Athens, Greece

My name is Korkas Konstantinos. I was born in a village in Greece called Poullitsa, which is close to Vrachati, on January 7, 1921. I am now 93 years old. I attended high school at Kiato, also in my homeland of Greece.

Our childhood years were difficult, because we had to walk one hour and fifteen minutes every day to get to our school in Kiato, and the same distance to get back home. After school, we would have lunch and then work in the fields. Our families used to produce olive oil and wine. After dusk we would then return home and do our homework for the next day, usually up until midnight. By the time we went to bed, we were already exhausted. It was a hard way of life at our village that made us strong. So, later on, the military was a piece of cake for us. But this is how we withstood the hardships of the war and its extreme circumstances, because war was an adventure to us.

I joined the Hellenic Army Academy on October 2, 1940. War was declared on October 28, when the Italian Army invaded Greece from Albania. We were still students. But we were very happy. For we had no idea about the war, only that we were throwing our hats in the air shouting "WAR! WAR!" We were yearning to go to war, because we were young back then. Yes, we wanted to fight, but we did not know much about the war or fighting battles at all.

Then, when the Germans attacked us on April 5, 1941, we had asked to go to Thermopylae, to fight where the ancient Greek leader Leonidas had fought the Persians centuries before with his noble Spartan army of 300. But the military leadership did not allow us to do so.
On May 20, 1941, the Germans landed at Crete, and this was the first time we fought with the German paratroopers. We did not join the battle because we had to, but because we wanted to. Our military leaders had prohibited our involvement. But we joined the battle in spite of their orders, on our own. We had to commandeer buses and trucks, but we got to the island and fought.

It was a difficult battle. Some of our classmates lost their lives. In truth, war cannot be described or comprehended. It is hard, weird, cruel. You have to keep on fighting the whole day without food, water or rest, while your mates are getting killed or wounded. Even I cannot properly describe it despite the 10 years of war I experienced.

We tried to climb the White Mountains aiming to leave for Egypt, but we did not make it, because there were not many ships available. As a result, we got captured by the Germans at Sfakia at the end of May. And we were held for two and a half months at a concentration camp close to Chania. There were thousands of prisoners there, of various nationalities. The Germans treated us very well, however, and they kept us at a separate place from the other prisoners because we were students of the Military Academy. Then, in the middle of August, we were transferred to Piraeus, and the Germans had set us free.

From there, I walked all the way home. One had to obtain a permission from the occupying Italian forces to travel to his village, because travel and movement within the country were restricted. But I was not granted the permission I needed, and I didn't have the money to pay for the transportation. So, as a result, I walked for twenty-four hours to arrive at my home.

In December of 1941 I joined a technical college to become a civil engineer, but during that time there was a strike at the college. By that time, Greece had been taken over by the German Army. We had lost our freedom, and food was scarce. As a result, I decided to leave for the Middle East. So I got on a ship bound for Turkey. And from Turkey I made it to Cyprus and then to Haifa. All the countries that had been taken over by the Germans were organizing their armies at Haifa. There were Polish, French, Ukrainian and Greek army soldiers there. So, I joined the Greek Army.

Later, the British Army began to hold seminars and organize training programs. And we were trained by them in such things as using British weaponry, strategy and army management. In the end, two Greek brigades were formed, with four or five thousand soldiers each.

The leaders of the brigades were in constant conflict with each other, and this resulted in the punishment and restriction of a group of soldiers. This was due to a great extend to their hypothetical political affiliations. A number of volunteers from a group of soldiers formed the special unit called the Sacred Company, or "Ieros Lochos," on September 6, 1942. We were, in a way, simply volunteering to die, since paratroopers have to face grave dangers daily.
Soon, all of us participated in the Battle of El Alamein in Egypt, where Montgomery and Rommel were the leaders of opposing forces. The battle lasted for 11 days, from October 22 to November 2. Then the Germans started to lose ground. Many battles followed El Alamein, in Tobruk, Benghazi, on the island of Sicily, and in Tunisia.

We won the battle In Tunisia, but we were almost captured. The British, French and Greek soldiers participated in the battle,and it lasted for three day,s from March 10 to March 13, 1943. At the end of the battle we were waiting for the replenishments of food, water and fuel. But our supply truck drivers were captured through a mistake of their own. We had to endure two or three days without food or water. Then the Germans surrendered, but were subsequently set free.

After this battle, we joined the Second Brigade of New Zealand. Together, we proceeded to liberate many major cities until the end of the war. We returned to Cairo, then went on to Egypt and Palestine, and arrived at Dodecanese. More than a thousand new soldiers joined our ranks on the way there, and we progressed to set the islands free one by one. On October 31, 1943, we landed on Samos a little bit after midnight. We were two hundred and two paratroopers. The rest arrived by ship.
The weather was stormy and windy. The pilot made a mistake and released us over some rocks instead of a field. As I was falling, I could not see the ground and I wounded my head, my hip and my shoulders. I lost consciousness. When I regained it, I went on to search for my men. All of them, however, were lost. By midday, I had found none. Fortunately, I found them much later on.

Then we left from Samos and got to Cairo through Turkey, because the Germans once again took over the islands we had liberated. Thus we kept on fighting. Personally, I was trained by the British in Haifa to the methods of the secret war, and subsequently I was transferred to Naxos on April 12, 1944, where I stayed until the end of the war.

When the German Army surrendered at Symi, their leader left his weapon on the table. Then the British brigadier gave it to the leader of the Sacred Company, saying that this trophy belonged to the Sacred Company, the liberators of the islands.
After that I was transferred to Kalymnos, to collect the hostages. They surrendered without resistance, and I collected their weapons. During the process almost 350 Germans marched before me, singing that Germany is above all. After a week, they were moved to the concentration camps in Africa.

At Kalymnos, there was a reception party in our honour. During a toast, our brigadier said to the German general that he was sorry for all the pain and destruction Germany had to suffer. Then the German general replied that they should not be worried about Germany, because they would make it better than before.

The mayor of the city called us to the town's cemetery, and he gave a speech to the dead. He called them to wake up and rise, because after all those years of occupation, we were all now free. I remember all of us there, crying like small children.
In the end, the Sacred Company was dissolved on September 15, 1945, and we created the New Army, since during the occupation there was no Greek Army. I became a four-star general and retired as a leader of the Greek Army.

I met my wife in the United Stated, while I was studying for the army. I knew her family from Naxos, and we met again in Washington, DC. After the end of the war, she returned to Greece to take care of her family's property. The next year, in 1955, we got married. We have a daughter who is an archaeologist. And we also have a grandson.

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