Monday, August 30, 2010

CRETE REUNION 2010

Dear Friends,

On the evening of August 22, 2010 at 7:00 P.M., Crete Reunion 2010 was kicked off at Uncle George's Taverna in the little seaside village of Amoudara. The first to arrive were Jim and Pat Janakes. Jim was assigned to Iraklion Air Station for 18 months during the years 1961-1962. Jim was trained as a 202 at Goodfellow Air Force Base in San Angelo, Texas, and was first assigned to Okinawa before being transferred to work in the Security Compound at Iraklion Air Station. Jim currently owns his own business in California and is semi-retired. It should be noted that Jim was born in the USA, but to Greek parents. So, Jim is 100% Greek and still remembers many Greek words learned while growing up with his Greek parents and Grandparents. Jim and Pat had already arrived at Uncle George's Taverna before I arrived, and Kostas Sakoulakis, the owner of Uncle George's Taverna, had introduced himself and was talking with Jim and Pat when I walked in. The next to arrive were John and Jane Cocuzzi. John was trained as a medic, arrived at Iraklion Air Station in 1975 and was assigned to the Base Clinic. John got out of the Air Force after his first four year term, went back to school, got his degree in medicine, re-entered the Air Force as a doctor and retired after 20 years. John now works as a doctor for a community health service in San Angelo, Texas. The last to arrive were Joe and Maro Gussman. It would probably be easier to say when Joe was not assigned to Iraklion Air Station, then when he was assigned there. Joe served at Iraklion Air Station during the late 1950's, during the 1960's, the 1970's and the 1980's. He retired from the Air Force and has remained on Crete. We had a very nice dinner at Uncle George's Taverna and as we ate and drank, we shared many war stories from our respective times on Crete. But, even though we served on Crete at different times and in different career fields, there was that common link of Iraklion Air Station and Crete which inexplicably fused us together in a common bond of brotherhood and friendship!!! After about three and a half hours together, we said our "Goodbyes" and parted for the night.
On the morning of Monday, August 23, 2010, Jim & Pat Janakes met John & Jane Cocuzzi and myself just inside the main gate at Iraklion Air Station. We first proceeded to the Security Compound. It was an eerie feeling as we passed through the little guard shack. It seemed as if Jim and I should have been calling out a badge number so we could pass through, but there were no Security Policemen there, just shadows of memories that played through our minds. I had brought two mini maglites with me and John had brought a flashlight as well. I led the way into the north end of the building, and down a long hallway before turning left. Then, after several yards, I turned right and into the "Operations Room". It was empty, except for panels that had fallen from the ceiling and debris that had been scattered about the floor. For Jim and me, it brought back many memories...memories of men sitting at manual typewriters while monitoring radio receivers, of linguists hastily writing on tablets of paper, of analysts running reports to the front desk, and of X2's operating a myriad of automatic equipment. For John, it was the first time for him to have been in the Operations Building...the Security Compound...the Compound...or just the Pound. As a medic assigned to the Base Clinic, he had seen a number of "ditty boppers" who had suffered stress related problems. And, even though he had his own ideas about what transpired inside the Pound, he had only a general idea of the work that went on inside the building with no windows! From there we went to the Base Clinic. It was somewhat larger than what both Jim and I remembered it. John took us on a little walk-through tour of the clinic, explaining which rooms were used for what purposes. We went to the back of the building where the Emergency Room was located. John showed us the doors through which patients would be wheeled in on stretchers. I can't imagine having to make split-second, life or death decisions. I am glad it was John working there...and not me! From there we walked to the Airmen's Dining Hall. Apparently, sometime shortly before closing the base, there were extensive renovations made to the chow hall. The serving line formed a very large "J" shape, the kitchen had been enlarged, and the dining room was dramatically smaller. At either end of the dining room was an area which was elevated. It looked as if it could have been used as a small stage; perhaps they had live entertainment on some days. Next we proceeded to the barracks where John and Jim had both lived during their respective tours at I.A.S., Building #304. John took a few photos of his room, and Jim returned on a later day to do the same. Jim had memories of marathon card games going on in the room directly across the hall from his room. Our last stop was where the flag poles once stood. The poles are gone now, and much of the splendid adornment around where the flag poles once stood has been damaged or destroyed by vandals. We all remembered how quickly we hurried between buildings as it was approaching 4:30 P.M. If we were outside when the national anthems of Greece and the USA were played, we had to stand at attention until the flags were lowered. How I would love to see the Greek and American flags waving side by side again and to hear those anthems played at the close of the work day! We left Iraklion Air Station and drove west about three miles to Kokkini Chani where we all had lunch together at a little taverna just yards from the shore. The shade and gentle breeze provided a needed respite from the sun and the heat. After lunch, Jim and Pat had to drive into Iraklion to get some Euros, while John, Jane, and I returned to Amoudara. John had already begun having problems with his back. So, he and Jane returned to the MariRena Hotel to rest, and I returned to my little apartment. Later that evening as John and Jane were returning from Popi's little taverna, they stopped by my apartment and joined me on the patio for a little raki.
On August 24, 2010, we all left Amoudara at about 4:00 P.M. and drove to the little mountain village of Anogia. We stopped in the village square to read a commemorative plaque which read: "Order of the German Commander of the Garrison of Crete: Since the town of Anogia is a centre of the English espionage in Crete, since the Anogians carried out the murder of the sergeant of the Yeni-Gaves garrison and the garrison itself, since the Anogians carried out the sabotage at Damasta, since the andartes of various resistance bands find asylum and protection in Anogia, and since the abductors of General Kreipe passed through Anogia , using Anogia as a stopping place when transporting him, we order its RAZING to the ground and its execution of every male Anogian who is found within the village and within an area of one kilometre around it. Chania, 13-8-44, The Commander of the Garrison of Crete, H. Muller." This was a chilling reminder of what the Cretans endured during their darkest days of World War Two. But, the significance is that they never gave up...the Cretans NEVER surrendered!
Later we drove to the lower level of the village of Anogia. There we found numerous shops in which the ladies could browse and shop. The guys made our way to a little taverna where we could sit, have a cold beer, and just relax. John Cocuzzi sat at a table with a local Greek, and established a friendship that neither will soon forget. John had studied Greek in Athens, and it quickly returned to him as he sat talking with the Cretans. Jim and I were content to sit at a table, sipping a cold Mythos, and enjoying the cooler temperature and the lower humidity. Shortly, the ladies joined us and a decision was made to head back to Amoudara. Because John had been on his feet so long, his back soon began to remind him accordingly. About halfway down the mountain, John pulled over to the side of the road, got into the back seat and laid down. I drove the rest of the way back to Amoudara. Upon our arrival, John made his way to his room at the MariRena Hotel. Jim, Pat, Jane and I made our way up the western end of Amoudara to a taverna named, "Thea", perched high on a hillside overlooking the bay of Amoudara. The name "Thea", means, "view". And, oh, what a view it was!!! On the evening of August 24,2010, there was a full moon rising over the eastern end of the bay of Amoudara, just opposite of the Thea Taverna. It was a gorgeous site to behold! The silver rays from the full moon danced on the ripples of water in the bay of Amoudara. We were captivated...hypnotized as we grabbed our cameras and began to "click" away. The food was very good, but the view was absolutely captivating!!!
On Wednesday, August, 25, 2010, Jim and Pat drove to Saint Nikolaos for the day, and John and Jane stuck close to Amoudara. That evening, we all had dinner together at the Dionysus Taverna, adjacent to the MariRena Hotel.
On Thursday morning, August 26, 2010, Jim and Pat Janakes and I left Amoudara about 9:30 A.M. and traveled by car to the ancient archaeological ruins located at Phaestos. Jim and I looked about the ruins, while Pat took advantage of the shade. Later we all sat in the shade at a small taverna. Pat had Coke while Jim and I had a cold Mythos beer and we all enjoyed the view of the Messara Plain below us and the mountains in the distance...truly a panoramic scene. Then we drove on to Matala. Jim and I explored a few of the ancient Roman tombs, which were later used by the hippies at Matala in the 1960's and 1970's as their places of dwelling. We both took several photos of the tombs as well as of the sea, the beach and the little village. On our way back from the Roman tombs, we stopped by a little taverna just off the wooden walkway leading from the tombs. There, we all had iced coffee and a bowl of sliced fruit. It was a refreshing snack on such a warm day. We returned to Amoudara about mid-afternoon and headed straight for Popi's little taverna on the beach. Jim and I ordered the fish dinner, while Pat had a sandwich. The meal was a nice way to conclude the day, then we sat, relaxed, sipped beer and wine, and enjoyed the simple ambiance of Popi's Taverna with the Mediterranean Sea in the background. We left Popi's about 6:35 P.M. Jim and Pat dropped me at my apartment, before heading back to Arolithos.
For the first half of August 27th., we all just took time to rest and catch our collective breaths! John and Jane relaxed down at the beach by the water's edge, and John did venture into the sea, but that may have been a mistake. John forget to remove the keys to the rental car as well as the hotel key from his pockets. Unfortunately, those keys came out of John's pockets and were claimed by the Mediterranean Sea. Who knows, perhaps one day in the distant future, some underwater archaeologist might discover the keys and wonder about their history. Because John's back was still causing him great discomfort, he and Jane were unable to join Jim, Pat, myself, and my Greek friend, Miltiadis (Miltos) Apladas, for dinner near the mountain village of Kroussonas. We dined outside at a little roadside taverna called Baxas Taverna. Before it became dark, we could see the lush green hillsides and fertile valley below filled with groves of olive trees and vineyards. And, off in the distance, small villages with their whitewashed houses dotted the hillsides like small white patches of snow. As it grew dark, the food was brought to our table by our waiter, Spiros. George was the cook. We had several appetizers, including small pieces of lamb's liver, slices of cheese made from goat's milk, salad, and a type of creamed cheese that was nice to spread on slices of fresh bread. For the main course we were served a type of creamed pilaf, potatoes cooked with the hot juices from lamb meat, lamb shanks, and barbecued lamb ribs. A large decanter of white wine was placed in front of Pat, which she graciously shared with me. After dinner came a type of pastry with honey dripped over it, plus watermelon and honey dew melon. Naturally, the end of any dinner could not be complete without some raki to sip with the melon. Jim told me that eating the lamb dishes reminded him much of his youth when his Grandfather would prepare such dishes. Jim drove first to Gazi, where we let Miltos off in front of his home, and then it was back to Amoudara for me. We agreed to meet the following afternoon at the MariRena Hotel for drinks.
On the late afternoon of August 28, 2010, Jim, Pat and met at the MariRena Hotel to see if John and Jane would be able to join us for dinner. Pat had made a wonderful suggestion earlier, that because we had kicked off the reunion at Uncle George's Taverna, it would be quite fitting to conclude it there. Unfortunately, John's back was still causing problems, so he and Jane decided it would be best not to join us for dinner. We all had a round of drinks at the MariRena Hotel before Jim, Pat, and I walked to Uncle George's Taverna for "the last supper". We had an enjoyable meal together, but it ended all too soon. I felt as if I had made some wonderful new friends, and I hated to see them go. But, after eating, we had to say our "Goodbyes", because Jim and Pat had to be at the airport early the next morning to turn in their rental car, then hail a taxi to the Iraklion Harbor to catch a ferry first to Mykonos and then to Santorini before flying back the the USA.

I was up early the following morning to assist John and Jane with loading their bags and other belongings into their rental car. They were to catch a flight out of Iraklion to Athens where they would spend a few days, hoping that John's back would recover. Then it was off to London and from there back to the United States. We said "Goodbye" and I watched as they drove out of sight.
Now, I don't know if I will ever see any of these fine folks again...but I sincerely hope so. All who attended the reunion are very good people...and I came away from Crete Reunion 2010, feeling much richer because in just a few short days, I had made some really fine new friends. My genuine hope now is...if any of our paths should ever happen to cross again, I hope that it will be on this wonderful island paradise that we call Crete.
As always, take care, stay well, and let me hear from you.



Your Friend and Fellow "Silent Warrior",

Bob Armistead


NOTE: Click on any photo for a larger view.












ABOVE LEFT PHOTO: August 22, 2010 at Uncle George's Taverna - Seated clockwise from left : John Cocuzzi, Pat Janakes, Jim Janakes, Bob Armistead, Joe Gussman, Maro Gussman, & Jane Cocuzzi.
ABOVE RIGHT PHOTO: August 23, 2010 - Jim Janakes (L) and John Cocuzzi (R) stand in front of Building 406...the Compound at Iraklion Air Station, Crete, Greece.















ABOVE LEFT PHOTO: August 23, 2010 - Bob Armistead (L), Jim Janakes (C), and John Cocuzzi (R) stand where the Greek and American Flags once flew at Iraklion Air Station.
ABOVE RIGHT PHOTO: August 23, 2010 - Left to right: Pat Janakes, Jim Janakes, John Cocuzzi and Jane Cocuzzi.














ABOVE LEFT PHOTO: August 24, 2010 - John Cocuzzi models the traditional Cretan men's headwear called the "bolitha", in the small mountain village of Anogia on Crete.
ABOVE RIGHT PHOTO: August 24, 2010 - An elderly Cretan man sits outside the Skoulas Taverna in the village of Anogia. I wonder if he was one of the "andartes" who resisted the Germans in World War Two?















ABOVE LEFT PHOTO: August 24, 2010 - An elderly man sits outside the Skoulas Taverna in the mountain village of Anogia on Crete.
ABOVE RIGHT PHOTO: August 24, 2010 - John Cocuzzi (R) engages a local Cretan in a livley exchange in the village of Anogia on Crete.




















ABOVE LEFT PHOTO: August 24, 2010 - An elderly Cretan in the mountain village of Anogia poses for one last photo in front of the Skoulas Taverna.
ABOVE RIGHT PHOTO: August 24, 2010 - A Cretan man handles his "worry beads" outside a small taverna in Anogia on Crete.
















ABOVE LEFT PHOTO: August 24, 2010 - Jim and Pat Janakes, Jane Cocuzzi, and I had dinner at the Thea Taverna a few kilometers to the west of Amoudara in the hillside village of Rodia. The Greek word, "thea", means "view". The taverna overlooked the bay at Amoudara.
ABOVE RIGHT PHOTO: August 24, 2010 - Photo taken from the Thea Taverna in the little village of Rodia. The moon rises and sparkels over the bay and village of Amoudara.
















ABOVE LLEFT PHOTO: August 26, 2010 - Jim and Pat Janakes and I rode to the ancient archeological ruins at Phaestos in the south central part of Crete.
ABOVE RIGHT PHOTO: August 26, 2010 - These large urns were most likely used as storage contains at the ruins of Phaestos on Crete.
























ABOVE LEFT PHOTO: August 26, 2010 - Large urn located at the archeological ruins of Phaestos on Crete.
ABOVE RIGHT PHOTO: August 26, 2010 - An open plaza...perhaps "agora" at the ancient palace of Phaestos.

















ABOVE LEFT PHOTO: August 26, 2010 - View from Phaestos looking northwest.
ABOVE RIGHT PHOTO: August 26, 2010 - Jim and Pat Janakes enjoy iced coffee and fruit at a small taverna near the ancient Roman tombs (caves) at Matala. In the 1960's and 1970's, hippies lived in the tombs (caves) for several years.
















ABOVE LEFT PHOTO: August 26, 2010 - Jim and Pat Janakes enjoy wine and a cold beer at Popi's Taverna by the beach. The Mediterranean Sea can be seen in the background.
ABOVE RIGHT PHOTO: August 26, 2010 - Pat Janakes (L), Popi Mavraki (C), and Jim Janakes (R) pose for a photograph together at Popi's Taverna.
















ABOVE LEFT PHOTO: August 27, 2010 - This is the view from the Baxas Taverna near the mountain village of Kroussonas.
ABOVE RIGHT PHOTO: August 27, 2010 - View from the Baxas Taverna near the mountain village of Krousonas. Just before sundown.
















ABOVE LEFT PHOTO: August 27, 2010 - Left to right: Jim Janakes, Pat Janakes, and Miltiadis (Miltos) Apladas enjoy a meal at the Baxas Taverna near the village of Kroussonas.
ABOVE RIGHT PHOTO: August 27, 2010 - Left to right: Miltiadis (Miltos) Apladas, Bob Armistead, Jim Janakes and Pat Janakes at the Baxas Taverna near the village of Krousonas.
















ABOVE LEFT PHOTO: August 27, 2010 - Clockwise from left: Jim Janakes, Pat Janakes, Miltiadis (Miltos) Apladas, and Bob Armistead enjoy a traditional Cretan meal outside the Baxas Taverna.
ABOVE RIGHT PHOTO: August 28, 2010 - Left to right: John Cocuzzi, Jane Cocuzzi, Bob Armistead, Pat Janakes, and Jim Janakes stand near the pool of the MariRena Hotel. We all had drinks together, before Jim, Pat, and I went to Uncle George's Taverna for our final meal together.

4 comments:

adiktion said...

Thanks for making me feel I was there!

adiktion said...

what can you tell me about Joe Gussman, Maro Gussman as they both look very familiar to my era: 1988-1990?

Anonymous said...

Hi, love your site and the photo's are great reminders. Spent a year stationed in Izmir Turkey, flying all around the med during 1965 - 1966. Flew into Crete many times. Enjoyed the coffee shop which was the only entertainment in town at that time. Thanx for the reminder.

John thomas

ducatidragon916 said...

Great contacts in the island of crete such history! reminds me of the movie with Gregory Peck when the whole crowd tried to hide the Americans from the Germans.....This is the first time I heard of the Cretan Headdress called a"bolitha" I always assumed that they were called "Sariki"...