The Ahepan Summer 2020 - 18

He envisioned creating an elite force of highly skilled warriors
and inserting them as small teams behind enemy lines to gather
intelligence, commit acts of sabotage, engage in counterespionage, train local resistance fighters, and coordinate combined
guerrilla resistance operations.
Convinced by Colonel Donovan's assessment, President
Roosevelt appointed him to lead the OSS and begin the recruiting and training of agents and units needed to "sow the dragon's
teeth" in Europe. The men recruited for these special units were
physically fit, intelligent, motivated, trusted, and resourceful
soldiers with language skills and cultural knowledge. Skills that
would enable them to operate independently behind enemy
lines. The source of inspiration for their training syllabus were
the British Secret Intelligence Service (MI6), British Special Air
Service (SAS), and Special Operations Executive (SOE). The Greek
Battalion was comprised primarily of Greek Americans, but also
included Greek merchant mariners who joined the U.S. Army
from Greek ships stuck in U.S. ports. They were volunteers and
were made aware of the inherent risk of serving in the commando
units. Fewer than ten percent were expected to survive their tour
of duty. Aware of the threat these special units would pose, Adolf
Hitler issued an order on October 18, 1942, [Fuhrer Edict No.
003830/42g] which stated: "From now on all enemies on so called
Commando Missions in Europe or Africa, challenged by German
troops, even if they are to all appearances soldiers in uniform or
demolition troops, whether armed or unarmed, in battle or in
flight, are to be slaughtered to the last man." It was also rumored
that Hitler offered a capture reward for Commandos equivalent
to their weight in gold.
A force of 12 officers and 120 non-commissioned officers
qualified for the Greek American Battalion. In advance of the
OG deployments, OG officers parachuted into Greece to establish
relations with the British Military Mission and Andartes (Greek
Resistance) groups in their mountain hideaways. The men were
formed into eight Operational Groups. The units were inserted
by sea and by parachute under cover of darkness in early 1944
and dispersed throughout Greece to work with British military
officers and the Andartes of the EAM-ELAS (National Liberation
Front-National Liberation Army). Their mission was to inflict the
heaviest damage possible on the enemy and destroy communications, rail networks, and bridges used by the Wehrmacht for
redeployments and withdrawal of the 150,000 German and Axis
occupation forces and their equipment. They also conducted
sabotage operations, with intelligence provided by the U.S.
Naval attaché in Ankara, against the transfer of strategic materials moving from Turkey to Germany via Greece by rail. Group I

18

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THE AHEPAN · Summer 2020	

conducted operations in Epirus, Group II in Roumeli, Group III in
Thessaly, Group IV in Macedonia, Group V in Mt. Paikon, Group
VI in Mt. Olympus area, Group VII in the Peloponnese, and Group
VIII in Macedonia.
Considering the overwhelming odds and challenges they
faced, the Greek Battalion suffered only three combat fatalities
and 23 wounded in action. Despite Hitler's order and capture
reward, not a single member of the Greek Battalion was betrayed
or captured. The eight groups conducted 76 operations in Greece
accounting for more than 2,000 enemy killed, wounded, or captured, destroyed 15 bridges, 11 locomotives, 32 train cars, 63 military vehicles, six garrisons, and more than 9,000 meters of rail.
Their successful actions earned them a U.S. Army record number
of individual Bronze Star Medals and the prestigious Presidential
Unit Citation.
On May 26, 2005, they were recognized with the unveiling of a statue in their honor by then-Greek Defense Minister
Spilios Spiliotopoulos, at the Armed Forces Park in Athens. In
his address to the U.S. and Greek officials, veterans, widows,
and family members of the Greek Battalion gathered, Minister
Spiliotopoulous stated, "the actions of the Greek American volunteers express in general their contribution in all our nation's
struggles and exemplifies the attachment to modern Greece with
the ancient values and ideals of our Hellenism."
In March 2018, OSS and OG veterans were honored once
more in a ceremony awarding them the Congressional Gold
Medal at the U.S. Capitol.
With thousands of documents related to their exploits yet
to be declassified by the U.S. government, expect to hear more
about these brave warriors who went into harm's way, willing to
make the ultimate sacrifice for both the United States and Greece.

For Further Reading...
Some great books about the OSS and the Operational Groups
are: "Donovan's Devils, OSS Commandos Behind Enemy LinesEurope, WWII" by Albert Lulushi, "Behind the Lines in Greece:
The Story of OSS Operational Group II" by Robert E. Perdue, Jr.,
and "Classical Spies: American Archaeologists with the OSS in
WWII Greece" by Susan Heuck Allen.
About the author. Commander Demetries Grimes is
a former U.S. naval officer, aviator, and diplomat.
He has served as Naval Attaché to Greece, Naval
Attaché to Israel, Deputy Commander of the U.S.
base in Crete, and Advisor to NATO's Maritime
Commander in London.

www.ahepa.org


http://www.ahepa.org

The Ahepan Summer 2020

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