Operation Group VI

'Group VI' was a US special forces operation to land a 24-man Office of Strategic Services party, all of Greek ethnic origins, for operations in the northern part of German-occupied Greece to aid local resistance forces (19 July/late September 1944).

The US party of 23 men commanded by 1st Lieutenant George Chamas entered Greece on 19 July at Parga cove of the west coast, moved across Greece with the 'Group III' team, and then split off at Dheskhati to travel to the north-east to the area of Mt Olympus.

The party’s first operation was a train ambush on the railway linking Athens and Thessaloníki in the area to the south of Katerini. Despite the fact that Chamas and some other Americans were sick with malaria, the group travelled along a number of mountain trails for three nights from Ano Melia to a part of the railway track to the south of Katerini. A train came at 01.00, but travelling slowly was not stopped by explosives planted by a British party of the Raiding Support Regiment. The Americans poured hundreds of rounds into the railway carriages and wagons, and the German casualties were reported as 120 killed and 300 wounded. Withdrawal under German fire to the rendezvous point was difficult. On the following day the Germans executed 12 Greek hostages in retaliation for the attack.

The second operation was essentially similar to the first, but on a different part of the same railway line. At 23.25 on 8 September, as the demolition charges were being unloaded from mules, a train from the north set off explosive charges laid at another point, and the German outposts opened a heavy fire. Some of the explosives being unloaded had already been placed, and when a German armoured car approaching from the north opened fire these were detonated, damaging the railway tracks and a small culvert. After several minutes of mutual fire, a US withdrawal was ordered. Six rail tankers filled with fuel were still burning. The men of the US group met at the appointed rendezvous during the morning of the next day, and returned to Ano Melia. Civilians reported that 13 Germans had been killed and two wounded, and also that seven pieces of rolling stock had been destroyed.

The target for the third operation was the German force at Latohoru. Wearing civilian clothing, Chumas, Sergeant Theophanes G. Strimenos and two Andarte officers reconnoitred the area to the south of Katerini in which a compound inside barbed wire entanglements and minefields accommodated a German garrison and three pillboxes near a concrete bridge. The four 'civilians' wandering close to the bridge were spotted and patrols were sent out. When these patrols opened fire, reinforcements were sent to the pillboxes and four armoured vehicles appeared on the bridge. As a result the reconnaissance partyl and the rest of the operational group returned to their base.

On 13 September the fourth operation was based on an ambush on the Movroneri river. Accompanied by Colonel West and Captain Blanas as observer, the men of the operational group reached the railway line to the south of the river. A British team of the Raiding Support Regiment, under the command of Major MacAdams, placed demolition charges, and these blew a train off the tracks. A bazooka rocket caused the boiler tubes of the locomotive to explode, and 2,500 rounds fired into the carriages and wagons started fires and caused considerable damage. Chamas then ordered a withdrawal, which was only slightly impeded by the arrival of a German armoured vehicle. The men slept in the area of the ambush and returned to base on the following day.

The fifth operation targeted the Hilopotamon bridge. The US party, supplemented by Captain Blamas as observer, moved to its rendezvous in readiness for an attack on the pillboxes and 12- to 20-man garrison defending the bridge to the south of Mavoniere. As the party approached its objective, German flares revealed the Andartes placing demolition charges on the tracks. The Andartes immediately detonated the charges and the Germans responded with extensive fire. The assault troops advanced under heavy fire. A guide leading Sergeant Richard J. Daigle’s group ran off in panic to the hills, leaving the group lost. At the suggestion of Sergeant Peter M. Laris, the group lay low. Meanwhile the Andartes left for the hills, leaving the US bazooka team on its own. Chamas ordered a frontal attack. A captured German guard reported that there were some other Germans in the pillbox but wishing to surrender. At this point there appeared three German armoured cars, and the Americans and remaining Greeks took cover in a ditch, in which they were pinned down by German fire. With German artillery and mortars now being committed, it was clearly impossible either to destroy the bridge or to retreat, and Chamas’s group became embroiled in a 4.5-hour engagement with the armoured cars. At 03.45 Chamas ordered a withdrawal under fire, and the men reached base.

The sixth operation was directed against the last train to the north from Katerini. Chamas was too weak with malaria to lead the undertaking, and placed Strimenos in charge. With just five men available, Strimenos’s party raced to cut the German escape but was delayed by a storm and, on reaching the point on the railway line for which the attack was planned, found that the Germans had departed to the north.