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

Drama, Macedonia

The Bulgarians Capitulate

The Bulgarians capitulated to the Allies September 13, 1944, and Major Miller was in conference with General Zirakoft, the Bulgarian commander in the Drama area. September 15, 1944, we received orders to move to Makros Gutas; yet no specific operations had been mentioned. Finding no one at Makros we moved to Taksiarkhis.

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September 16, we walked to the outskirts of Drama where we were quartered in an uncompleted hospital . Movements were restricted to the immediate area and we were under what can be called protective custody by Bulgarian guards. The curious crowds were not allowed to visit us.

We were confused; our exact status with the Bulgarians and the Greek controllers of Drama, the EAM/ELAS, was ambivalent to say the least. Major Miller had gone to Sofia, Bulgaria, and after establishing the Allied mission there he returned to Drama. However due to the Greek political situation and the undefined Bulgarian situation, we were in a fog.

September 18, we moved to the heart of Drama into a house formerly occupied by German headquarters. Our status was still unchanged.

Lieutenant Pope and the Mules

Meanwhile Lt Pope and three men, including Georgalos, left Drama to secure the supplies from our original base, 36 miles northeast. The supplies were moved by oxcart and mules.

An interesting and comical sidelight while we were in the mountains related to Lt. Pope. He was a rawboned Texan, a fine officer albeit a little naïve and something of a braggart. He mentioned numerous times how he packed mules in Texas as a young boy. Packing mules was a difficult chore, so one day a few of the enlisted men argued, loud enough for Lt. Pope to hear, that no one man could load the mules by himself. The argument was staged on purpose to set up Lt. Pope, and we hoped he would take the bait. Yes indeed, we conned Lt. Pope into loading the mules by himself. We warmly congratulated him, and of course never mentioned the betting. This was one of the rare times enlisted men took advantage of an officer and got away without any recriminations.

We always kept ourselves amused despite our circumstances.

Major Miller and Captain Pike Evacuated

October 6, Major Miller and Captain Paul Pike, both previously wounded by the Bulgarians, were evacuated by plane. Landings and evacuations by Allied planes were dangerous because enemy planes were still lurking in the Balkans. As in movies that depict night landings behind enemy lines, we would line up in two parallel lines, wide and long enough for a plane to land, with amateurish makeshift kerosene lamps positioned every 30 feet on both sides of the runway. Just before the rescue plane was prepared to land, we simultaneously lit the lamps. After two unsuccessful attempts the third time was the charm and the officers were finally evacuated.

The EAM to the Rescue

October 12, a confrontation between the Bulgarians and the EAM/ELAS was brewing and we were caught in the middle. The Bulgarians did not believe we were Americans and asked Captain Eichler for credentials. He refused to negotiate, and the Bulgars threatened to take the law into their own hands.

The British Major Kit Kat, now in charge of our mission, finally contacted the local provost. Colonel Radoff, the leader of the Bulgarian Partisans, called Major Kit Kat to his office to discuss the old question that he brought up in many conferences with the British, namely where was the mission's authorization to be in Drama and where were our credentials? Radoff then demanded that unless some authority was produced within one hour he would take the law into his own hands. Major Kit Kat returned to our billet and divulged the facts of his meeting to Captain Eichler.

We took up defensive positions and waited for Radoff's threat to be put into operation. Hell, we were only 26 Americans and three or four Brits, and the Bulgarians encircled our billet with infantry troops and artillery.

Major Kit Kat immediately contacted the provost marshall again, who in turn saw Colonel Radoff and told him that our presence was a question for the Greeks to decide, not the Bulgarians. We were ordered to stand by and protect the mission in case of an attack ~ ridiculous, considering there were thousands of Bulgarians in the Drama vicinity, and the only weapons we had were our rifles, a couple of Browning automatic rifles, one light machine gun and a bazooka.

The EAM ordered the Bulgarians to relinquish protective custody. The Bulgarians retreated after the EAM told them not to fire on our mission. We were elated that we did not have to fight against long odds, and even more pleased the EAM supported us; we were only a handful and we would have been annihilated by the Bulgarians. The only shots that we fired during the negotiations were shots against a German Messerschmitt fighter plane that flew very close to our billet. Fortunately the Bulgarians and the EAM realized we were firing at the German plane.

The Bulgarians Pull Out

The Bulgarians moved out of Macedonia and Thrace, one of the requirements of the armistice.

October 16, Colonel Keoun Boyd, British Army, arrived with his mission (his group) to Drama. The Greek authorities also arrived, representing both the Nationals and the ELAS, along with Colonel Procos in charge of all Antartes.

They arrived in two planes on October 16 and three planes on October 17 along with their equipment including two jeeps. Lt. Pope with a few of our men received the planes at night. Our men did an excellent job receiving the planes, which was acknowledged by both crews and members of the mission.

Publisher's Note

  • The references to Macedonia in these memoirs are references to northern Greece. These references are not to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia FYROM.
    • Northern Greece consists officially of three administrative regions, or states, namely (1) West Macedonia, (2) Central Macedonia, and (3) East Macedonia and Thrace.
    • After WW2, the southern part of Yugoslavia was designated by Tito as the autonomous Republic of Macedonia (an autonmous republic within the Yugoslav federation). Much of his intent was, evidently, to annex the Macedonian regions of Greece as his regime broadcast a program of propaganda across the international border into northern Greece to try to create a "Macedonian" ethnic identity.
    • With the break-up of Yugoslavia in the 1990s, the Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia obtained sovereignty for itself. The new country was obliged to refer to itself as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) in order to differentiate itself from the Macedonian regions of Greece and thus to receive recognition by the United Nations.
    • The government of FYROM has tended to disregard the requirement about the name and to use the term "Republic of Macedonia" or "Macedonia", causing confusion; hence, the need for this note.
    • In 1994, the United States recognized the sovereignty of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).
    • However, on 4 November 2004, disregarding international regulations, the United States Department of State decided to refer to the country as the Republic of Macedonia. The decision was expressly a reward to FYROM for their contributing troops to the United States invasions of Afganistan and Iraq (as expressed by Richard Boucher, United States State Department Spokesman, November4, 2004).

    End of the publisher's note.

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