He called it a distinct honor to serve both the nation of his birth, as well as the country of his heritage when he was part of a secret battalion of Greek American soldiers whose stealth missions in Greece even caught allied officers by surprise.
Andrew Mousalimas, an original member of the elite Office of Operations Service (OSS) and a founding father of Fantasy Football, has passed away, according to a Facebook post from his granddaughter, Ria Rossi.
Mousalimas’ heroic efforts during World War II would go unknown until almost five entire decades after the war had ended, when the archives were declassified.
The Office of Strategic Services was the predecessor of today’s Central Intelligence Agency. Some of the soldiers were spies, some organized special forces operations, and some carried them out. All of them worked in the shadows, and none of them talked about what they did.
Mousalimas was barely 18 when he was recruited to be part of a special battalion of Americans of Greek descent, who were infiltrated behind German lines into occupied Greece and Yugoslavia. Their work in the OSS “resulted in some of the bravest acts of the war and forever changed the course of history,” according to a citation that was given to Mousalimas when he was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 2018.
His unit worked with British commandos and Greek partisans, and their heroism was not revealed until more than 45 years after their last battle. “It was one of the best kept secrets of the war,” Mousalimas said in a newspaper interview in 2018 after receiving his medal.
Mousalimas was a soldier stationed Fort Bliss, Texas, when he was recruited to become a member of the unit of Greek Americans. He was the son of Greek immigrants, born and raised in West Oakland, California. His family spoke only Greek at home, and like many children of immigrants, Andy didn’t speak English when he enrolled in the first grade.
But during World War II, the Army was looking for soldiers who spoke Greek like a native. The aim was to parachute them into Greece to work with the partisan guerrillas. Officially, it was part of the 2671st Reconnaissance Battalion. His unit was the Greek American Operational Group, consisting of about 160 officers and men.
His group ran ambushes, blew up rail lines and disrupted the enemy. In one particular operation in the mountains of Macedonia, his unit demolished a bridge used by Axis troop trains, a nearly perfect raid that was “a complete surprise,” he once said in an interview.
It was also a surprise to the Allied brass, who had no idea American commandos were at work in the Greek mountains.
Mousalimas got so close to bombs and explosions that he lost much of his hearing.
The Germans had a special dislike for these “sabotage troops,” as they called them. Adolf Hitler issued a personal order that any of these troops captured would not be treated as prisoners of war, but instead questioned without mercy and then “eliminated.”
The Nazis also offered huge rewards for information any OSS operative in Greece. If captured, the prisoner would be weighed, and the informant would be given the prisoners weight in gold.
Mousalimas often said that despite large sums of money that were offered to locals to betray the Greek American secret ops soldiers, he was proud that during his time in Greece, not a single Greek citizen betrayed the Allied operatives.
Mousalimas shared his memoirs, including dozens of photos from his years as a member of the OSS with the Preservation of American Hellenic History, here.
His story was also featured in the book Special Operations in World War II: British and American Irregular Warfare.
Mousalimas was the owner of a local institution– a sports bar called Kings X, where in the 1960s he would be one of the original founders of Fantasy Football.
A Toyota USA video from 2011 when he was inducted into Toyota’s Hall of Fame that featured Mousalimas sharing the origins of Fantasy Football tells the story:
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