Bodies and skeletons were scattered all over the cemetery and adjacent streets.

That evening after chow we took a stroll around the neighborhood. Perry, who was outgoing and a great personality, was surrounded by Italian teenage girls. He spoke to them in broken Italian he had learned from his Italian-American buddies in West Oakland. Nick Cominos made a profound statement as he watched Perry charming the young Italian girls. He shouted out, Perry Phillips, God's gift to the teenage girls! After the war Perry as a church choir director and also a leader of the Western Choir Federation recruited many young teenagers for both groups. He was an honorable man and respected by the young girls and boys.

First Sergeant Strimenos and the Black Soldier

It was the first week of February 1944 when we boarded the 2½-ton trucks in Taranto on the way to Bari on the eastern coast of southern Italy, the Balkan headquarters of the OSS. There was an incident on this trip that may disturb many today. The quartermaster unit was composed of Negroes (as they were called at the time). The road we traveled was narrow with many curves and hills. The truck I was assigned to carried part of the 4th group including our First Sergeant Theophanes Strimenos. Tom Georgalos had praised Sgt. Strimenos when they were together in "C" company in Colorado, but this was the first of many times I observed this 22-year-old mountain of a man show his leadership and courage. On one of the steep and curving hills the Negro driving the truck in front of ours stopped the convoy and was arguing with our commanding officer Captain Houlihan. The Negro refused to drive his truck because he was carrying ammunition. An enlisted man refusing an order from an officer was absolute insubordination. This 6-foot-plus husky Negro was looking down at the much shorter Captain Houlihan and was adamant about continuing to drive the truck. In a split second Sgt. Strimenos, who was seated toward the front of the truck, jumped out and asked Captain Houlihan, What is going on, Captain? And why is this man holding up the convoy? When Strimenos realized the Negro driver had refused Captain Houlihan's orders, Strimenos faced him and ordered him, in his Alabama accent, Nigger, get in the truck and drive! The Negro knew where Strimenos was coming from and got back into the truck. People today might call Strimenos' statement racist. The Negro soldier was in a non-combat unit and would never see frontline duty; more importantly he was refusing an order from an American army officer. If Captain Houlihan had acquiesced, it is possible the rest of the drivers might have joined in and refused to drive their trucks. All hell might have broken out because the Greek/USOG would have supported their leaders and joined the fray. We were loaded for bear and it would have been a bloodbath.

The Greek/USOG had volunteered for hazardous duty. Insubordination was not in our terminology; the Negro was dead wrong. Strimenos came back to our truck, showing no emotion; it was his job as our leader. He had replaced Colonel Clainos as the catalyst of our unit. The enlisted men loved this terrific guy; he was a courageous leader, very sensitive to his men, and although he was raised in Mobile, Alabama, I met Theo many times in civilian life and found him the antithesis of a racist. Years later, Houlihan and Russell both agreed that Strimenos was the main man of the Greek-American Operational Group; they added, Sgt. Strimenos always followed the orders of his superior officers.

It is important that I digress at this time and write about the Strimenos/Black incident. Many of you in the 21st century will probably be disturbed by Sgt. Strimenos' language and attitude. The Greek-American soldiers were sons of immigrants; the majority came from cities in the Boston-New York-New Jersey corridor, Chicago, Detroit, the steel towns of western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio and cities on the West Coast. These soldiers grew up during the depression and their parents' priorities were to sacrifice their own future and feed, clothe, educate, and raise honorable families. Most of these men lived in Greek-towns or in ethnic neighborhoods where they attended schools with other minorities. In West Oakland where I was born and raised there were no WASPS in my grammar and junior high school, and all of us, Blacks, Whites, Chicanos, Asians, were the Children of the Great Depression!!

The Greek nationals were from a different and a much more difficult background. Their families in Greece had been under the yoke of the Ottoman Empire for 400 years and during the revolution of 1821 the Greeks revolted and became free of Turkish Rule. Some of them left Greece in the 1930s because of the great poverty there. After the Nazis took over, men who were in the Greek Navy or merchant marine jumped ship in America; a few had fought with the Greek Army against the Italians and Germans in 1940 and escaped from Greece and came to America. From necessity, these Greeks had left their beloved homeland, families, and parents. Now, Greece was being ravaged by the Nazis, and these men voluntarily joined the OSS to liberate Greece yet again.

Greek-Americans and Greek nationals were also second class citizens in the United States.

Both the Greek-Americans and the Greeks nationals had been raised in poverty, prejudice, and intolerance. Living conditions in many parts of America were dreadful, as I have related when I discovered the terrible conditions poor whites and Blacks lived in the South. We knew the terrible prejudice against blacks; we were very disturbed with the colored/white toilets and we would use the "colored toilets" to make a statement.

This was the mood of the Greek-American Operational Group at the time of the Strimenos/Black soldier confrontation. The men in the Greek-American Operational Group volunteered for hazardous duty and were anxious to go into combat under trying conditions, though they were told that the casualty rate would be very high. Ask me if we were prejudiced and I would tell you, Hell no. Bottom line the Black soldier did not follow the orders of a United States army officer; he was a coward and deserved to be severely reprimanded by Strimenos who wisely used the word Nigger. If he had not been Black he would have received the same severe treatment from Strimemos.

For armies to be successful you must have loyalty, respect, and discipline.

Our trip ended with no further problems; we camped at an OSS Camp in the town of Manfredonia, a temporary headquarters for the OSS. Our camp was moved to Torre Mare a few miles from Bari and eventually was named Kallitsis for the first Greek OSS soldier killed in combat in Yugoslavia.


Captain Houlihan, who was waiting for further orders, continued our training: never a day of rest for our outfit. One day Captain Houlihan decided that we could spend a day on the beautiful beach near Manfredonia, swimming in the Adriatic Sea. I had spent a lot of time during my days in Salinas swimming in Monterey Bay and I miscalculated the undertow in this bay; big mistake. If I had not been in great shape I probably would have drowned. I fought like hell to get back onto the beach. I was embarrassed to tell my buddies. The Adriatic was not only beautiful but as we discovered later it was a great place to fish.

Manfredonia was in a pleasant and rich valley. As "conquerors" we took whatever we wanted from the Italian farms. There were fruit trees and we picked as much as we needed. Of course we had an excuse for our behavior because the Italians were our enemy and they had fought and killed American soldiers. We had no qualms in ravaging their orchards.

Italian-American Group

During our stay in Torre Mare we met up with a group of Italian/American USOG. They were primarily from the New York-New Jersey-Boston corridor and had swarthy, handsome good looks, style, and great personalities. Our two groups bonded and we spent a few days socializing together in Bari. The Italian Americans would use a switch from a branch to trip up any Italian on a bike or hit them while they were walking. We asked them why were they so tough on the natives and they answered, They have no business fighting America. They might have had a premonition. When we left for Vis, they went on to the island of Corsica.

Years later we learned 30 of these young men left from Corsica on a PT boat and headed toward the northwest Italian shore, where the PT boat transferred the 30 men onto two yellow rubber rafts, such as used by downed aircraft. The 15 Italian/USOG in one of the boats, fully outfitted in American army uniforms, landed behind enemy lines near the town of Amaglaia. One half hour after they landed, the Operational Group, betrayed by Italian fascists, was captured and turned over to the Germans. Thirty-six hours later the Americans were executed by the Germans in northern Italy. (Refer to the Appendix for Adolph Hitler's edict, dated 18 October 1942.) German General Anto Dostler, who ordered the executions, was convicted of the crime at Nuremberg and hanged.

The skipper of the second boat, not an OG, heard firing and believing it to be from German E-Boats, he turned the second boat around and returned to Corsica.

In 1994, Italian/USOG veterans attended a ceremony in Amaglaia. The citizens of the town planted 15 trees in honor of the executed Americans.

We stayed two weeks in Manfredonia and visited Bari at every opportunity. It was a good size city on the southeastern shore of Italy. Bari had a US Service hall where good food and drinks and Italian maidens would join the Allied troops. I noticed many blonde Italian girls, from northern Italy, unlike the Italian girls I knew in West Oakland whose families had come to America from Calabria and Sicily. Not unlike the United States armed forces, many fistfights broke out between British and American servicemen in the dance hall and in the streets.

The Diabolical Plot

Many of the original draftees of the armed services who were in their late thirties and forties could ask for limited duty (non-combat) because of their age; in our unit a few men in that age group refused limited duty and volunteered for the OSS. One of them was the aforementioned head cook of our unit, Angelo, a Brooklyn-born Greek American who was the caricature of a Greek cook we often see in the movies. His buddies, including the kitchen crew, were older and primarily New Yorkers and Athenians. We did not appreciate Angelo's attitude and his arrogance toward the "jitterbugs" (as we were known) and he treated us as little boys.

One night after chow at Torre Mare, having had enough of Angelo and his mess crew's nonsense, Perry, Alex, Pete Lewis, Byron Economou and I thought up a diabolic plot to teach Angelo and his crew a little humility. We had hand grenades available and twisted the top off of one of them, emptied the powder, and twisted the top back on. The cap that ignites the grenade was still active but it would only spark and do no harm if it exploded. We went into Angelo's tent under the pretense of discussing the food he was serving; there were three or four cooks in the tent. Because of Perry's hyper personality we decided that he should handle the grenade. While the rest of us were talking to Angelo and his crew, Perry was tossing the grenade from hand to hand. Angelo and his boys were apprehensive at the way Perry was handling the grenade and they shouted at him to knock it off. As prearranged, Perry pulled the clip from the grenade and dropped it on the floor (a grenade explodes 5 seconds after activation). As soon as the kitchen crew saw the grenade was activated, all hell broke loose.

To make the scenario realistic we rolled under the tent feigning an explosion. Angelo and his crew panicked and ran out of the tent; this was probably the most exercise the cooks had since their basic training. The cap ignited and because there was no powder, of course, there was no blast. We were on the outside of the tent laughing like hell. The cooks were furious, but they did not report the incident. Angelo and his cooks treated us decently from then on. A few of the older guys tried to intimidate the younger soldiers, not realizing that we were not only in great physical condition but savvy big city boys. If pushed too far the "jitterbugs" would retaliate.

In Bari there was a large US hospital (26th general) that would play a part in our journey. Before we arrived in Bari, the Luftwaffe bombed the harbor of Bari, hitting an ammunition ship and clogging up the harbor. The Nazis surprised the convoy that was anchored in the port of Bari and did a lot of damage. The damaged ships could be seen from the harbor. We missed the bombing by a couple of days. How long will our luck hold out? ~ we wondered.

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