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Aerial Victories

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Steve Pisanos was on the first Schweinfurt mission during which 60 B-17s were lost. The bombers were escorted by the 56th Group [Annotators Note: 56th Fighter Group], and the 4th Group [Annotators Note: 4th Fighter Group] to a point then they were on their own. After the second Schweinfurt mission long range missions into Germany were forbidden until long range fighters escort was available. The commanders then began sending missions to France, Belgium, Poland, and a little into Germany. Then they got the P-51. Pisanos took part in the first raid on Berlin on 3 March 1944. Pisanos spoke with a Greek Air Force Lieutenant General who he met in Athens during his last assignment with the US Air Force who was surprised that he flew Spitfires in England during the war. Pisanos told the General that he was with the Royal Air Force and flew with the Number 71 Eagle Squadron then transferred to the Army Air Force and formed the 4th Fighter Group. He also talked about Col. Blakeslee [Annotators Note: USAAF then USAF Colonel Donald Blakeslee]. The General said that he told the Marshall [Annotators Note: German Reichsmarschall Hermann Goering] that they had gotten Zemke [Annotators Note: USAAF then USAF Colonel Hubert Zemke, also known as Hub] and if they could get Blakeslee they would have no more trouble with the Americans. The 4th and 56th Groups played a large part in the destruction of the German Luftwaffe [Annotators Note: German Air Force]. The 4th Fighter group shot down 1016 enemy planes and the 4th Fighter Group got 992. Pisanos was born in Athens, Greece. He was one of six children. One day when he was about 12 or 13 years old he was late leaving his house to go to school. He started climbing the hill to get to the school and a Greek Air Force biplane flew over. The pilot was doing different maneuvers. It was at that moment that he decided that he was going to be a military pilot. After that he no longer cared for school. He began to skip school and would lie to his father when he asked him on Sundays during family dinner what he had learned that week. One day he got caught in his lie. He had skipped school and walked the 25 kilometers to the Greek aerodrome and lost track of time watching the planes. Pisanos got home late and his mother asked where he had been. Pisanos told her that he was playing with a friend. His mother told him that his father had gone to the school to find out why he was late and learned about what Pisanos had been doing. Even after being caught in that lie Pisanos continued to skip school and go to the aerodrome. Pisanos had his mind made up that he was going to join the Greek Air Force Academy. Just before he turned 18 he went to an office building downtown to inquire about the examinations. When he saw the requirements to enter the academy he knew that he could not get in so he began to dream about America. He met a Greek-American from Buffalo, New York named Harry Apostale [Annotators Note: unsure of spelling]. Pisanos told him that he wanted to go to America. The first time Pisanos tried to go to America he tried to stow away on the Italian liner Rex but he was caught by the foreman in charge of loading the baggage and turned over to the police. Pisanos would go to the movies with Apostale and they would talk. Apostale told Pisanos that he should get a job on a Greek merchant ship. Sooner or later it would stop somewhere in America and when it did Pisanos should get off the ship. Pisanos learned what he needed to do and joined the Greek Merchant Marine. His mother and father were connected to the secretary of the Greek Navy whose brother was the secretary of the Greek Merchant Marine. Pisanos went to the Greek Merchant Marine Headquarters and met with the secretary asking for a job. Less than two weeks later he had a job on a 10,000 ton freighter as an assistant fireman. Pisanos's father had been a Marine in the Greek Navy and thought that if Pisanos went to sea he would forget about wanting be an aviator. Even going to sea did not dampen his desire to fly.

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On 25 March 1938, the Greek freighter Steve Pisanos got a job aboard steamed to Oran, Algeria, in North Africa. He learned from the two firemen he was working with that the ship would be heading to either Cardiff or Baltimore. One of the firemen told him that Baltimore is a beautiful place not too far from New York. The ship finally made it to Baltimore in the middle of April 1938 and docked outside the harbor to wait for the berth they were assigned to open up. They docked in the harbor on a Friday. On Saturday Immigration went aboard to check the cargo and interview the crew. On Sunday morning Pisanos grabbed the eight dollars his father had given him and went down to the galley. The captain and some of the officers had gone ashore. Pisanos was trying to figure out a way to get ashore when a small boat pulled up with a load of Sunday newspapers. Pisanos got the man’s attention. He waved a dollar at him and used hand gestures to let the man know he wanted a ride to shore. At the time Pisanos did not speak any English. The man motioned for Pisanos to get aboard and in less than five minutes Pisanos was ashore. Pisanos bought a ticket to New York but did not know which train to get on so he found a man in uniform who pointed him to the right platform. It was dark by the time the train stopped in New York. Pisanos walked out onto 34th Street and 8th Avenue and began walking down 8th Avenue toward 42nd Street because he remembered his friend telling him to see the lights there. He started to get frustrated because he did not know where he was or where to go. He was heading back to the train station when he saw a Greek flag flying next to an American flag in front of a movie house. Pisanos went over to the theater. While standing in front of the theater looking at a large advertisement for the movie two men stepped behind him and started speaking to each other in Greek. Pisanos heard one of them ask what the Greeks knew about making movies. Pisanos got excited and turned to talk to the men. He explained to the men how he got to where he was. The men, who were brothers, took Pisanos with them to their home in Brooklyn. To Pisanos this was nothing short of a miracle. The older of the two men got Pisanos a job at a bakery on 147th Street and Broadway owned by a Greek family. After an incident involving the owner's daughter Pisanos was told that he was no longer needed there. Pisanos worked at other places after that. Six or seven months after he arrived in New York, Pisanos started taking flying lessons at Floyd Bennett Field. Floyd Bennett Field was a naval facility but civilians were allowed to use the field and there was a flying school there. That is where Pisanos learned to fly. He soloed in a J3 Cub. Pisanos met a guy named Louie who knew someone flying from an airport in New Jersey that only paid eight dollars for duel instruction and six dollars for solo. Pisanos quit the bakery he was working at and got a job at the Park Hotel in Plainfield, New Jersey. There he made coffee and salads and served desserts. After moving to New Jersey Pisanos began flying out of Westfield Airport. He had accumulated enough flying time to take the exam for his private pilot’s license. The owner of the Park Hotel was a German from Hamburg. The chef and assistant chef were also Germans. The owner was every bit an American and hated Hitler. One day Pisanos saw a man talking to the chef. The man walked up to Pisanos and asked him if he was Spiro Pisanos. When Pisanos said that he was, the man told him that he was from immigration and took Pisanos to Ellis Island. There, the agent told Pisanos that he was not sure what the immigration director was going to do with him since the war in Europe had started and Germany had occupied Greece. The next day Pisanos was called to the director’s office. In the office with the director was the owner of the Park Hotel, Albert Stender [Annotators Note: unsure of spelling], who had gone to Ellis Island to rescue Pisanos. The director told Pisanos that they could not send him back to Greece and gave him a document allowing him the freedom to go. During the ride back to Plainfield the owner told Pisanos that when he heard what had happened he knew what Pisanos felt. The same thing had happened to him when he came to America as a waiter on the passenger ship Bremmen. The owner was caught by immigration but offered to return to Germany on his own, which he did. A few years after returning to Germany the man got a visa and returned to America and now owned the Plainfield Hotel, a hotel in Trenton, New Jersey, and a hotel in Newark.

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Steve Pisanos got his private pilot’s license. He studied from a booklet he had picked up while visiting a Greek Air Force aerodrome. When he left the ship in Baltimore harbor the booklet was the only thing he took with him. Pisanos, whose real name is Spiro, got the name Steve from the chef at the hotel he worked for. He still goes by it. Pisanos went to the airport one day on his day off to do some flying. He was angry because he had seen a newspaper headline stating that German troops were killing Greek civilians and that they had taken all of the olive oil in Greece and sent back to Germany to use as a lubricant. Pisanos had tried to enlist in the army when he was in New York but was turned away because he was not an American. Pisanos really wanted to fight the Germans. He learned from a friend that the Royal Air Force was recruiting American civilian pilots at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel through a group called the Clayton Knight Committee. Pisanos was told to bring his log book and license with him when he went to the Clayton Knight Committee. He was introduced to Squadron Commander George Graves, the man responsible for recruiting American civilian pilots for the RAF. Graves heard Pisanos's accent and asked where he was from. Pisanos told him he was a Greek. Graves checked Pisanos's log book and noticed that he had 170 hours of flying time. The desired minimum was 200 but Graves had his secretary help Pisanos fill out his application anyway. Graves told Pisanos to go home and that they would contact him. Pisanos was at work about a month later when he was told that someone was on the phone for him. When he picked up the phone he was told by George Graves that he had been accepted into the RAF. Pisanos was happy but he did not know how to tell his boss that he had joined the Royal Air Force. One day he just walked into his bosses office and told Mr. Stender [Annotators Note: unsure of spelling] what he had done. His boss gave him a hug and told him to go over there and give Hitler and his thugs hell. Pisanos went to Flushing Airport for his flight check and physical. After passing those he was put on a plane to Los Angeles to attend the Polaris Flight Academy. Even though the United States was neutral at the time all of the planes they flew had US Army Air Force insignia on them. Pisanos learned that some of the instructors were Army Air Force pilots who were there to help the RAF. Pisanos got to Polaris in November of 1941 and graduated in February of 1942. They were there when Pearl Harbor was attacked. Pisanos logged 90 to 95 hours in three different types of aircraft. Pisanos was made a Pilot Officer. The new RAF pilots then went up to Canada and caught a boat to England. They were part of a convoy of 35 to 40 ships with American destroyers escorting part of the convoy. After arriving in England they reported to the Air Ministry. They were issued uniforms then Pisanos was sent to an officer’s training school where he learned how to march and to salute. Then he was sent to an operational training unit where he learned aerial combat flying and how to shoot trains. They flew P-40s, Hurricanes, and P-51-As. After graduation he was sent to a fighter squadron [Annotators Note: Number 68 Squadron] based north of Cambridge that was equipped with P-51-As and started flying missions over Holland looking for locomotives to shoot up. While Pisanos was with that squadron he ran into a problem. The Greek Air Force in exile had an office in London. One day he got a call from a Greek Air Force wing commander who was an aide to King George [Annotators Note: King George VI was the king of England]. The officer asked Pisanos to go to London to be interviewed for possible assignment to a Greek squadron being formed in Egypt. Pisanos got permission from his commanding officer to go to London and met with the Greek officer. The officer told Pisanos that they were going to go to the RAF and request that Pisanos be released so they could send him to Egypt. Pisanos had met Chesley Peterson of the Number 71 Eagle Squadron back in the United States. He tracked down Peterson and told him of his problem. Peterson went to the RAF who told him to move Pisanos from Number 68 Squadron into Number 71 Eagle Squadron. Pisanos was the last man to join Number 71 Eagle Squadron before it transferred over to the American Air Force. Another problem Pisanos faced was when the decision was made by General Spaatz and General Doolittle to transferr the men and equipment of all three Eagle Squadrons, Number 71 Squadron, Number 121 Squadron, and Number 133 Squadron, to the Army Air Force. Pisanos felt that that did not apply to him since he was not an American. Peterson asked Pisanos if he had been to London for the interview and physical. Pisanos said no and Peterson told him to go. The deal was that they would be transferred over to the Army Air Force with the same rank they held in the RAF. Pisanos went to London and met with three Army Air Force colonels. One of them, Henry Stovall, asked Pisanos what nationality he was. When Pisanos replied that he was a Greek the colonel asked if he had ever been to America. When Pisanos said yes the colonel asked if he planned to return to the United States after the war. When Pisanos again said yes the colonel offered him a commission as a second lieutenant in the US Army Air Force. At the time Pisanos was not an American citizen even though the rules stated that to be an officer in the American military a person had to be an American citizen.

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Steve Pisanos flew the Spitfire, the P-51 Mustang, and the P-47. To him the Spitfire was the best for defending a city. To attack trains he would chose the P-47. To escort bombers he would take the P-51. In combat the Spitfire was a beautiful airplane. The P-47 would not have been able to defend England against the Luftwaffe. Pisanos believes that to be a successful fighter requires good eyes and guts. A pilot had to know the capabilities of his own aircraft and that of his enemy. The plan was that they would keep one Spitfire squadron, Number 335 Squadron, and the other two, 334 Squadron and 336 Squadron, the ex Number 71 and Number 133, would transition to the P-47. Pisanos was sent to the 334th Fighter Squadron and transitioned to the P-47. He and his roommate, Don Gentile [Annotators Note: RCAF, RAF, USAAF, then USAF Major Dominic Salvatore Gentile], both flew their check flights at the same time. They were in a mock dogfight when Pisanos got a call on the radio to return to base. He landed the plane and got into a waiting staff car with Lt. Col. Peterson. His squadron commander, Tommy Andrews, wished him luck as the car pulled off. Pisanos knew something had happened. When they got to Peterson's office he called the American embassy in London. When the ambassador got on the phone Peterson handed Pisanos the phone. The ambassador asked Pisanos if he wanted to become an American citizen that day, 3 May 1943. A special emissary was there to naturalize Pisanos and two others serving in the US Army Air Forces. Pisanos went to the American Embassy in London and was introduced to the special emissary from the Department of Justice, Dr. Henry Hazzard. They went to the headquarters building of the US Army in London and held the ceremony there. There were about 100 people present at the ceremony including Ed Morrow, Walter Cronkite, and the actor Ben Lyon. Pisanos had seen several of Lyons' movies as a kid in Greece. Pisanos was part of the group to be naturalized outside of American territory. Walter Cronkite wrote an article for Stars and Stripes about Pisanos. Cronkite interviewed Pisanos later after he had his first kill. Pisanos felt wonderful now that he was a Yank. Pisanos was invited to a get together at Ben Lyons' place. Pisanos had a good time there. Pisanos had accomplished his dream. He was a pilot and an American. When Pisanos first got to the United States he wanted to go to night school to learn English but could not because of his work hours so instead he got an English dictionary and would ride the subways looking at the advertisements. He would look words here and there. He also went to the movies to listen to English being spoken. That was how he learned the language. He also listened to radio broadcasts of FDR's [Annotators Note: 32nd President of the United States Franklin Delano Roosevelt] speeches. Pisanos thought FDR was a great American and a wonderful speaker. Pisanos spoke to a school group of 300 to 400 students and told them not to expect the road to success to be a straight road. He told them to read and learn everything they could. Knowledge leads to success. Pisanos tells an anecdotal story about Santa Claus to show determination. America is the greatest nation on the planet. It is worth fighting for and dying for.

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Steve Pisanos scored his first victory on 21 May [Annotators Note: 21 May 1943]. They had taken bombers to Frankfurt, Germany then were relieved by either the 56th Fighter Group or 78th Fighter Group. They headed back to base and on their way they were jumped by a bunch of Me 109s and a couple of Fw 190s. Pisanos dove below an Fw 190 and attacked it from below. The Fw 190 pilot saw Pisanos and went into a dive but the Fw 190 could not out dive the P-47. The only Germans that they could not catch were the guys that stayed up around 35,000, 36,000 or 37,000 feet and waited for the bombers to drop their bombs and turn off of the IP [Annotators Note: Initial Point. This is where the bombers begin their straight and level bomb run.]. After the bombers turned off the German fighter would dive down on the formation to try to kill the lead B-17. Pisanos saw this kind of attack over Hamburg when the leading B-17 was hit by a Fw 190 and crashed into the plane next to it. The second plane crashed into a third. They could never catch the diving planes. To solve this problem they started putting a flight way above the bomber formations. Even though the German pilot saw Pisanos he was able to line the plane up and shoot it down. Pisanos had another kill that he did not get credit for. They were flying at about 25,000 feet on his way home after escorting a group of bombers to the target area. The way it worked at the time was a fighter group would escort the bombers to a point. The bombers would then be picked up by another squadron that stayed with them as long as they could. After that, the bombers were on their own. It was like that until they got the P-51-Bs. They were on their way back and came across a flight of Me 109s. Pisanos went after a 109. He tried to line it up in his gun sight but the German pilot kept turning left and right all the while descending. Pisanos knew that it was not a good idea to dog fight a Me 109 below 18,000 feet. As they got close to the ground Pisanos noticed towers for high tension wires. The German pilot was trying to trap Pisanos. Pisanos shot the German plane down then went back to base. Pisanos made his report but his gun camera had not worked so he did not get credit for it. Sometimes they had problems with the cameras. They had problems with the first P-51-Bs they got because they were using Spitfire spark plugs. That was what caused Pisanos's plane to go down on 5 March [Annotators Note: 5 March 1944]. Another problem they had with the P-51 was the ammunition belts would freeze in a high G turn. The commanding officer of Pisanos's group, Col. Blakeslee [Annotators Note: USAAF then USAF Colonel Donald Blakeslee], got behind a 109 and tried to shoot the enemy plane down but his guns failed. Blakeslee made his report when he got back to base. To fix the problem they installed a little motor to feed the guns and they worked fine after that. After they worked out all of the problems with the P-51 it was a beautiful plane. The 4th Fighter Group flew the first shuttle mission from England to Berlin to the Soviet Union but Pisanos was not on that mission. He had gone down and was somewhere in France. On his last mission Pisanos was escorting bombers to Bordeaux. The targets were two aerodromes where the Luftwaffe had Ju 88s that they were attacking convoys in the Atlantic. Out of 16 aircraft in Pisanos's squadron ten had to turn back because of engine problems. Out of a total of 48 or 50 aircraft that took off for that mission there were only 25 planes including the six from Pisanos's squadron that met the bombers at the rendezvous. The plan was for part of the bomber formation to hit one aerodrome and another group to hit the other. Over Bordeaux Pisanos spotted a dozen Me 109s. A dog fight started and Pisanos got one plane. His wingman called for help and Pisanos was able to get to him and shoot down two of the planes that were attacking him. When Pisanos began heading back to base he was alone until he spotted Hively [Annotators Note: unsure of spelling]. Pisanos and Hively formed up on each other. They called Hively the Deacon. They were on their way home when they spotted a group of four Me 109s. The Me 109s split up onto two sections of two. Hively went after two and Pisanos went after the other two. They were flying at about 10,000 feet. Pisanos got behind one of the planes and shot it. The plane started smoking and dropped down into the clouds. The other 109 tried to get behind Pisanos but he managed to get behind it and shot it up as well. After being hit, it dropped down into the clouds, too. Pisanos did not know if either or both of the planes went down. He returned to base alone. He did not know where Hively and the other two Me 109s had gone. After he had been in France for six months Pisanos returned to Debden. When he got there Hively was the squadron commander. Pisanos and Hively talked about that day and Hively told him that he chased one of the Me 109s beneath the clouds and when he broke through the bottom he saw the wreckage of two Me 109s smoking on the ground. Hively told Pisanos that he was going to go to fighter command to change the report to give him credit for his two kills and he was going to put him in for the Silver Star. Pisanos never got the Silver Star.

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When Steve Pisanos was in Vietnam he was to drop weapons and food to a convoy that was lost in the jungle. He got close to the area and contacted the patrol leader on his VHF radio. The patrol commander told Pisanos not to approach because the area was full of antiaircraft guns. Pisanos flew in and dropped the weapons and food anyway. Pisanos later got a report stating that his actions saved the lives of the men on that patrol. He was put in for a Silver Star but was awarded another DFC [Annotators Note: Distinguished Flying Cross]. On his last mission Pisanos got four victories. His squadron credits him with four that day but Fighter Command only gave him two. He finished the war with ten official victories. He wonders what things would have been like if his plane had not gone down. Many of the guys he had flown with were killed or became prisoners. There is no room for individuality in aerial combat. In order to be successful fighter units have to work together. Gentile [Annotators Note: RCAF, RAF, USAAF, then USAF Major Dominic Salvatore Gentile] ended the war with 22 aerial victories and another six destroyed on the ground. Gentile was sent home by Col. Blakeslee after flying too low for a reporter. He was so low that the propellor hit the ground and the plane crashed. After Pisanos spent six months missing in action in France, he returned to the United States. He left the service, went through test pilots school, and ended up at Wright Field. Gentile was there, too. Gentile and Pisanos were selected to go to Muroc Lake to test the YP-80. Pisanos and Gentile each got over 100 hours of flying time on the YP-80. When Pisanos was at Wright Field had went on a mission in a P-63. They were operating between Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Indianapolis. Pisanos performed the required test procedure and the plane's engine blew up. He called back to Wright to tell them that he had an emergency. He got the plane back to Wright Field and landed then got out of the plane as fast as he could because he thought it was going to explode. He was taken to the hospital where he was visited by a TWA [Annotators Note: the now defunct Trans World Airlines] pilot who recruited him to fly as copilot on a B-26. Pisanos left the Air Force and joined TWA. He spent about two years with TWA but he was unhappy. During his time there he flew DC-3s and Constellations. Pisanos had just bought a house in Kansas City and knew he had to do something. He had stayed in the reserves and when he knew he was going to Washington he called John Gentile and asked him to meet for coffee. He told Gentile that he was not happy and Gentile asked him if he wanted to return to active duty. Pisanos said yes. He did not have two years of college but he had jet time. Gentile sent Pisanos an application. He filled it out and sent it back to Gentile. Ten days later he got a letter informing him that his request had been accepted. He was to report to USAF Headquarters in Washington DC no later than 30 October 1948. Pisanos spent about four and a half years at the Pentagon. He had gained a lot of experience comparing the P-80 to the Me-262. The YP-80 was better than the P-80.

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Steve Pisanos decided to return to base. Fuel was an issue on missions. There were incidents of Spitfire pilots having to bail out over the English Channel because they ran out of fuel. Pisanos was flying alone at 22,000 feet heading toward LeHavre when he had the first indication that there was a problem with his aircraft. He tried to make it to the Channel. That way if he had to bail out the RAF could pick him up. The Germans started to put up a lot of antiaircraft fire. Pisanos started broadcasting a May Day which was picked up by the tower back in England. First his engine quit. Then a few moments later his radio died. Pisanos knew he could not make it out over the Channel and feared being shot by Germans on the ground while he was parachuting to the ground. There had been cases of German pilots and antiaircraft gunners firing on B-17 crewmen who had bailed out. Pisanos turned his plane around and headed inland. He dropped down to about 2,000 feet and tried to bail out but he got hung up on the connector for his Mae West [Annotators Note: nickname given by American servicemen to the inflatable yellow vest like life preservers] which had gotten stuck under his seat. Pisanos managed to free the cord and connected it to his Mae West. He climbed out onto the wing but noticed that he was too low to bail out at that point. He returned to the cockpit and flew the plane in and crash landed. When he hit the ground he was ejected from the cockpit and flew between the blades of the stopped propellor. He was in a lot of pain but still had the presence of mind to burn his plane. He retrieved his escape kit which contained matches, a couple thousand francs, chewing gum, and other items. He put his parachute in the cockpit then went to the left fuel tank to dip his scarf into the fuel. He was headed back to the cockpit to set the fire when someone started shooting at him. He grabbed the francs and a few other items from the escape kit and took off.

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Steve Pisanos made his way into some nearby woods. The German troops followed him in calling for him to give himself up. Pisanos had heard a lecture given by a RAF pilot who had escaped from a German POW camp and made his way back to England. Pisanos moved around the woods and evaded the Germans who were looking for him. He wandered the countryside for five days eating wild dandelions and drinking water from a creek. He was finally spotted by a young fellow who pointed Pisanos to a coffee shop and told him that there should be someone there who could help him. Pisanos headed for the coffee shop and on the way he ran into a lady pushing a bicycle. The lady brought him to her husband who turned out to be an OSS [Annotators Note: Office of Strategic Services. The pre-runner of the CIA] agent. The lady brought Pisanos some food. When her husband arrived he spoke with Pisanos. The man had a young fellow escort Pisanos to the coffee shop and went inside. He emerged a few moments later and took Pisanos around the back. Pisanos was taken to a private room in an adjacent building. The following day he was picked up and escorted to another place. On the way the man he was with asked him about his accent and Pisanos told him that he had been born in Greece and moved to the United States when he was 18. When they arrived at the next place Pisanos was interrogated. He was asked his roommate’s name, father’s name, and his airplane markings among other things. The man wrote everything down and left the room. A few days later the man came back and acknowledged that Pisanos was who he said he was. The man showed Pisanos how the French underground and the British communicated. He asked Pisanos what he wanted. Pisanos told him that he wanted help getting to Spain but that was not possible. This was two months before the invasion and the resistance operatives were all helping to prepare the area for the invasion. The man told Pisanos that they would take him to Paris because they would be safe there. They were bringing all of the downed aviators to Paris. When Paris was liberated in late August 1944, 700 to 800 downed aviators came out of hiding, including Pisanos. Pisanos was given false identity papers. His fake papers listed that he had been in the French Army in a heavy artillery unit and as a result was very hard of hearing. One day a truck loaded with firewood came by. There were two men in the truck. One of them was a gendarme in civilian clothes. Pisanos sat between them. When they passed through a small town they were stopped by two German soldiers who asked for a ride to Paris. Having the two German soldiers in the back of the truck gave them a free pass. Pisanos was afraid. When they got to Paris they dropped off the two German soldiers. The gendarme told Pisanos that they were going to drop him off then go unload the truck. In the truck under the firewood was a cache of machineguns, hand grenades, and ammunition that had been dropped into the French countryside by the British. They took Pisanos to a place where a lady met with him and interviewed him again. He stayed there for a night then was escorted to another place. On one street the Gestapo blocked off the street. The man Pisanos was with quickly lifted a manhole cover and climbed down into the sewer with Pisanos. The man knew his way around. He had worked for the French Department of Sanitation while he was in college. Pisanos stayed in 16 different houses while in hiding in Paris. In one house by the river southeast of Paris he stayed with a doctor and his wife. The house was a meeting place for American OSS, British, and French agents. The doctor was not really a doctor and his wife was a Polish agent who had escaped from Poland and joined the fight against the Germans.

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While hiding out in Paris Steve Pisanos was picked up by a resistance operative who took him to church. When they got to the church he saw that it was full of German soldiers. Pisanos was afraid and did not want to go in but the man convinced him. When the service ended he was afraid that he would be kidnapped and sent to Germany as a forced laborer. His brother had been taken from Greece and sent through Yugoslavia to Munich and other places. After the war Pisanos liberated his brother from East Berlin and took him to Italy where he was then serving with NATO. Pisanos did not understand much of the service. The man explained to him that the priest was not really a priest but an intelligence agent and was passing information to the resistance during the service. The last assignment Pisanos had was in Greece. He had been sent to Greece by the US Air Force because of his background. He had been a fighter pilot, he had served in Vietnam, and he could speak Greek. At the time the Greek Air Force was in the market for a new fighter plane. The British were showing them the Jaguar, the French were showing them the Mirage 1, and the Americans were showing them the F-4 Phantom. The chief of the Greek Air Force had been Pisanos's boss in Italy. The F-4 beat out the Jaguar and the Mirage 1. Spiro Agnew introduced Pisanos to the Greek Prime Minster. The Prime Minister was impressed with Pisanos and asked him about the Phantom. Pisanos told him the F-4 had been tested in Vietnam and the American government would support the Greeks with spare parts for the next 20 years. That was in 1972 and they are still flying the F-4s today. During the six months Pisanos stayed in France he stayed in 16 different houses. They never stayed in the same place for long because if some of the French people suspected that there was an American airman staying in a house they would sell him out to the Gestapo. One of the men Pisanos was staying with asked him if he wanted to kill some Germans. Pisanos and the underground agents he was staying with set up an ambush on the road running between Paris and Nancy. The underground intelligence network had discovered that a German convoy of seven to eight large military trucks loaded with soldiers and stolen items would be taking that road. The underground operatives placed spikes in the road around a bend. Pisanos and the resistance fighters were hiding in the woods alongside the road. The first two trucks crashed into each other and Pisanos and the resistance fighters opened up with everything they had. Pisanos himself shot down seven to eight German soldiers. All of the German trucks were completely destroyed. They left the area and spent the night in a barn. The following day the Paris radio announced that the Gestapo would kill the saboteurs who had killed those German soldiers and destroyed that German property. Another episode Pisanos was involved in was the derailing of a train. The train had come from a prison south of Paris and was full of political prisoners and 400 to 500 Jewish people. Pisanos was given the job of unscrewing the rails with a stolen T bar. As Pisanos would unscrew the rails, other resistance fighters would pick them up, carry them off, and bury them. The trap was seen and the rails were repaired. Then the train continued on toward Nancy but before it could go there it was attacked by another resistance group. In 1965 Pisanos was in Wiesbaden, Germany. Charles DeGaulle asked for all Americans who had been in France and assisted the underground to attend a ceremony at the Toulon naval base. On the train to Toulon Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. sat next to Pisanos. Pisanos and Fairbanks sat next to each other at the ceremony, too. Ten or 15 days after the ceremony Pisanos was awarded the French Croix de Guerre with Silver Star. Pisanos was also awarded the French Legion of Honor at a big celebration in Balboa Park in San Diego, California.

Annotation

The thing Steve Pisanos thinks about the most from the war was when he crash landed in France. When he arrived at the first house after being picked up by the underground he was seen by an underground doctor. The doctor took Pisanos to a clinic run by German civilians to get his shoulder x-rayed. The x-ray showed that Pisanos had a dislocated shoulder. When Paris was being liberated Pisanos was taken to a vineyard. At the vineyard he was taken to a room in the house where he met 31 other downed aviators. They waited for the liberation at the house. As the Germans were evacuating they passed right in front of the house where Pisanos and the other downed aviators were staying. Pisanos saw a convertible German car with no tires on the rims carrying wounded German soldiers. He also saw carts being pulled by German soldiers. One day Pisanos was taken to a basement where he was given some wine. It was the best wine he ever had. The man offered wine to the other aviators to have with their meals but they turned him down and asked for milk. Pisanos and an officer named Bill Smith snuck out of the house and went into town looking for the Allied armies. With all of the firing going on in the streets they were forced to duck and hide. In one place they jumped into there was an American born Jewish guy sitting in the same hole. The man led Pisanos and Smith around the city until they spotted an American major. Pisanos and Smith approached the major and explained who they were. A jeep came by and picked Pisanos and Smith up. Pisanos was taken to meet General Barton. Barton was waiting for the French General LeClerc to enter the city. Pisanos and Smith met a brigadier general who had a major bring them to the quartermaster to get some new clothes. Pisanos got a new uniform. Pisanos does not know what happened to the Jewish fellow who had helped him and Smith out. The following day the unit Pisanos was with moved into Paris. There were women in their best dresses tossing flowers at them and people giving them bottles of wine. After a night in Paris Pisanos was taken to an airport where he boarded a C-47 and flew to London. When he got to London Pisanos called his group commander Donald Blakeslee. Blakeslee was glad to hear that Pisanos was alive because he had been reported dead.
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