Helias Doundoulakis
Helias "Louis" Doundoulakis
Helias Doundoulakis, 2012.JPG
Doundoulakis in 2012
Born Helias James Doundoulakis
(1923-07-12)12 July 1923
Canton, Ohio, USA
Died (2016-02-29)29 February 2016 (aged 92)
Freeport, N.Y.
Occupation Civil engineer, author, and soldier
Nationality American
Notable works I was Trained to be a Spy, Books I and II, My Unique Lifetime Association with Patrick Leigh Fermor, Trained to be an OSS Spy
Spouse Rita "Arete" Gianoplus

Helias Doundoulakis (July 12, 1923 - February 29, 2016) was a Greek American scientific innovator who patented the suspension system for the largest radio telescope in the world and served in the United States Army as a spy for America's first intelligence agency, the Office of Strategic Services, or the OSS.

Early Years

Helias "Louis" Doundoulakis was born in Canton, Ohio to Greek-immigrant parents. At the age of two, his family emigrated to Crete, Greece, where he grew up in Archanes, the site of the Minoan excavation at Knossos. During his senior year in high school, and after most of Greece had already fallen under the Axis powers, German paratroopers known as the Fallschirmjäger invaded Crete on May 20, 1941.

World War II

The Battle of Crete lasted for ten days, after which Helias and his brother George joined the Cretan resistance. An underground organization was formed by George Doundoulakis, who recruited ex-military and Cretan civilians from the Heraklion and Lasithi regions of Crete, at the request of British Special Operations Executive (SOE) agent Christopher Montague Woodhouse.[1][2] Working closely with "Monty" Woodhouse, Thomas James Dunbabin, and later Patrick Leigh Fermor, George's underground organization supplied key information to the SOE.[3] Timely information obtained by this organization, and delivered to Dunbabin, led to the sinking of a large German convoy destined to re-supply the Afrika Korps of Field Marshal Erwin Rommel in 1942. After the war, George Doundoulakis was awarded the King's Medal from Great Britain for his service. Captain Dunbabin was awarded the Distinguished Service Order.[4]

After a two-year involvement with the Cretan resistance, both Helias and George escaped to the south shore of Crete through the Psiloritis Mountains after their betrayal to the German Gestapo by a local Cretan. Along with thirteen others, they were evacuated to Mersa Matruh, Egypt, on a British torpedo boat upon orders from SOE saboteur Patrick Leigh Fermor.[5][6][self-published source][7]. Leigh Fermor had been on the same torpedo boat which ferried the Doundoulakis brothers and their group back to Egypt. They would not see one another until forty years later.[8] Leigh Fermor would later be immortalized for his role in the kidnapping of General Kreipe from Crete[9], which was made into a Hollywood movie, Ill met by Moonlight.

Office of Strategic Services

Helias Doundoulakis and his brother George, along with other members of their underground organization, were moved to an SOE villa in Heliopolis, Cairo at the behest of Capt. Patrick Leigh Fermor.[10] The Office of Strategic Services quickly learned of the Doundoulakis brothers and their two-year involvement with the Cretan resistance from Leigh Fermor. The OSS headquarters in Cairo contacted the SOE, and dispatched Captain James Kellis[11] to the SOE's Heliopolis villa, to recruit both Helias and George, since they were American citizens.[3] The brothers enlisted in the United States Army on September 16, 1943, and joined the newly formed American spy service, the Office of Strategic Services.[12] Their Commanding Officer was the well-known industrial designer and architect, Major John Vassos. Helias Doundoulakis was trained in the arts of espionage at the Cairo 'Spy School' in the Secret Intelligence Branch[13] for six months, of which one month was spent at the SOE's STS training facility 102 in Haifa, Palestine for commando and parachute training, along with other OSS and SOE trainees. His brother George was trained in the Morale Operations Branch, or MO, and the Special Operations branch[14].[15] Upon completion of his training in March 1944, Vassos ordered Helias Doundoulakis on a mission to Salonica, where he sent encrypted radio messages to OSS Headquarters in Cairo from a factory once owned by Greek Jews, from April to December 1944. One message led to the destruction of a German troop train leaving Salonica's railroad station by a squadron of Allied B-25 bombers.[16][self-published source] Constantly hunted by the Gestapo, Doundoulakis was never suspected of being an American spy -- eluding the Germans, and even the Greeks.

His brother George was sent to Volos, where he coordinated some 7,000 loosely-held Greek communist rebels into an allied fighting force. He provided food, weapons, and materials through OSS bases in Turkey. For his service, he was decorated with the Legion of Merit.[17]

Post-war years

Upon completion of his duties in the U.S. Army, Helias Doundoulakis settled in Brooklyn, New York, receiving a bachelor's degree in civil engineering from the City College of New York, and a master's degree in structural engineering from Brooklyn Polytechnic.

Emery Roth & Sons

One of the most influential architectural firms in New York City in the 1920's -- 1950's included Emery Roth & Sons, where Doundoulakis had worked on the design of the Pan Am Building (now the MetLife Building) in New York City. Emory Roth was known for designing some of New York City's renowned hotels such as the Hotel St. Moritz, as well as art-deco (The Eldorado) and pre-war (The Beresford) period apartment buildings.[18]

Grumman Years

Doundoulakis worked for over 35 years as a civil engineer at Grumman Aerospace Corporation, where he was a group leader on many USAF and NASA projects. These included the Apollo Space Missions and the Lunar Excursion Module, the F-14 Tomcat fighter jet, and the Space Shuttle. His design of the oxygen tanks on the ill-fated Apollo 13 mission was instrumental in the return of the Apollo 13 crew, for which Doundoulakis was awarded a plaque for his achievements by Captain James Lovell, Fred Haise, and Jack Swigert.[19]

Arecibo Radio Telescope

Doundoulakis patented the suspension system for a radio telescope used in the design for the largest of its kind, at the Arecibo Observatory, Puerto Rico.[20][21][22][better source needed][23] He worked on this project with guidance from his brother George, who initiated the idea for the Arecibo antenna's suspension system.[24] Collaborating with long-time friends and business partners William J. Casey,[25][26] and Constantine Michalos, who were assignees on the patent, Helias Doundoulakis was granted a U.S. patent for his design.[27] During World War II, William Casey was appointed head of the OSS' Secret Intelligence branch[28] for Europe. After the war, Casey held executive positions under the Nixon administration, including Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) chief. George Doundoulakis testified on Casey's behalf at his Senate confirmation hearings[29]. Eventually, Casey was put in charge of the Central Intelligence Agency under President Reagan.

Interestingly, the wrath of Hurricane Maria in 2017, although wreaking havoc on Puerto Rico's electrical grid, left only minor damage upon the Arecibo Observatory and its suspension system intact.[30]

Death and Funeral

Helias Doundoulakis died on February 29, 2016. He was buried next to his brother George in Greenfield Cemetery, Uniondale, New York, with military honors.[31]



  • My Unique Lifetime Association with Patrick Leigh Fermor, 2015
  • Trained to be an OSS Spy, 2014
  • I was Trained to be a Spy - Book II, 2012
  • I was Trained to be a Spy, 2008
  • Anamnisis (Greek: ?), 2004


  1. ^ Beevor, A: Crete: The Battle and the Resistance, p. 278, Second Edition, Westview Press, 1994.
  2. ^ Kiriakopoulos, G: The Nazi Occupation of Crete 1941-1945, p. 190, Praeger Publishers, 1995.
  3. ^ a b Kiriakopoulos, G.C. (1995). The Nazi Occupation of Crete, 1941-1945. Praeger. p. 190. ISBN 9780275952778. Retrieved 2017. 
  4. ^ Doundoulakis, H, Gafni, G: Trained to be an OSS Spy, Ch. 3, "Master Plans and Impending Adventures," p. 33, Xlibris, 2014.
  5. ^ Doundoulakis, H: I Was Trained to be a Spy, p. 35, Xlibris, 2008.
  6. ^ Doundoulakis, H, Gafni, G: Trained to be an OSS Spy, p. 33, Xlibris, 2014.
  7. ^ Doundoulakis, H, Gafni, G: My Unique Lifetime Association with Patrick Leigh Fermor, p. 39, Xlibris, 2013.
  8. ^ Doundoulakis, H, Gafni, G: Trained to be an OSS Spy, Ch. 7 "Race to the Torpedo," p. 72, Xlibris, 2014.
  9. ^ Leigh Fermor, P: Abducting a General: The Kreipe Operation in Crete, New York Review Books, 2015.
  10. ^ Cooper, A.: Patrick Leigh Fermor: An Adventure, Ch. 9 "Setting the trap" p. 166, John Murray, 2012.
  11. ^ Smith, R: OSS: The Secret History of America's First Central Intelligence Agency, p. 258, The Lyons Press, 2005.
  12. ^ "VIDEO: How to Lie for Your Life from World War II Spy School | Smithsonian Channel". smithsonianchannel.com. Retrieved 2017. 
  13. ^ http://www.soc.mil/OSS/secret-intelligence.html
  14. ^ http://www.soc.mil/OSS/special-operations.html
  15. ^ Doundoulakis, H, Gafni, G: Trained to be an OSS Spy, Ch. 12: "Mastering the Descent" p. 105-111, Xlibris, 2014.
  16. ^ Doundoulakis, H, Gafni, G: Trained to be an OSS Spy, Ch. 23 "Departures" p. 219, Xlibris, 2014.
  17. ^ Doundoulakis, H, Gafni, G: Trained to be an OSS Spy, Ch. 31, "Savoring the Present," p. 295, Xlibris, 2014.
  18. ^ Doundoulakis, H, Gafni, G: Trained to be an OSS Spy, Ch. 33 "Cloudy, With a Chance of Sunshine," p. 325, Xlibris, 2014.
  19. ^ Doundoulakis, H, Gafni, G: Trained to be an OSS Spy, Ch. 33 "Cloudy, With a Chance of Sunshine," p. 325-327, Xlibris, 2014.
  20. ^ U.S. Patent Office
  21. ^ https://worldwide.espacenet.com/publicationDetails/biblio?CC=US&NR=3273156&KC=&FT=E&locale=en_EP
  22. ^ Arecibo Observatory
  23. ^ "Arecibo Observatory". NAIC. Archived from the original on 8 May 2006. Retrieved 2017. 
  24. ^ http://www.defaultlogic.com/learn?s=Arecibo_Observatory
  25. ^ Persico, J: Casey: From the OSS to the CIA, pp. 101, 107-108, 166-67, 513, First Edition, Viking Press, 1990.
  26. ^ Persico, J.E. (1990). Casey: From the OSS to the CIA. Viking. ISBN 9780670823420. Retrieved 2017. 
  27. ^ U.S. Patent Office
  28. ^ https://www.cia.gov/news-information/featured-story-archive/oss-secret-intelligence-branch.html
  29. ^ https://books.google.com/books?id=wYNKAQAAIAAJ&q=george+doundoulakis+and+william+casey&dq=george+doundoulakis+and+william+casey&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiX-rX0-evSAhXG7oMKHYz9D2AQ6AEIRDAJ
  30. ^ https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/09/25/553594041/puerto-ricos-arecibo-radio-telescope-suffers-hurricane-damage
  31. ^ "Helias Doundoulakis". New York Times. Retrieved 2016. 
  32. ^ OSS Society Distinguished Service Award 2015
  33. ^ [1] Lamothe, Dan, Spy party: Tuxedos, martinis and some of the greatest heroes of World War II, Washington Post, November 9, 2015

External links

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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