P-47D THUNDERBOLT PILOT
512th Fighter Squadron / 406th Fighter Group
Above Left Up/Dn: Photos of Walker Alkiviades Diamanti during his graduation and promotion to Second Lieutenant and while training in front of a Fairchild PT-19. Alkie was always referred to as 'Greek' while serving in USAAF during WW2, although in his early years he wanted to find a way out from the pressure of his parents to accept everything regarding Greek culture. His daughter Penelope wrote to the Greeks in Foreign Cockpits team: "I want to let you know that although our dad may have wanted to escape what he saw as the restrictions of his Greek culture when he was young, he raised us to be proud of it, and our name (which we kept even when we married). Our mother was of northern European ancestry, but whenever we are asked what our origins are we all always say: Greek!" (Diamanti Family Archive)
Walker (Alkiviades) Diamanti was born in Helper Utah in October 1921, the seventh son of Ioannis "John" Gregorios Diamanti(s) and Efthemia "Mae" Aguridis. John Diamanti(s), as well as Efthemia, came from a little village in central Greece called Mavrolithari, in Fokida, one of the highest villages in Greece at 1140m altitude. He was the oldest of five boys and dropped out of school at age eleven to herd sheep. He did that until he emigrated to the United States. As is the story with many immigrants, he begged and borrowed a few dollars. In those days, it took seventy dollars for a boat to Naples and from Naples to New York, with still enough head money to get you in when you arrived. John indebted himself to get to America. He arrived with the flood of immigrants coming at the time. He was picked up by a Greek labor organizer in New York and immediately put on a railroad labor gang, where he punched tunnels for $1.35 a ten-hour shift. This must have been foreign to him and very hard. But he saved money and ended up in Chicago as a butcher, which is closer to his line of work because during those days all Greeks knew how to butcher and skin animals. From there he received letters from his friends in Carbon County, Utah, who were working the coal mines. They bade him come where they said work was plentiful and wages were good. He came to Carbon County during 1904-1905. It was an active coal mining area. He went to Helper and went into the sheep business with an older Greek, who soon after departed. He was one of those Greek men who came to make it and then went back. They were going to the land of "golden streets," and probably most of them intended to work for five years and then set themselves up in business in Greece. John however had no intention of returning to Greece and became a naturalized American in 1912.
His father and mother had been married in Greece, and he arranged for her to emigrate in about 1906 to join him in Helper. She was the first Greek woman in the community. She cared for a lot of Greeks who were coal miners, including some orphans. Their first child, a daughter, had been born in Greece, but unfortunately died in 1908 in Utah. They had seven sons who lived to adulthood, of which Walker was the youngest. The family was raised according to the Greek culture and language. Both John and Efthemia wanted their children not to lose their ethnic consciousness. According to Walker:
When we spoke to our parents, we spoke Greek; amongst each other, we spoke English. Around the (dining-room) table, the conversation was "eye" focused. When I looked at my parents, Greek came out. When I looked at my brothers, American came out.
Although his older brothers continued in the Greek church and Greek community, Walker was destined to feel less attachment to the Greek community and identified more as a true American, preferring to use his American name, Walker, instead of his baptismal Greek name. During his early years, he resisted the pressure to learn and read Greek, mischievously escaping the after-school Greek lessons. Instead, he chose another path, that led him away from his Greek community.
"When I came of age, about thirteen, I went off to boarding school. At that point, my father and brothers were in the coal business. They started out slowly in the Depression, scratching on a coal outcropping on someone else's land; yet they eventually did well. And by the time they sold their mine in the 1970s, they were wealthy and were great coal producers. My brothers did well, and they stayed put. Theirs is the story of ethnic success in Utah. I'm proud of them. But I never wanted to join them. I had the service bug from a young age, I wanted to serve my country. It's hard to identify the germination of my desire. But if I had to, I would trace it back to those wonderful, old missionaries who taught me in high school. They instilled in me the sense of service to my fellow man."
Profile & Above Right: P-47D-27-RE, 42-26860, Angie, was the personal fighter of the Greek American pilot during his tour in ETO with the 9th AF and the 512th FS, 406th FG. According to a letter he sent to 406th FG Historian and author of "The 406th Fighter Group in World War II", Steven A. Brant: "I named the plane after a girl I was very fond of back home, who was the daughter of friends of the family. We never married after the war but remain friends to this day," said Walker in February 2007. Later a nose art in form of a pin-up girl appeared on the engine cowling however Walker reported that "I didn't have that nose art on my plane, the cowling was left alone and I have no idea where it may have come from." You can read more about this famous 9th AF Thunderbolt at the following link, http://www.512thfightersquadron.com/webBooks/FredBrandtnAngie.pdf. The 406th FG was established as a dive-bomber attack group at Key Field, Mississippi on 1 March 1943, Trained with numerous attack aircraft both at Key Field and at Congree Army Airfield, South Carolina until May 1944. Converted to a Fighter-Bomber group and deployed to European Theater in March 1944. Assigned to Ninth Air Force. Entered combat with P-47 Thunderbolts in May when the Allies were preparing for the invasion of the Continent. Provided area cover during the landings in June, and afterward flew armed reconnaissance and dive-bombing missions against the enemy, attacking such targets as motor transports, gun emplacements, ammunition dumps, rail lines, marshaling yards, and bridges during the campaign in Normandy. Helped prepare the way for the Allied breakthrough at St Lo on 25 July. Moved to the Continent early in August 1944 and continued to provide tactical air support for ground forces. Participated in the reduction of St Malo and Brest. Aided the Allied drive across France, receiving a Distinguished Unit Citation for operations on 7 September 1944 when the group destroyed a large column of armored vehicles and military transports that were attempting to escape from southeastern France through the Belfort Gap. Operated closely with ground forces and flew interdiction missions during the drive to the Moselle-Saar region. Shifted operations from the Saar Basin to the Ardennes and assisted the beleaguered garrison at Bastogne after the Germans had launched the counteroffensive that precipitated the Battle of the Bulge. Operated almost exclusively within a ten-mile radius of Bastogne from 23–27 December 1944, a period for which the group received a second DUC for its at¬tacks on tanks, vehicles, defended buildings, and gun positions. Flew escort, interdiction, and close-support missions in the Ruhr Valley early in 1945 and thus assisted Allied ground forces in their drive to and across the Rhine. Remained in Europe after V-E Day, being assigned to United States Air Forces in Europe for duty in Bremen, Germany (AAF Station Nordholz) with the army of occupation. Inactivated on 20 August 1946, personnel and equipment being assigned to 86th Fighter Group keeping with Air Force policy of having low-numbered units active as much as possible. (Copyright Gaetan Marie, photo by Diamanti Family Archive and further info by Wikipedia)
True to his words, when WW2 broke out, Walker and his college classmates rushed to enlist for service. Before the war, he attended Wasatch Academy at Mt. Peasant. In 1941 he received a Bachelor's degree in law from Westminster College. Walker entered the Army Air Corps in August 1942. His Primary Flight Training took place in Ryan Field, Tucson Arizona from July 1943 till September 1943. After successfully completing it he moved to Minter Field for his basic training which lasted from October 1943 through December 1943. and he was later posted to Luke Field, Texas for his Advanced Training. He completed training and received his wings in February 1944. Records state that the Greek American pilot was a qualified P-47 instructor, although it is not known if he was posted as an instructor before he was posted overseas. Walker was ordered to serve in the European Theatre of Operations, probably arriving in England at the end of July 1944. He was posted to one of the replacement squadrons, almost certainly to 551th or 552nd Fighter Training Squadron, of the 495th Fighter Training Group, based in Atcham which operated the venerable Thunderbolt. The Group was to provide forward training on tactics and operations for the European Theater during World War II. After the completion of this training, he served with the 406th Fighter Group, 512th Fighter Squadron, which was already operating from forward landing fields in France, supporting Patton's troops. Another Greek American was already in action with the Group, but in the 513th FS, William S. Manos flying his first missions during Operation Overlord (https://www.greeks-in-foreign-cockpits.com/pilots-crews/fighter-pilots/william-s-manos/).
Walker Diamanti flew with the 512th from the beginning of August through the end of December 1944, flying ground support and armed reconnaissance missions over France and Germany. He was promoted to First Lieutenant on 8 December 1944. One of the most memorable missions was the one he flew on December 26, 1944. While flying in support of the 101st Airborne at Bastogne during the Nazi counteroffensive that became known as the Battle of the Bulge, Walker successfully fought off two FW190s who were trying to attack his squadron. In the chase toward German territory he damaged both enemy aircraft, however as he recounted in an interview:
"…but I was all alone and I saw six more Focke Wulfs coming to their aid, so I figured it was time to get out of there"
Indeed the 406th FG operational reports confirmed the engagement:
"The 512 Sq, with 7 P-47 a/c, TO 0800 from site A-80 and contacted 'Blendwell' who sent them to 'Maestro' who requested an armed recon from Noville to Bourcy. 4-150 gal FB and 6-500 lb bombs dropped on the town of Longville P640601 - all direct hits and town left burning fiercely. Strafed one jeep at P6386623. 3-500 lb bombs were jet 2 mi NW of tgt when bounced by e/a. From Longville NW to P596630 while Yellow 2 leader was attacking tgt he was bounced by 2 FW190s at 300’. On turning also bounced and in an engagement claimed 1 damaged. The balance of the Sq could not be located at the time so our pilots broke away. After joining Sq the e/a could not be located again. Enemy pilots seemed inexperienced and not aggressive. E/a were gray and had white crosses. Flak Nil. TD 1025 Site A-80….2 FW190 damaged by 1st Lt Waker A. Diamanti 0767151, 512th Sq, Longville NW to P596630, in a dogfight."
During these days the 406th FG gained its 2nd Presidential Unit Citation, a testament to the hard-won victory of the 9th AF Fighter Bombers against the mighty Wehrmacht. Lt. Diamanti finished 50 combat missions with 128:40 combat hours in the E.T.O., completing his tour of duty. He successfully flew his missions as a capable flyer and returned to the base multiple times with his plane severely damaged by flack, small arms fire, etc. For his service, he was awarded the Air Medal and 8 Oak Leaf Clusters. Walker rotated back to the United States on January 13, 1945, and for a short time, he was to serve as an instructor to young pilots destined to fly the P-47 either in Europe or the Pacific. After leaving the Army Air Corps after the war ended, Walker returned to college and focused on his studies. He obtained his Bachelor of Laws degree from the University of Utah in 1947 and completed his Master's degree in 1952 from the Graduate Institute of International Studies, Geneva, Switzerland. Speaking French, German and Greek, he joined the Foreign Service in 1954 and remained a diplomat representing the United States until he reached the service’s mandatory retirement age in 1986.
Walker Diamanti first served at the U.S. Embassy in Athens, Greece, followed by assignments in Bonn, Germany, and Libreville, Gabon. He served as Political Officer at U.S. Consulate General, Hamburg, Germany. Afterward, he served at the US Embassy in Kigali, Rwanda, Abidjan, Ivory Coast, and Managua, Nicaragua. Between foreign posts, he has served as Desk Officer for Equatorial Africa and later as Area Personnel Officer for Latin America, at the Department of State in Washington, DC, USA. He was especially proud of his several assignments to the Office of the Inspector General, traveling to a variety of U.S. embassies to help identify and sort out potential problems. Walker Diamanti married Joyce Stewart in Salt Lake City, Utah, in 1947. They raised three daughters, who grew up living in and being immersed in the culture of each country where he was assigned. They have gone on to build their own careers, although none of them have followed in his footsteps of service in the U.S. Government. Walker was proud to be both a solid American and a child of hard-working Greek immigrants. He contributed several interviews to a study of Greek and other immigrant communities that developed in his home state of Utah. Someone might misunderstand him because of his early reaction to his family’s pressure to live in the Greek way of language and customs. However, as Walker stated in one interview regarding Greek Americans:
"I'm not ashamed of my Greek. I've never been. I have been called Greek as an athlete in college, I was called Greek and as a pilot in the Air Corps I was referred to as Greek. I have never shunned my ethnic origin. As a matter of fact, I have some pride in it, but at the time I thought some of these things were a bit if not barbaric, at least archaic. I thought they were cultural hangovers which the family could do as well without. That's perhaps stating it strongly. But you're right. I had a certain ambivalence when I was young. Now, not now. I'm very proud to claim my ethnic origin and my family and my recollection...oh, I've never been ashamed of my family. I've always been proud of my family."
Most importantly, he summed up the success of American idealism in how to embrace different ethnicities to a new great nation. He said:
"I find it not only complimentary but accurate about America and it's this: My father, a moderately literate Greek peasant in Greek, left Greece … in 1904 to come to America. My mother, who was totally illiterate both in Greek and any other language, followed some two years later and they came to America where they raised a very large family, of which I am the seventh son. In January 1954, I returned to Greece as a diplomatic representative of the United States of America and I feel only in America could the son of illiterate immigrant parents in one generation rise from very modest means to a position of trust and honor in the United States Government accredited to the country of his father's origin. And I think only in America could that happen."
Photos Above & Left: Alkie after returning back to the United States smiling for the camera with his awards on his chest (first) and in a happy mood along with an unknown colleague from his squadron (second). Walker Diamanti and Joyce Stewart shortly after their marriage when they went to Europe to study (third left) and Walker while he was Consul General in Calcutta, a posting he and Joyce both loved (third left). Finally two photos of Walker's father, Ioannis "John" Gregorios Diamanti(s), and his mother Efthemia "Mae" Aguridis. Both his parents and especially his mother wanted their big family to be raised in the Greek Orthodox culture. On the left, these photos were taken at Walker and Joyce's wedding, in which his father and all seven sons are lined up together (in order by age) and also a picture of his mother at the wedding (All photos from Diamanti Family Archive)
Walker 'Alkie' Diamanti Combat Flight Records
A few notes about my father, Walker A. Diamanti by Penelope Diamanti,
on behalf also of her two other sisters, Melissa and Patricia
"My father, Walker Diamanti, was many things to many people: a loving husband, a caring father, a dedicated public servant, a compassionate and generous friend, a beloved boss, and a respected mentor to junior staff he worked with. He lived frugally but was always generous, I never saw anyone he shared a meal with get away with paying the bill. I think this was an extension of his mother’s legendary hospitality. She welcomed orphaned children into her already large family, and her kitchen door was known as a place where homeless travelers during the Great Depression could count on finding a hot meal. He held core values that guided all his interactions. These came from his large, loving, and hardworking immigrant family, but also from his time at boarding school run by missionaries. He believed in honesty, equality, and civil rights for all people, and that most people are fundamentally good. He understood how lucky he was, as the first member of his family to have a college education and a career that took him around the world. He believed in defending his country and Europe against the Nazis, so he joined the Army Air Corps after Pearl Harbor.
His service in Europe gave him a taste for travel and a love of other cultures that he carried with him wherever he went. After the war, he returned to Europe with his bride and they settled in Switzerland to study and start a family. Despite the fact that we moved every two years, leaving pets, friends, languages, and schools behind, our parents always made sure my two sisters and I felt comfortable in each new culture we inhabited. We were enrolled in the local schools, learned the languages quickly, and made new friends. Our friends’ parents eventually met our parents, and in 1958 when we were in Bonn, Germany it turned out that my best friend’s father had been an anti-aircraft gunner during the time my father had been flying over Germany. Despite that history, our families became good friends, sharing picnics together in the countryside where bomb craters could still be seen.
My father’s honesty and integrity sometimes had less than desirable consequences. He was sorry to see how the Vietnam war was turning the world against the United States and was not convinced that it was justified. When his State Dept bosses decided he wasn’t supportive enough of the war effort we got transferred from Hamburg, Germany to Rwanda in the middle of Africa, with a single mile of paved road and no schools past grade eight so we children had to be sent to boarding school. This move stalled his career for a while, but his reputation with those who served under him was never tarnished. His administrative assistants all loved him, and the junior officers admired him. In another twist of fate, during his last week of life, the hospice representative who was sent to help us navigate this difficult time turned out to be the wife of a foreign service officer my dad had mentored decades earlier. She credited him with helping her husband become a respected diplomat and did all she could to help us. He died peacefully, with his family, and without regrets. All those who knew him, miss him."
Dimitris Vassilopoulos correspondence with Walker Alkiviades Diamanti daughters. Penelope and Melissa.
Dimitris Vassilopoulos correspondence with Walker Alkiviades Diamanti nephew Greg Diamanti and his wife Dixie.
AFHRA Reel B0498 & B0499 - 406th FG Combat Diaries
AFHRA Reel A0818 - 412th FS Combat Diaries
Missing Stories: An Oral History of Ethnic and Minority Groups in Utah (UTAH CENTENNIAL SERIES) Hardcover – December 1, 1996, by Leslie G. Kelen and Eileen Hallett Stone, ISBN-13: 978-0874805161
The 406th Fighter Group in World War II (True History Books), Paperback – January 1, 2012
by Steven A. Brandt (Author), ISBN-13: 978-0578122892
Special thanks to Donald Mounts (Global Military Research, LLC)