The contribution of Greeks to the Australian military in the 20th Century is to be commemorated in a new book by author Steve Kyritsis.
Mr Kyritsis previously wrote the groundbreaking Greek Australians in the Vietnam War published in 2009.
The new 750 page book containing untold stories of Greek Australians in both World Wars, along with never previously-published photographs, will be launched by the Hellenic Sub Branch of the RSL in May.
The author told Neos Kosmos that research undertaken for the new book reveals Greek Australians serving with the Australian Army as far back as the Boer War.
The story of Sergeant Nicholas Rodakis who fought with Australian and American forces on the Western Front in WWI is one of the many remarkable stories in Kyritsis’ new book.
Victorian Nicholas Rodakis was born in Athens in 1880. He enlisted in the Fir AIF (Australian Imperial Force) in February 1916 and by July the same year he was serving in northeast France. He would later fight alongside other Diggers in Belgium where he was awarded the Military Medal for bravery.
In 1918 he was attached to a machine gun company of the 105th Infantry Battalion, part of a United States Army Division. As the war-weary Allies advanced against the Hindenburg Line in September 1918, in one last desperate effort to defeat Germany, Australian, British and American units suffered heavy losses.
During one action along the front, Rodakis’ platoon became cut off. Under fierce enemy fire he rescued an American officer and captured an enemy machine gun. Isolated from his own troops, he defended his position for hours before returning to the Allied lines under cover of darkness, picking up wounded on the way and leading them to safety.
For his actions, in 1918 Rodakis was awarded the United States Distinguished Service Cross, the American equivalent of the Victoria Cross. He was the first Australian ever to have received the United States military’s highest honour.
Rodakis returned to Warrnambool, Victoria in 1919. Despite trying to identify any possible descendents, Steve Kyritsis says that no information on Rodakis’ life after the war has ever been found.
Nicholas Rodakis was one of around 80 men of Greek descent who served in Australian forces during WWI. In the Second World War around 2500 Greek Australians enlisted and served in every major theatre of the war.
“They served this country with honour,” says Kyritsis, “and I’m determined that these men and women’s lives and sacrifices will not be forgotten.”
For more details on the official launch events on May 18 and 19 of Greek Australians in the Australian Forces – WWI & WWII in May, contact Major Terry Kanellos, secretary RSL Hellenic Sub Branch on 0414 209674