Georgios Gizas passed away at the age of 106 in Nafpaktos, Greece on Saturday. He was the last Greek evzone of the heroic 2/39 Evzone Regime. Gizas wrote history for his heroism and self-sacrifice in the Greek-Italian war of 1940-1941. The Greek evzone was one of the first soldiers to fight in the war.
The President of the Hellenic Republic, Katerina Sakellaropoulou praised the Greek evzone in a solemn tweet after the news of his death:
”The last fighter of the heroic 2/39 Evzone Regiment, who fought in 1940 for our freedom has left us. The death of Georgios Gizas, in the wake of the national anniversary of ‘OXI Day’, moves us deeply. Heartfelt condolences to his family.”
Έφυγε από κοντά μας και ο τελευταίος μαχητής του ηρωικού 2/39 Συντάγματος Ευζώνων, που πολέμησε το '40 για την ελευθερία μας. Ο θάνατος του Γεωργίου Γκίζα, στον απόηχο της εθνικής επετείου του «ΟΧΙ», μας συγκινεί πολύ. Θερμά συλλυπητήρια στους οικείους του.
— President GR (@PresidencyGR) November 6, 2022
The last Greek Evzone
Gizas was a Greek evzone fighter of the 1940-1941 Greek-Italian war. He had served as a soldier in the historic 2/39 Evzone Regiment, which was part of the 8th Infantry Division and was one of the first Greek military units to fight the Italians in 1940.
The soldier was born on January 2, 1916 in Eleftheriani, a village in the mountains of Nafpaktos.
Gizas enlisted for military service in 1936.. After his basic training, he was sent to the Greek-Bulgarian border. There, he assisted in the construction of the “Metaxa Line” Forts. His worked as a semi-driver transporting materials. In 1939 he was dismissed, officially completing his army duty.
When the Italians invaded the Greek-Albanian border in October 1940, Gizas was re-recruited and presented himself in the village of Kefalovrysos, Aetoloakarnania, near Aitoliko, Western Greece. He then fought as a soldier in the 2/39 Evzone Regiment.
Georgios Gizas was honored by the Ministry of National Defense of Greece with the “1940-41 Campaign Medal” on October 28, 2019.
In 2021, on the national anniversary of “OXI Day,” he was awarded an honorary plaque by the Municipality of Nafpaktia.
The historic 2/39 regiment
The regiment was formed on 23 December 1913 at Missolonghi, western Greece as part of the Hellenic Army’s reorganization following the 1912-1913 Balkan Wars.
The regiment fought in the Macedonian front operations of World War I as part of the 3rd Infantry Division from 25 April 1918 until the war’s end in the Prespa Lakes area.
Following the Allied breakthrough of the German-Bulgarian front in autumn, the regiment advanced to Pirot, Serbia. Along with the rest of the division, it was transferred to Smyrna in August 1920, and took part in all subsequent operations of the Asia Minor Campaign until the Smyrna disaster of 1922.
During the Greek-Italian War of 1940–41, the regiment was part of the 8th Infantry Division and thus one of the first units to face the Italian attack. It served throughout the conflict. However, the group was disbanded after the capitulation of the Greek army to the Germans in April 1941.
After the end of World War II, on 2 December 1950, a training center for new recruits was established at Missolonghi. On the 31 August 1965, the center received the designation “12th Infantry Regiment”. Afterwards, it was renamed “2/39 Evzones Regiment” on 26 June 1978.
On 26 September 2000, the regiment received the honorary name “Col. Karachristos”. It was named after its commander, Vlasios Karachristos, who was killed in action on 20 August 1921.
For its wartime service, the Evzone regiment has been twice honored with the highest Greek military distinction, the Commander’s Cross of the Cross of Valour. The first time for its actions in the Macedonian Front. The second for its actions during the spring and summer battles of 1921 of the Greece-Turkey war, especially the two-day battle of Avgin near Bursa, Turkey in March.
The Evzone fighters were also awarded the French Croix de guerre 1914–1918 for its services on the Macedonian Front.
The regiment and the training center are located on the northern outskirts of Missolonghi, Western Greece.