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About the Book
An American-born boy grew up in a small village on the Greek island of Crete. In his last year in high school,...

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• Introduction into the group of the OSS training spy school Cairo Egypt , October 1943

It was the first day, a mostly hot day in October 1943. An introduction to this peculiar form of war, “spy” training, if you will, in the Secret Intelligence and Special Operations section of the.....

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"...Doundoulakis is able to evoke the suspense and thrilling detail of his many narrow escapes and also convey his youthful sense of excitement and adventure. His intimate rendering of the adversity Greek civilians faced during the war is particularly moving....

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Book Excerpt

Chapter 1

• Introduction into the group of the OSS training spy school

Cairo, Egypt . October 1943

It was the first day, a mostly hot day in October 1943. An introduction to this peculiar form of war, “spy” training, if you will, in the Secret Intelligence and Special Operations section of the OSS outside Cairo, Egypt. A tall white-haired man with strong, piercing eyes walked in and, though we were sitting, commanded our attention.

Good morning, gentlemen. I am Major Vassos, head of the training school for the Secret Intelligence section of the OSS. You are the chosen group, fifteen of you, ready to start training to become spies. And now let me ask any one of you, ahh . . . let me ask this gentleman in the front . . . what is your name?” And he turned to me, his eyes fixed on mine. I paused, and he continued in a stern monotone, “And remember, while you are here, you have no last name and will not use it.”

“I am Corporal Helias D., sir,” I said, rather unsure as to whether the use of the abbreviation was correct, and by his wide stare, I knew it was not.

“Tell me, Corporal Helias, is it day or night outside?”

I quickly responded, hoping to correct my error, “It must be day, sir, six o’clock in the afternoon, and it will be dark soon.”

He again looked at me disapprovingly. “Gentlemen, as you can see, the corporal is not really sure if it is day or night! Well, after you finish training, I can assure you that you will convince anyone, even me that it is nighttime even though the sun is still shining! Your minds will be capable of fabricating imaginary realities or arguments that will convince anyone that whatever you are saying is true, friend or foe. Your training will last five months and will depend mostly on your ability to absorb what we will be teaching you and your ability to demonstrate to the teaching staff that you will be ready to undertake that important and dangerous mission. Not anyone can become a spy, but since you are here, it has been proved that you would be capable of undertaking dangerous missions.”

He continued, “The instructions will be given by either OSS teaching staff or by members of English Intelligence Service. They’ve been around longer, so much the better for us. And their organization possesses more experience in certain things, which I’m not at liberty to discuss right now with you men.”

Major Vassos, as I found out, was named John; and though he was tough, I liked him from the start. He had that impressive look as if he was, sometime in the past, a spy himself.

He said the training would be divided into eight classifications and enumerated for us the following:

  • Parachute jumping from various heights
  • Morse code and wireless instruction and operation
  • Commando training (defensive type)
  • Environment assimilation
  • Techniques in opening locks and safes for the purpose of photographing or stealing documents
  • Story fabrication and lying
  • Methods of escaping if captured
  • Elimination (how to kill in order to escape, if captured)

Afterward, Major Vassos introduced his group of instructors, all of whom were officers, and described the specialty of each instructor.

Besides the officers and instructors, there were many other soldiers in the compound, all with at least a sergeant’s rank assigned in various other tasks. In addition, there were over twenty more helpers, cooks, cleaning personnel, and others.

While the major spoke, I stood as if I was hypnotized and asked myself, was it really me they were calling? Had I really been chosen to be part of this, a young man with a simple background, who had just come only a short time ago from a little village of Crete? And to find myself now a corporal in the U.S. army and a member of the OSS and ready to be trained to become a spy?

What I wasn’t thinking about was that I was carefully chosen by the OSS, not randomly taken, considering my past two years in the Cretan resistance under the English Intelligence Service; the fact that I spoke English, Greek, and a little German; and the fact that I was born in the USA and was also an American citizen . I was to become an agent of the OSS, a spy, and an integral part of the American spy network in Greece. While the major dismissed us, I sat, finally grasping the reality.

For the reader to be able to follow step-by-step my advancement from being a small-town boy to becoming a prospective spy, I will have to go back to the time when I was in high school in Heraklion, Crete, in 1941.