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Out of the Balkans

Part 2: Jason's Journey, Recollections and Celebrations

Chapter 3:
The War

The Second World War (WW II) will always be "The War" for me. I served in the Army during the Korean Conflict (or "Police Action" . . . it was rarely called a "war") and for a time, supported the Vietnam War. Fortunately for me, I neither served in Korea nor fought in a war.

Except for concerned talk around our kitchen table about Italy, Germany, armies, and war in Greece, I remember nothing of events that led to the Second World War. I learned later of "OXI" (NO), the response Greek Prime Minister Metaxas gave to Mussolini when on 28 October 1940, the Italian government requested that Greece allow Italian occupation of its country. The Greek army pushed back the Italians who attacked from Albania through the mountains of Epirus. Greece's defeat of Italy caused the Germans to divert their attention from Russia to the conquest of Greece. A photo is a grim reminder of German bombers flying over the Acropolis in Athens. The German Army soon followed, occupying the city. Relatives and friends became hostage to the Nazis and suffered years of oppression and hunger.

President Roosevelt's broadcasted speech just after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor when he asked for a Declaration of War is still vivid in my memory. I was seven, playing on our kitchen floor in the sunlight that came through the window and heard his historic "Day of Infamy" address to a joint session of the Congress of the United States. I understood only that it was a very grave and serious time.

Dad had turned forty-one the previous September so had little worry of military service. Bobby (Robert) Capidaglis, son of Chris "Capi" Capidaglis and grandson of Constantinos, lived on the third floor of our home with his mother, Marion. He was already in the Army and scheduled for discharge in January of 1942. He served through 1946, the duration of the war, and returned to Brooklyn with his British bride, Edith.

Twenty-six sons of relatives and close friends of our family were in the war. Of these, all but two went overseas. Some, like Bill Fotiades, a neighbor on Ovington Avenue, received terrible wounds. A Marine lieutenant, he lost several ribs on one side of his body when machine-gunned on Iwo Jima. Others served in the Philippines, Britain, France, Italy, and Germany. The only young man that did not come home was Guy Capidaglis, grandson of Constantinos by his first wife, and an only child. As luck would have it, he died in an automobile accident hitchhiking back to his base from a Thanksgiving leave at home.

Dad"s immediate contribution to the war effort was the sale of our automobile. He would not use for pleasure gasoline that his nephews and family friends needed to fight the war.

For me, the war was sirens and blackouts at night, and bomb drills at school where windows had thin, cloth mesh strips glued on them to prevent glass from shattering in the event of bombings. War Bond drives, patriotic songs, preservation of scarce lemons in sand-filled boxes in the basement, men in uniform coming to our home on Sundays after church, Thea Anastasia in her Red Cross uniform, and Christmas gift packages we made up at school for servicemen were all part of the experience.

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