|Helias "Louis" Doundoulakis|
Doundoulakis in 2012
|Born||Helias James Doundoulakis
12 July 1923
Canton, Ohio, USA
29 February 2016 (aged 92)|
|Occupation||Civil engineer, author, and soldier|
|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 civil engineer and scientific innovator who patented the suspension system for the largest radio telescope in the world, and served in the United States Army and the Office of Strategic Services -- the OSS -- as a spy during WWII.
Helias Doundoulakis was born in Canton, Ohio to Greek-immigrant parents, Demetrios and Evanthia (née Psaroudakis) Doundoulakis. When he was two-years-old, his family emigrated to Crete, Greece to care for their blind grandmother in Archanes. Nearby was the Minoan archaeological excavation at Knossos. By 1941, Greece had fallen to the Axis war machine save for Crete. On May 20, 1941, German paratroopers, the Fallschirmjäger, invaded Crete while Helias was in high school.
The Battle of Crete lasted ten days, during which Helias' brother George Doundoulakis worked as a Greek interpreter for the joint Greek/British military headquarters. After the battle was lost, the Doundoulakis brothers joined the Cretan resistance. "Monty" Woodhouse, a Special Operations Executive (SOE) agent, approached George after witnessing his prowess and leadership abilities. He requested that George assist him in evacuating British soldiers who had been left behind on Crete. In due time, he formed an underground organization by recruiting friends, ex-military officers, and civilians from Heraklion and Lasithi. George's organization supplied key intelligence to the SOE by collaborating with "Monty", then with Thomas Dunbabin ("Tom"), and later Paddy Leigh Fermor ("Mihalis"). Helias was assigned to the Heraklion airfield, where he relayed the number of Luftwaffe planes returning from Rommel's Afrika Korps to a nearby peanut vendor. George's informants uncovered intelligence which was relayed to Dunbabin. This timely information led to the sinking of a German convoy destined to resupply Rommel in 1942. Subsequently, George Doundoulakis and Dunbabin were decorated by Great Britain, the former receiving the King's Medal and the latter the Distinguished Service Order.
Ultimately, George's organization was betrayed to the Gestapo by a local Cretan after two years with the SOE. Leigh Fermor urged Helias and George to depart immediately to the southern shore of Crete through the Psiloritis Mountains and await exfiltration by the SOE. After hiding in caves for a month, the Doundoulakis brothers were rescued by a British torpedo boat. Along with thirteen others, they were bound for Mersa Matruh.[self-published source] As they were about to board, Helias and George reunited with Leigh Fermor and partisan leader Petrakogiorgis. Petrakogiorgis had returned to Crete on the same boat ferrying the Doundoulakis brothers to Egypt on June 7, 1943. They would not see Leigh Fermor for forty years. (after the war, Leigh Fermor was immortalized in the British film, Ill Met by Moonlight for his pivotal role in abducting General Kreipe from Crete). After safely arriving in Mersa Matruh, Helias, George, John ("Yanni") Androulakis and three others were transported to an SOE villa in Heliopolis, an affluent suburb of Cairo. This chosen group was destined for saboteur training at the recommendation of Leigh Fermor. The other escapees were sent to the exiled Greek Army.
The OSS was eventually informed of the Doundoulakis brothers' involvement with the SOE from Leigh Fermor, and dispatched OSS Captain James Kellis to recruit them since they were Americans. They enlisted in the United States Army on September 16th, 1943. The Doundoulakis brothers then joined the OSS, the newly-formed American intelligence service. Their Commanding Officer was Major John Vassos, RCA's well-known industrial designer. Prospective agents were trained inside an elaborate palace rented from Egypt's ruling monarch, King Farouk. Helias was trained for six months in the arts of espionage in a facility known as the 'Spy School,' by the Secret Intelligence Branch. Advanced commando and parachute training was provided by the British at their SOE STS-102 training facility in Haifa, Palestine. Upon completion of his training in March 1944, Helias was dispatched on a mission to Salonica, Greece by Maj. Vassos. He set up a phony business from a factory once owned by Greek Jews. Helias remained embedded undercover in Salonica from April to December 1944, sending encrypted radio messages to OSS-Cairo on German activity. One message resulted in the destruction of a German troop train by a squadron of Allied B-25 bombers, while another uncovered his position by German triangulation methods, but escaped.[self-published source] Although constantly hunted by the Gestapo and the Greek police, he eluded capture. He was never suspected of being an American spy -- outwitting both the Germans and Greeks. Had he fallen into enemy hands, he was determined to take his own life with a cyanide capsule. Helias was awarded the Good Conduct Medalat the OSS-Bari Station.
George was trained in the Morale Operations (MO) and Special Operations (SO) branches. He was dispatched to Volos, Greece where he coordinated 7,000 Greek leftist rebels into a unified fighting force. He provided food, weapons, and materials for his irregular army through OSS bases in Turkey. Entrenched in the impassable Pelion Mountains of Thessaly, they destroyed Greece's eastern railway system and Volos' maritime link to Athens, effectively choking the German Army. George was promoted to first sergeant and awarded the Legion of Merit.
Helias Doundoulakis settled in Brooklyn, New York, upon completion of his duties in the U.S. Army. He received 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 under the GI Bill. Helias Doundoulakis met Rita (née Gianoplus), of Diplatanos and Agrinion, Greece, and were married in 1952. They had four sons and ten grandchildren.
Doundoulakis worked on the design of the Pan Am Building (now the MetLife Building) in New York City while at Emery Roth and Sons. Emory Roth was known for designing the St. Moritz, now the Ritz Carlton Hotel.
Doundoulakis was employed at Grumman Aerospace Corporation for over thirty five years and 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 given a plaque by Captain James Lovell, Fred Haise, and Jack Swigert.
Doundoulakis patented the unique suspension system for a radio telescope used in the design for the largest of its kind at the Arecibo Observatory, Puerto Rico. He worked on this project with guidance from his brother George Doundoulakis who initiated this novel idea of Arecibo's suspension system. Collaborating with long-time friends and business partners William J. Casey and Constantine Michalos -- both assignees on the patent -- Helias Doundoulakis was granted a U.S. patent on September 13, 1966 for designing the antenna's suspension system. (During WWII, Casey was appointed head of the OSS' SI branch for Europe. After the war, he held executive posts under President Nixon, including Securities and Exchange Commission chief. George testified on Casey's behalf at his Senate confirmation hearings. Eventually, Casey was put in charge of the Central Intelligence Agency under President Reagan.
Interestingly, the wrath of Hurricane Maria in 2017, though wreaking havoc on Puerto Rico's electrical grid, left only minor damage upon the Arecibo Observatory. The suspension system remained intact.
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