Helias Doundoulakis

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Helias "Louis" Doundoulakis
Doundoulakis in 2012
Doundoulakis in 2012
BornHelias James Doundoulakis
(1923-07-12)12 July 1923
Canton, Ohio, USA
Died(2016-02-29)29 February 2016 (aged 92)
Freeport, N.Y.
OccupationCivil engineer, author, and soldier
NationalityFlag of the United States.svg American
Notable worksI was Trained to be a Spy, Books I and II, My Unique Lifetime Association with Patrick Leigh Fermor, Trained to be an OSS Spy
Notable awardsDistinguished Service Award by the OSS Society, 2015
SpouseRita "Arete" Gianoplus

Helias Doundoulakis (July 12, 1923 – February 29, 2016) was a Greek American civil engineer 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.

Early Years[edit]

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. 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.

World War II[edit]

Battle of Crete, Cretan Resistance, and Special Operations Executive (SOE)[edit]

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.[1][2] 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.[3] 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.[4][5]

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.[citation needed] 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.[6][7] They would not see Leigh Fermor for forty years.[8] (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[9]). After safely arriving in Mersa Matruh, Helias, George, John ("Yanni") Androulakis[10] 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.[11][12]

Office of Strategic Services (OSS)[edit]

George and Helias Doundoulakis at the OSS Spy School, Cairo, 1945. Courtesy of the National Hellenic Museum, Chicago.
Helias Doundoulakis, second from left, with SOE commandos, Haifa, Palestine, 1943. Courtesy of the National Hellenic Museum, Chicago.

The OSS was eventually informed of the Doundoulakis brothers' involvement with the SOE from Leigh Fermor, and dispatched OSS Captain James Kellis[13] to recruit them since they were Americans.[3] They enlisted in the United States Army on September 16, 1943. The Doundoulakis brothers then joined the OSS, the newly-formed American intelligence service.[14] 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.[15] 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.[citation needed] 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 Medal[16] at the OSS-Bari Station.[17]

George Doundoulakis was trained in the Morale Operations (MO) and Special Operations (SO) branches.[18][19][20] 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.[21]


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.

Emery Roth[edit]

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.[22]

Grumman Aerospace[edit]

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.[23]

Arecibo Radio Telescope[edit]

Arecibo's concrete towers with its suspended antenna feed. Courtesy of the Arecibo Observatory, a facility of the NSF.

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.[24][25][26][27] He worked on this project with guidance from his brother George Doundoulakis who initiated this novel idea of Arecibo's suspension system.[26][25] Collaborating with long-time friends and business partners William J. Casey[28][29] 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.[30] During WWII, Casey was appointed head of the OSS' Secret Intelligence branch for Europe.[31] 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.[32] Eventually, Casey was put in charge of the Central Intelligence Agency under President Reagan.

Hurricane Maria, though wreaking havoc on Puerto Rico's electrical grid, left only minor damage upon the Arecibo Observatory. The suspension system remained intact.[33]

Death and Funeral[edit]

Helias Doundoulakis died on February 29, 2016. He was buried with military honors next to his brother George in Greenfield Cemetery, Uniondale, New York.[34]



  • 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: Αναμνήσεις), 2004


Doundoulakis portrayed himself in the 2014 History Canada 2-hr. documentary, "Camp X" and in the Smithsonian Channel 1-hr. documentary, "World War II Spy School."[37][38]


  1. ^ Beevor, A: Crete: The Battle and the Resistance, Ch. 24, "The years of change," 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 8 January 2017.
  4. ^ Ogden, Alan. Sons of Odysseus: SOE Heroes in Greece, Ch. 19, Bene Factum Publishing Ltd, 2013
  5. ^ Doundoulakis, H, Gafni, G: Trained to be an OSS Spy, Ch. 3, "Master Plans and Impending Adventures," p. 33, Xlibris, 2014.
  6. ^ Beevor, A: Crete: The Battle and the Resistance, Ch. 24, "The years of change," p. 280, Second Edition, Westview Press, 1994.
  7. ^ Doundoulakis, H, Gafni, G: Trained to be an OSS Spy, Ch. 7 "Race to the Torpedo," p. 73, Xlibris, 2014.
  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. ^ Beevor, A: Crete: The Battle and the Resistance, p. 147-150, 155, 2nd. Edition, Westview Press, 1994.
  11. ^ Cooper, A.: Patrick Leigh Fermor: An Adventure, Ch. 9 "Setting the trap" p. 166, John Murray, 2012.
  12. ^ Doundoulakis, H, Gafni, G: Trained to be an OSS Spy, Ch. 8: "The Road to Cairo" p. 80, Xlibris, 2014.
  13. ^ Smith, R: OSS: The Secret History of America's First Central Intelligence Agency, p. 258, The Lyons Press, 2005.
  14. ^ "VIDEO: How to Lie for Your Life from World War II Spy School | Smithsonian Channel". smithsonianchannel.com. Retrieved 8 January 2017.
  15. ^ "Secret Intelligence". U.S. Army Special Operations Command. Retrieved March 28, 2018.
  16. ^ Doundoulakis, H, Gafni, G: Trained to be an OSS Spy, Ch. 30, "Ciao, Bari!," p. 287, Xlibris, 2014.
  17. ^ Whiteclay Chambers II, J: OSS Training in the National Parks and Service Abroad in World War II, Chapter 8, Mediterranean and European Theaters, p. 297, U.S. National Park Service, Washington, D.C.
  18. ^ "Special Operations". U.S. Army Special Operations Command. Retrieved March 28, 2018.
  19. ^ "Morale Operations". U.S. Army Special Operations Command. Retrieved March 28, 2018.
  20. ^ Doundoulakis, H, Gafni, G: Trained to be an OSS Spy, Ch. 12: "Mastering the Descent" p. 105-111, Xlibris, 2014.
  21. ^ Doundoulakis, H, Gafni, G: Trained to be an OSS Spy, Ch. 31, "Savoring the Present," p. 295, Xlibris, 2014.
  22. ^ Doundoulakis, H, Gafni, G: Trained to be an OSS Spy, Ch. 33 "Cloudy, With a Chance of Sunshine," p. 325, Xlibris, 2014.
  23. ^ Doundoulakis, H, Gafni, G: Trained to be an OSS Spy, Ch. 33 "Cloudy, With a Chance of Sunshine," p. 325-327, Xlibris, 2014.
  24. ^ U.S. Patent Office
  25. ^ a b Arecibo Observatory
  26. ^ a b Frè, Pietro (2013), "7", Gravity, a geometrical course, 1:Development of the theory and basic physical applications (1 ed.), New York: Springer, p. 276, doi:10.1007/978-94-007-5361-7, ISBN 978-94-007-5360-0
  27. ^ "Arecibo Observatory". NAIC. Archived from the original on 8 May 2006. Retrieved 8 January 2017.
  28. ^ Persico, J: Casey: From the OSS to the CIA, pp. 101, 107-108, 166-67, 513, First Edition, Viking Press, 1990.
  29. ^ Persico, J.E. (1990). Casey: From the OSS to the CIA. Viking. ISBN 9780670823420. Retrieved 8 January 2017.
  30. ^ US 3273156, Doundoulakis, Helias, "Radio telescope having a scanning feed supported by a cable suspension over a stationary reflector", issued 1966 
  31. ^ Persico, Joseph (1990), "7", Casey: The Lives and Secrets of William J. Casey: from the OSS to the CIA (1st ed.), New York: Viking Penguin, p. 68, ISBN 978-0670823420
  32. ^ "The Nomination of William J. Casey", Securities Industry Study: Hearing[s], Ninety-second Congress, First [-second] Session, Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, Volume 9 (1): 744, 1970
  33. ^ Scott Neuman (September 25, 2017). "Morning Edition". America. Morning Edition. 2:41 minutes in. NPR. Puerto Rico's Arecibo Radio Telescope Suffers Hurricane Damage.
  34. ^ "Helias Doundoulakis". New York Times. Retrieved 8 March 2016.
  35. ^ Lamothe, Dan (November 9, 2015), "Spy party: Tuxedos, martinis and some of the greatest heroes of World War II", The Washington Post
  36. ^ Amb. Hugh Montgomery, Frank Gleason, Peter Ortiz, Ernest Hemingway (2015). Distinguished Service Award Presentation (video). Washington, DC: OSS Society.
  37. ^ William J. Donovan, William Fairbairn, William Stephenson, Frank Gleason, Guy D'Artois, Helias Doundoulakis (2014). Camp X (Film). USA, Canada: YAP Films.
  38. ^ William J. Donovan, William Fairbairn, William Stephenson, Frank Gleason, Guy D'Artois, Helias Doundoulakis (2014). World War II Spy School (Film). USA, Canada: YAP Films.

External links[edit]

Media related to Helias Doundoulakis at Wikimedia Commons