726th Bomber Squadron / 451st Bombardment Group

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Nose Gunner, Achilles Kozakis, in an official USAAF portrait, while serving with the 15th AF, 451st BG in Foggia, Italy, on October 29, 1944. 'Achi' as he was called by his colleagues, flew 35 combat missions over Italy, Austria, and Germany, facing some of the most devastating anti-aircraft fire, especially over Vienna, where, according to some sources there were placed almost 650 flak guns! He was awarded the Air Medal with 3 Oak Leaf Clusters, Purple Heart for his wounds and he was also proposed for the DFC (Distinguished Flying Cross), although he never got it, for unknown reasons. (Achilles Kozakis)
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The two aviators from Kozakis family, Achilles and Milton pose happily for the camera, probably during their training before posting overseas. Milton was a 1944 graduate of Lynn Classical High School. Shortly after, he enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Force (USAAF) Air Transport Command (ATC) serving as a radio operator and mechanic. He was in the European Theater of Operation (ETO) assigned to the 404 1st Troop carrier groups, 61st Squadron based in France and Germany. Honorably discharged in 1946 at the rank of sergeant, he received the American Campaign Medal, Army Occupation Medal, European Theater of Operation Medal, WWII Victory Medal, and Good Conduct Medal. (Achilles Kozakis)

Achilles Kozakis was born on October 19, 1923, in Lynn, 12 miles north of Boston along the North Shore. His father, Themistocles Kozakis was born in Elate, north of Nafpactos. He immigrated to the United States along with his two brothers, Christy and Arthur, when he was 10 years old. Christy was the older one at 16 and Arthur was 14 years old. In 1894 when they went through Ellis Island, the Immigration Officer could not pronounce Themistocles and told his father, "From now on you shall be called Thomas". Achilles mother, Mercine Kotsanatos, came from Mytilene island to America with her whole family, consisting of Achi's grandfather, Achilles, his grandmother, his Uncle Charles, and his Aunts Bessie and Christina. She was only 8 years old. Themistocles met Amersoutha when she was teaching English in the Greek Community School, so he married his teacher. When the Turks were fighting the Greeks during the Balkan Wars Themistocles went back to Greece and fought the Turks. He was wounded in battle and received citations and medals from his General and the King. He came back to the States and volunteered in the US Army. They turned him down because of his wounds fighting the Turks. He later became a Master Machinist and worked in the Instrument Department of the General Electric Company in Lynn for 30 years, where Achilles was born and raised.

With a family record like this, it was inevitable that Achilles would also prove himself in combat, some years later during WWII. He volunteered in October 1943 in Army Air Corps as Cadet Candidate and entered service in January 1944. He completed his Basic Training at Greensborough, N.C. in April 1944. While he was ready to proceed with his training the Congress eliminated 26,000 from Cadet Program. He asked for flight engineer school and was given a choice of one out of three: Infantry, Paratrooper, or Aerial Gunner. He chooses the latter one because all he wanted to do was to fly and attended the gunnery school at Laredo, Texas, graduating in June 1944. He Completed Combat Crew Training Bombardment (H) at Westover Field, Massachusetts with Harold S. Patterson's crew. In September 1944 at Langley Field, Virginia the crew received their aircraft B-24J #42—51993 and named it 'Pat's Wagon'. They received Operations Orders No. 57, Shipment No. FW-AY-9, leaving Grenier Field, Manchester, N.H. via the North Atlantic Route to Naples, Italy, reporting to the 19th Replacement Battalion for assignment and at this juncture, their aircraft was taken away. They were assigned to the 15th Air Force, 49th Bomb Wing, 451St Bomb Group, 726‘" Bomb Squadron, APO 520. Achilles Kozakis completed his tour of duty (35 missions, 54-sorties) from Nov. 1944 to April 1945 and he belonged to the Lead Crew for Flt. 'B' from Jan. 1945 to May 1945 within the 726th Bomb Squadron. Except his Air Crew Member Wing and Aerial Gunner Wings he was awarded the Purple Heart, the Air Medal with 3 Oak Leaf Clusters, the Good Conduct Medal, the ETO Service Medal with 5 Battle Campaigns, the American Theater Service Medal, the WWII Victory Medal and he was recommended for the Distinguished Flying Cross Medal (DFC). The 451st BG received the Distinguished Unit Citation with two Oak Leaf Clusters. After being officially being an honorable member of the 'LUCKY BASTARDS CLUB' he returned to the zone of interior in June 1945.

A 32-day furlough followed, and reassignment to Atlantic City, NJ. in July 1945. Submitted to England General Hospital at Atlantic City for wounds he received during combat flying, thence to Bruns General Hospital, Santa Fe, N.M., and finally to Brooks General Hospital, Fort Sam Houston, San Antonio, Texas where he received his Honourable Discharge on May 29, 1946. (10 months in 3 general hospitals). When he was discharged from the hospital on May 29, 1946, he came home and planned to enter a university for Mechanical Engineering Degree as he always wanted to be an Engineer since he was 14 years old. All his classes in school were leaning towards that end. He had 2 years of Latin and Aeronautics as elective subjects, and he was in the National Honour Society For two years. In January 1947 he left his home and his family and traveled Southwest to Arizona State University as he humorously said, to get away from the frigid winters up North. After he stopped in Houston for a couple of days he took the decision to attend the University of Houston to get the engineering Degree. There he met Rena, his sweetheart and were married in the Greek Church. Both were lucky to have six children. John, Thomas, Anna Marie, Peter (Perry), Christina and Gregory, all born from 1951 to 1964.

In 2012 Achilles Kozakis self-published his memoirs entitled "The Best Seat in the House: Short Stories and Vignettes" (ISBN:978-1465369932). Although we could write many pages from his experiences we strongly believe that everyone should read that book. It was written by an extraordinary man in the darkest time of humanity. There are many thrilling stories inside like the mission in Vienna as well as humorous ones. Its a book every Greek and Greek - American should read. Also, we urge you to connect via Facebook with Achilles Kozakis (https://www.facebook.com/achilles.kozakis). Being a friend with him is a privilege! His mind is sharp like the young boy who manned the Emerson turret in his B-24 Liberator and he is literally an open - history book. The 'GREEKS IN FOREIGN COCKPITS" team is very honored to know him.

In 2012 he published his memoirs in a book entitles as 'THE BEST SEAT IN THE HOUSE - Emerson Nose Turret on B-24 Liberator Bomber (H) WWII, The Perfect Window Overlooking the Gates of Hell.' Incredible experiences of his combat over Europe, especially during his most fearful missions, are told as if the reader could place himself on his Emerson Turret. It is a highly recommended book for one of the Greatest of Generations Greek - Americans. He attended almost all of the 451st BG reunions and he is frequently talking about his experiences during the Veterans Day each year. He is 95 years old and rest assured that his mind is sharp like a 20 years old man, like the one he was while he was riding his Emerson nose turret of the mighty B-24 Liberators In October 2012 he summed up his and his fellow airmen fight for freedom as well as his gratitude for being alive in a two paragraphs entitles as BITS & PIECES:

“There comes a time in a man’s life thinking is this the beginning or is this the end? I ponder my actions and reactions during my tour of duty. Many times I have experienced the site of death and my will to live. My buddies and many young men died too soon. They knew more about death than they knew about life. The average age of the heavy bomber crewmen was 19 to 22 years. Many of us, members of the aircrews, were flying to prove we were men, and yet, we were just boys’. Memories of the bomber crewmen remain with joy, the lucky ones. that completed their tours and in the same breath; with sadness I think of the crews, the many, that were shot down and their bodies were strewn in the forests, mountainsides and fields that have never been found, These men richly deserve our thanks and recognition for their brave deeds and of their ultimate sacrifice. I sincerely believe, I completed my tour because of my crewmen’s actions and my Pilot’s skill and cool-headedness in combat under horrific stressful conditions. Our bond grew stronger with each mission and it lasted a lifetime. I’m the only surviving member of my crew and at times it gets very lonely.

Like autumn leaves softly and slowly floating to the grassy meadow, my thoughts linger as a soft chill breeze blushes my cheeks telling me winter is on its way. It’s one of those precious days; when sitting in Brenda’s and Greg’s patio that I want to remember as I’m watching the birds having their daily fill. It’s so peaceful in the country on a similar Autumn day, the wonderful memories with Rena, sharing quality time; watching our feathered friends fluttering about in our patio creating our Shangrila and making the world go away. These autumn days of my being, (89 years young) every day is an adventure. I savor the life around me, know mg I have my beloved children, grandchildren and many other loved ones to share these precious days, which shall become beautiful, lasting and wonderful memories that remain with my autumn years. Yes, autumn leaves are falling gently around me and I’m sensing it will be time for my departure. l have no regrets, l 've been blessed over and over; and with Rena, my companion, life has been a paradise. l have had it all I ’ve been there and done it! I ask for nothing else, my Downwind Leg is approaching and I am ready for my landing

"Sto Kalo”

(Farewell in Greek)

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#44-49876 'RHODA', 726th, #56. RHODA left the USA for Italy on January 19, 1945. Assigned to the Group on January 31, 1945, to replace 44-10613, Returned to the USA of June 5, 1945, Also known as 'THE REBEL'. (B-24 Liberators of the 15th Air Force/49th Bomb Wing in World War II, Michael D. Hill & John R. Beitling, Schiffer Publishing, isbn:9780764324239, 2006)
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LEAD CREW, 'B' FLIGHT, 15th AF, 451st BG (H), 726th BG, FEBRUARY - MAY 1945
Top Row L-R: Thomas L. Thurman (CP), Harold S. Patterson (P), William Bodie (B), Burton Schilling (N), Malcolm Hardesty (B) - Bottom Row L-R: Achilles Kozakis (NG), Demetrio P. Rodriquez Jr (TG), Walter E. O'Laughlin (WG), Lauren A. Balzer (AG), George W. Realley Jr. (E), Walter A. Carrington (RO)
(Achilles Kozakis)
B-24L-15-FO, #44-49876, '56-Z', 'RHODA - THE REBEL', was the Liberator in which Kozakis flew one of the most memorable missions of his wartime career, during the Vienna raid on February 7, 1945. The bomber is stripped from any camouflage as it was common in the last years of the war, for both USAAF fighters and bombers. Except for the anti-glare surfaces, the weight which was saved by removing the paint from the aircraft could gain few more knots in speed. Sometimes this small margin in speed limits might differentiate the life from death for the crews. The bomber carries the nose-art, the individual distinguished aircraft number, both in front and the aft of the fuselage, the individual aircraft letter in the tail rudder and the circle tail insignia used by the 451st BG, all in red as this was the 726th colors. During that mission, while Achilles Kozakis was wounded by flak shrapnel, and despite the damage inflicted to 'RHODA' by enemy fire and the loss of the hydraulic system, Achi handcrafted the landing gear system and saved both plane and crew. Afterward, Lt. O' Connell recommended him for the DFC for his superior actions during the mission. He was always wondered what might happen to that DFC award. In many cases, the DFC awarded many years later after all the recommendations examined because of the large numbers. Maybe it was lost along with his complete military file during the fire which destroyed a large proportion of the National Personnel Records Center, in 1973. (Copyright Gaetan Marie)
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Achilles Kozakis poses along with his father Themistokles Kozakis, which was turned in Thomas while the young Greek boy arrived in Ellis Island n 1894. Thomas Kozakis was a strong man. A proud Greek who honored his fatherland by returning to Greece and fight during the Balkan Wars. He was also a good father, who also played the role of the mother too when his beloved wife passed away because of pneumonia, leaving him with four boys and one girl. His military heritage continued by his children during WW2 were his four boys served in US Armed Forces and survived the war. (Achilles Kozakis)
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Achilles proudly poses for the camera, wearing his A2 Jacket with Bomb Group and Squadron patches, during a 3-day leave and visit to his aunt Ollie, at Linden, NJ in September 1945. Although a gunner during his service, Achilles applied first for pilot training, entering the Army Air Force on January 17, 1944. While his class candidates were 221, only two of them proceed further for pilots (who had earlier flight experience - possibly attending the famous CPCT programme). Later it became known that almost 28.000 men during that time washed out from pilot training without even qualified for it and were given a choice of service as Paratroopers, Infantry of Gunners on USAAF heavy and medium bombers. Determined to fly, Achilles opted for the last one, manning an Emerson nose turret in a B-24 bomber over South and Central Europe.(Achilles Kozakis)
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Achilles Kozakis during his time in Foggia, Italy during October 29, 1944. Achi logged a total of 467:30 flying hours during his USAAF service from which the 260:55 were combat hours, during bombing missions over enemy territory in ETO and MTO. He finished his last combat sortie on April 25, 1945, flying with his crew, in a regular mission, instead of flying a milk run in a relatively safe flight. As he wrote in his book, he was a stubborn Greek so he couldn’t do anything different than this. In his individual record file, he wrote after his last mission, “Finito!!” and “Home sweet home”. It was the time for him to leave the view of the Gates of Hell through his Emerson turret and return to his family. (Achilles Kozakis)
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Kozakis family military history tribute. From Top Left and Counterclockwise are, his father Thomas Kozakis, John and Achilles Kozakis along with their father, Milton Kozakis, Nicholas Kozakis and lastly Achilles along with his sister Mary Kozakis. According to Achi's writings to our team:
"My oldest brother Nicholas served in the Army, stationed in Assam India as an armorer, John, 15 months older than me served in the Navy, on a Covet, chasing and sinking submarines in the North Atlantic, Milton, 2 years younger than me was a radio operator on a C-47 with the Paratroopers in the ETO. John, post-war, became a CIA Agent for 30 years and I knew nothing about it!"
It should be noted that although his father immigrated to the United States in 1894 as a small boy he returned back to Greece, along with thousand other Greek Americans, to fight the Turks during the Balkan Wars! Although old enough Thomas, along with Achi's sister Mary and his aunts, uncles, and cousins, did once again his duty for his new country by working in various defense plants, supporting the war effort. (Achilles Kozakis)
Achilles Kozakis participated in every 451st Bomb Group reunions. He was honored as Achi was given a special recognition at the final national reunion in 2008, were he talked about his war experiences, serving in a Bomb Group, three times awarded with the Presidential Unit Citation, which suffered the loss of a third of its strength from heavy AAA fire and enemy fighter attacks, while flying over targets such as Poesti, Regensburg, and Vienna. During this last reunion, he praised for his crew by telling to the reunion participants:
"During the month of July 1945, the crew I loved, which trained and flew combat missions together for the duration of the war dissolved and each member being reassigned brought a void in my life. The bond that forges us together during the stress in combat will last a lifetime. Today I am 84 years old (94 n 2018!) and I am the lone survivor of my beloved crew. The bond remains with me."
Although the reunions of the 451st BG ceased to exist, Achilles Kozakis frequently visits schools, especially during the veterans day, describing his and his fellow airmen actions during WW2, helping the new generation to understand the fights and sacrifices the greatest of the generations made for them to be free! (Achilles Kozakis)
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Both images show 451st Bomb Group B-24 Liberators flying during missions in Central and South Europe. The right one was taken during February 20, 1945, Pola mission in Italy. This was mission No.19 for Aichi and the target was the German naval base, docks, shipping and marshaling yard in Pola, Italy, south of Trieste and southeast of Venice. Over the target all hell broke loose resulting in a damaged No.3 engine in Kozakis plane, causing it to drop from the formation. They were lucky not to get attacked by enemy fighters as their bomber was a strangler. His ship was going to be the lead for the attack and his bombardier Bill Bodie which was the lead bombardier for the mission. After the mission, the intelligence told the crew that Bill made a bullseye hit over their specific target resulting in the total obliteration of the naval base and its surroundings from the 47 tons of bombs, dropped by 451st BG Liberators. Thereafter Bill Bodie was known as 'Dead Eye Bodie'! (National Archives)
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#42-7751 ICE COLD KATIE, 726th #47. An original Group aircraft that was flown overseas by Reuben Lagen's Crew #43. She blew a tire on takeoff on March 21, 1944. by Sen Pancrazio. Sent to Depot 52 for repairs, Returned to the Group on August 20, 1944. Declared Class 26 after Mission #169 Io Odertal, Germany, on December 17, 1944. (B-24 Liberators of the 15th Air Force/49th Bomb Wing in World War II, Michael D. Hill & John R. Beitling, Schiffer Publishing, isbn:9780764324239, 2006)
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#42-78465 PATCHES-THE TIN TAPPERS DELIGHT, 726th #53. Departed the USA un July 10, 1944, and was assigned to the 451st in July. Sustained major flak damage on August 22, 1944. Sent to 60th S.S. for repairs, returning to service on September 5, 1944. Battle damaged again on February 14, 1945, she was repaired and returned to Service on February 23, 1945. She was declared surplus and salvaged on August 6, 1945. (B-24 Liberators of the 15th Air Force/49th Bomb Wing in World War II, Michael D. Hill & John R. Beitling, Schiffer Publishing, isbn:9780764324239, 2006)
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#44-10613 (726th #44). Left for the USA for service in Italy on August 24, 1944. Assigned to the Group replaced #42-52111. Crash landed at Foggia Main on December 11, 1944. Returned to service on January 5, 1945. Retuned in the USA in June. 6, 1945. (B-24 Liberators of the 15th Air Force/49th Bomb Wing in World War II, Michael D. Hill & John R. Beitling, Schiffer Publishing, isbn:9780764324239, 2006)
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"Greg (Achi's son), found this piece of flak vest in my files. I forgot about it and I was flying in the right waist position on that particular mission. I got hit in the chest and it knocked me on my ass, scaring the hell out of me. It was like someone slung a 16-pound sledgehammer and hit me. I was more scared than injured. The flak vest is made of these pieces of steel shale, like a body of a fish. in a canvas cover. I saved this one. Flak comes in all directions, you never know; until it hits you. I was hit 3 times by flak. Lucky me." (Achilles Kozakis)


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105 - 11 -1944145B-24Serayevo Yugoslavia
206 -11 - 1944146B-24Vienna Austria
316 -11 -1944150B-24G-16-NT, #42-78465, '53-T', 'Patches - The Tin Tappers Delight'Munich Germany
417 -11 -1944151B-24Blachhammer Germany
518 -11 -1944152B-24Villafranco Italy
619 -11 -1944047B-24Vienna Austria
720 -11 -1944154B-24Blachhammer Germany
806 - 12 - 1944160B-24Gratz Austria
916 - 12- 1944166B-24Linz Austria
1020 - 12 - 1944171B-24H-5-FO, #42-7751, '47-?', 'Ice Cold Katie'Linz Austria
1125 - 12 - 1944172
B-24Wels Austria
1226 - 12 - 1944173B-24Osweicim Poland
1327 - 12 - 1944174B-24Venzone Italy
1405 - 01 - 1945178B-24Zagreb Yugoslavia
1520 - 01 - 1945182B-24Linz Austria
1601 - 02 -1945184B-24Moosbierbaum Austria
1707 - 02 - 1945186B-24L-15-FO, #44-49876, '56-Z', 'Rhoda-The Rebel'Vienna Austria
1814 - 02 - 1945190B-24Moosbierbaum Austria
1920 - 02 - 1945196B-24H-5-FO, #42-7751, '47-?', 'Ice Cold Katie'Pola Italy
2022 - 02 - 1945198B-24Roseheim Germany
2128 - 02 - 1945204B-24Bolzano Italy
2202 - 03 - 1945206B-24Linz Austria
2304 - 03 - 1945207B-24Graz Austria
2421 - 03 - 1945217B-24Bruck Austria
2526 - 03 - 1945222B-24Straszhof Austria
2602 - 04 - 1945226B-24St. Polten Austria
2705 - 04 - 1945227B-24Brescia Italy
2809 - 04 - 1945231B-24J-70-CF, #44-10613, '44-D', (613)Area Apple Italy
2910 - 04 - 1945232B-24 '30-D'Area Baker Italy
3019 - 04 - 1945239B-24Avisio Italy
3120 - 04 - 1945240B-24Lusia, Italy
3221 - 04 - 1945241B-24Pucheim Austria
3323 - 04 - 1945242B-24Badia Italy
3424 - 04 - 1945243B-24Rovereto Italy
3525 - 04 - 1945245B-24G-16-NT, #42-78465, '53-T', 'Patches - The Tin Tappers Delight'Linz Austria



Achilles Kozakis

451st Bombardment Group Archives from AFHRA (Air Force History Research Agency)

726th Bomber Squadron Archives from AFHRA (Air Force History Research Agency)

National Archives

B-24 Liberators of the 15th AF / 49th BW in WWII, Michael D. Hill, and John R. Beitling, Schiffer Publishing, isbn: 9780764324239, 2006.





Special Thanks to the official 451st BG historian Jonathan Tudor and AFHRA officer, Tammy Horton Civ. USAF AFHRA/RSR