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AHI's Marketos, Rossides and Larigakis Receive Awards from Hellenic National Defense General Staff
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: GEORGIA ECONOMOU
November 27, 2007—No. 78 (202) 785-8430

AHI's Marketos, Rossides and Larigakis Receive Awards from Hellenic National Defense General Staff

Washington, DC—At a special ceremony at the Greek Embassy on November 19, 2007, American Hellenic Institute (AHI) chairman James L. Marketos, American Hellenic Institute Foundation (AHIF) chairman Gene Rossides and Executive Director Nick Larigakis were honored by the Hellenic National Defense General Staff for the American Hellenic Institute's role in bringing long-overdue attention to the Greek American Operational Groups, secret teams of U.S. Army infantrymen who performed extra-hazardous duty behind Nazi lines in World War II Greece.

With a handful of surviving OG veterans, the sculptor of a statue commemorating the OGs, and the author of a book about them, Marketos, Rossides and Larigakis were honored for AHIF's documentary film about the OGs. The honorees were also presented with a commemorative medal by U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England, who attended the ceremony.

"The American Hellenic Institute takes great pride in bringing much-deserved attention to these brave Greek Americans, whose remarkable story is little known either in the U.S. or Greece," said Marketos, the film's writer and producer. He added, "The Greek American OGs exemplify the best in US-Greece relations, and shedding light on them is part of AHI's ongoing effort to highlight Greece's pivotal role in World War II."

The OGs were specially trained commando units. Under a classified plan developed by the Office of Strategic Services (precursor to the CIA), these small teams of U.S. Army infantrymen of various ethnic backgrounds—Greek, Yugoslav, Italian, French, and Norwegian—were infiltrated into occupied Europe to assist local partisan groups in resisting the Nazis. Among them were more than two hundred bilingual Greek Americans. Their mission was to work with the Greek partisans to make the Nazi occupation and withdrawal from Greece in 1944 as costly as possible.

They succeeded far beyond expectations, making 76 deadly strikes against the Germans, on average about once every three days, killing or wounding over 1,800 enemy and blowing up miles of roads, track, and bridges. Their effectiveness can be judged by the severity of the German response. Even though the OGs deployed in uniform, an illegal Wehrmacht order directed that they be slaughtered to the last man if captured. The OGs presence was a great morale booster for the partisans. OGs were the close-assault troops in operations by the Greek partisans and contributed greatly to their success against occupation forces.

Recognition of the OGs came late. With their mission successfully completed, they were withdrawn from Greece at the end of 1944 and officially disbanded a year later. Records of their actions were then sealed for forty years. Having operated autonomously in Greece and formally under Allied command, their war record was not fully recognized, with U.S. Army separation papers often not mentioning ground combat in Greece. Some never learned till decades after the war that they had been awarded a Presidential unit citation.

AHIF's documentary film "The Greek American Operational Groups: Secret U.S. Forces in World War II Greece," is available by calling AHI at (202) 785-8430 and will soon be available through AHI's Web site: www.ahiworld.org.

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For additional information, please contact Georgia Economou at (202) 785-8430 or [email protected]. For general information regarding the activities of AHI, please view our Web site at http://www.ahiworld.org.