Greeks fought on the side of the Allies on D-Day, June 6, 1944, which was the largest seaborne invasion in history. The operation began the liberation of France (and later western Europe) and laid the foundations of the Allied victory on the Western Front.
Eddie Lambros was one of the 155 Greek soldiers who landed on Normandy Beach the day World War II took a turn. It was a day which would eventually lead to the end of European Nazi occupation.
The photograph of the Greek-American soldier and his brothers-in-arms brandishing a captured Nazi flag was published on the front page of the New York Times the following day.
Tragically, Lambros did not survive to see this photograph, as he was killed in action in France the day after D-Day. The Greek-American GI was from Kings County, New York and served as a private in the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division.
Lambros received a Purple Heart medal posthumously. He is buried and memorialized at Plot D, Row 2,3 Grave 28 in the Normandy American Cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer, France, one of the enormous American armed forces cemeteries in Europe.
However, he was only one of the hundreds of Greeks who fought that day, and the nation of Greece lent its aid on D-Day in every way it possibly could, despite having been occupied by Germany for more than three years by that point in the war.
Greeks at sea on D-Day
Four thousand vessels had gathered in British waters waiting for Dwight Eisenhower’s order to sail for the Normandy coast. The enormous armada consisted of war, cargo, and even passenger ships of various nationalities, all packed full of Allied troops ready to fight the Nazis on D-Day.
Greece, with its fleet based in Egypt since the country was occupied by the Germans, participated in the landing with six ships: the corvettes “Tombazis” and “Kriezis,” as well as four merchant ships.
According to the memoirs of “Kriezis” commander Dimitris Kiosses, the ships were manned by “Greeks from all walks of life and professions during times of peace,” including but not limited to “accountants, lawyers, students, laborers, fishermen and merchants.”
Three merchant navy men, Stavros Niarchos, Nikolaos Mihalos, and Isidoros Karousis, who would later become Greek shipping tycoons, were also present.
The two Greek corvettes played an important role on D-Day, according to Kleanthis Zervos from Kalymnos island, who served as a lieutenant on the “Kriezis.”
Specifically, the “Kriezis” and “Tombazis” accompanied twelve ships tasked with transporting select sections of the famous British Northumberland division which took part in the first wave of the invasion.
The Greek ships arrived at the Normandy coast at 7 AM on that fateful day. The first soldiers disembarked into the heaving surf amidst ruthless fire from the German army, which killed many before they had even managed to touch land.
When commander Kiosses was later informed of the success of the operation after many hours of desperate fighting, he exclaimed “Christ has risen!” and the crew filled the ship with shouts and cries of joy and jubilation.