344th Bomber Squadron / 98th Bombardment Group



Staff Sergeant Argery Harry Kavafes, son of Greek immigrants, was born in Long Island, New York, on November 18, 1921. His father, Alexandros Argyriou Kavafes, was born on August 20, 1885, in the Forty Churches (Kirk Kilisse) in Eastern Thrace. This city is in the European part of Turkey, near the border with Bulgaria, and today is known as Kirk Areli. The emergence of the Turkish Nationalism movement in 1908 and the policies of intimidation that began to be applied against Christians, forced many Greek people living in that area to immigrate. The then 25-year-old Alexander left for the United States, looking for a better future across the Atlantic. On May 20, 1910, he arrived in New York, where he settled permanently, working as a shoemaker. After years of hard work, he finally managed to open his own shoe store in Queens, New York. On December 19, 1920, he married his wife Chrysoula (Chressy Spyridon), her heritage also was from the Forty Churches (translated in Greek as Saranta Eklessies). It is worthy to note that after the population exchange in 1923, most of the city's inhabitants settled in Central Macedonia and Western Thrace, in Northern Greece, while many emigrated to the United States. In Thessaloniki, the refugees founded a settlement with the same name, and among them were many uprooted members of the Kavafes and Spyridon families. The couple during their married life had a total of four children, who in order of birth were Argery (1921), Spyros (1923), Despina (1926), and Virginia (1929). Argery Kavafes graduated in 1939, from Bryant High School, Long Island, and during his young age, he was very popular among his peers, due to his good character. One of his childhood friends, Ted Otis, who later married his sister Despina (Dessi), narrated about their childhood and adolescence years: 

"I first met Argery in 1933 71 years ago when he came to visit his aunt Melanthes who lived on the same block that my family lived on 41st street in sunny side. I was told to go and meet him and flay with him because he was a stranger in the neighborhood and did not know anyone. I went to Melanthes apartment and there he stood on the top of the stairs in his new suit, knickers, and tie. To tell you the truth I was not impressed. he was too well dressed for me. Sometime later that same year I met his brother Spiro who was closer to my age, and we became staunch friends throughout life. But Argery was always there in the background. Let's advance a few years and we were all living in the south Bronx in the same neighborhood. I was still pals with Spiro but Argery was always there. He had friends one of whom was Sammy, and don't remember the other one and they started to work out weightlifting. They were very much into it, and they even took pictures taken of themselves in exotic poses with their greased shiny bodies. I was a frequent visitor to their apartment on the top floor and there was always a little something for me to eat. One of Argery's idiosyncrasies was that he loves his milk. He would wake up early in the morning and get to the milk bottle and drink the cream from the top of the bottle. This infuriated his sisters."


While the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, on December 7, 1941, took place, Argery worked for the "KOUMAS BROTHERS FURRIERS". This business was owned by brothers Michael and Konstandinos Koumas, who were originally from Kastoria and were involved in the fur trade. On October 2, 1942, the young Greek American received a telegram ordering him to present himself at Fort Jay, New York, where the 1st Army Headquarters was located. In the information form, he wrote about his preference to serve in the United States Army Air Force (USAAF) as a pilot. However, according to the regulations in force in 1942, Argery could not enter the ranks of officers, because he had no college education. Therefore, could not become a pilot, which was a specialty assigned only to officers. Although he wanted to be a fighter pilot, he chose to continue his service as a Radio Operator Gunner, believing that even in that way he would have the opportunity to shoot down an enemy aircraft. At the end of April 1943, he graduated with the rank of Sergeant having successfully completed the appropriate courses. He was then transferred to Biggs Army Air Force Base in Texas, where he was attached to the 458th Squadron of the 330th Bombardment Group, joining the crew of Lieutenant John M Repp. The training flights started almost immediately and soon Kavafes and his colleagues would get a first taste of the dangers that a crew could face at any given time. On July 9, 1943, while performing a navigational training flight, with their B-24E 42-7124, they almost faced death. During the flight, the aircraft suffered a sudden failure, losing three engines, which stopped operating due to the malfunction of the fuel pumps. Using only the No.4 engine, Lieutenant Repp ordered the men to jump out with their parachutes near the town of Alamogordo, New Mexico. Kavafes was one of the last to leave and almost failed to do so. As he was trying to get out from the open window of the right waist gunner position, the B-24E began violently rocking left and right, causing the young airman to hit almost everywhere inside the fuselage. Before he could jump out, he felt as if an invisible hand suddenly grabbed him and threw him forcefully backward. Terrified, he got up again, trying to go to the window opposite him. Fortunately, this time, the violent shaking of the fuselage pushed him forward, causing his body to pass through the large window and free in the sky. As soon as he landed, he untied the parachute straps and lay on the ground for a few minutes, trying to calm down and regain his breath. All 10 crew members managed to escape, while the aircraft crashed to the ground and exploded. 

In August 1943, having completed their operational training, they were transferred to the 98th Bombardment Group. At that time the 98th was operating on the North African front. Lieutenant John M Repp and his crew arrived at Lete airfield in Libya on September 12, 1943, located 10 km east of Benghazi. There they were attached to the 344th Bombardment Squadron and soon assigned them their personal aircraft. It was the B-24D with serial number 41-11803, which bore the letter ‘K’ for identification purposes. It was christened as ‘ROSIE WRECKED 'EM"’ and was formerly flown by Lieutenant Herbert Arens, carrying the letter 'E', on both tales. During their first days in the squadron, the new crews listened with awe to their veteran colleagues, recounting their experiences of the August 1, 1943, raid on oil refineries in Ploiesti, Romania. Although only a month and a half had passed since Operation Tidal Wave, its repercussions were still strong among the men who had taken part in the mission. They all said they were proud to have hit such a target, depriving Axis forces of valuable fuel. However, the American bombers paid a high price as only 21 of the 47 bombers involved, had been able to return safely. On September 18, 1943, the crew received their baptism of fire, participating in a bombing mission against the marshaling yards in Pescara, in central Italy. In this first mission, Argery manned the position of left waist gunner. According to the report submitted by Lieutenant Repp, the bombs hit a 100-foot-long train, while there was no anti-aircraft fire, nor did they meet with enemy pursuit. Two days later, on September 20, they flew a bombing mission against a railway bridge south of Grosseto in Italy, but no major casualties were reported. This time Argery manned the ball turret, with the twin 0.50-inch machine guns. No other combat sortie was flown until the end of the month as the 344th Bombardment Squadron was ordered to relocate to Benina airfield on the outskirts of Benghazi. Once the relocation was completed, the new missions assigned to the Group, during the first ten days of October, concerned exclusively targets in Greece.

Argery poses next to a B-24D wearing his earphones, during his training as a radio operator. However, in most of his missions, he flew as a ball turret gunner and waist gunner. (Gary Kavafes Archive)
The photo was taken at Biggs Army Airfield in Texas in the early summer of 1943. Kavafes and his colleagues are posing smiling after completing another training flight. However, things didn't always go as planned. On July 9, 1943, during a navigation exercise with the B-24E, 42-7124, 2nd Lt Repp's crew came very close to death, for the first time in their tour of duty. During the flight, the aircraft suffered a sudden failure, losing three engines, which stopped operating due to the malfunction of the fuel pumps. Using only the No.4 engine, 2nd Lt Repp ordered his men to bail out with their parachutes near the town of Alamogordo, New Mexico. Sgt Kavafes was one of the last who jumped out and saved the last minute. Standing from left to right: Sgt John H. Hoh (Gunner), Sgt Argery H. Kavafes (Gunner), Sgt Howard C. Brown (Gunner), Sgt Leonard J. Majcher (Gunner), Sgt Max A. Glandbard (Gunner), S.Sgt Lester A. Hildebrand (Gunner). Kneeling from left to right: 2nd Lt Joseph Murphy (Bombardier), 2nd Lt John M. Repp (Pilot), 2nd Lt James M. Rosenblum (Navigator), 2nd Lt Burton R. Dayharsh (Co-Pilot). (Gary Kavafes and Sara Repp Archive)
The Sperry ball turret was used on both the B-17 Flying Fortress and the B-24 Liberator as well as the Navy's PB4Y Liberator. The B-17's Sperry was not retractable. The Liberator's ground clearance was minimal and so a hoist was required to lift the turret into the airframe. The Sperry ball turret could spin 360 degrees, making it impractical to store much ammunition outside the turret. Small ammo boxes rested on the top of the turret and the remaining ammo belts were stowed in the already cramped turret by means of an elaborate feed chute system. (via https://www.liberatorcrew.com)


The landing of the Allies in Sicily and their invasion of mainland Italy resulted in the fall of Mussolini from power and the unconditional surrender of Italy on September 8, 1943. The British, immediately after the Italian capitulation and the surrender of the Italian Fleet, tried to occupy the Dodecanese in the Aegean sea, which had now fallen into the hands of the Germans. Initially, they managed to take control of Kos, but on October 3, the Germans invaded the island. The Americans tried to help the British by bombing the airports held by the Germans in the area of ​​Athens, while also hitting the port of Piraeus and targets in Crete. So, the Liberators of the 98th Bombardment Group were ordered to hit the airfields in Tatoi, Eleusis, in the Athens area as well as Kastelli and Heraklion, in Crete. At dawn, on October 4, 1943, Staff Sergeant Argery Kavafes, felt his heart pounding while entering the briefing room, seeing a large map of Greece hanging on the wall. As soon as the men took their seats, the Group Operations Officer climbed to the podium and a deathly silence spread throughout the room. Pointing to Athens on the map, with an elongated wooden ruler, the officer announced in a thunderous voice:  

"Gentlemen! The target for today, Menidi Aerodrome!" 

The silence was interrupted for a moment by whispers and comments, especially from pilots, who until then had taken part in combat missions against Souda, Maleme, Navarino, and the Isthmus of Corinth. Everyone knew that the anti-aircraft protection in the greater Athens area would be strong, due to the existence of the three airfields and the port of Piraeus. After being informed in detail about the bombing of the Tatoi airfield in the Menidi area, the men immediately left for the flight line. The take-off for 28 aircraft taking part on the mission started at 07:00 and soon Lieutenant John M. Repp’s B-24D, "ROSIE WRECKED 'EM", was one of the first in the air. Arriving off the coast of Libya, they met with eighteen Liberators from the 376th Bombardment Group, undertaking the same mission and together they headed north. Visibility in the target area was good and as the formation approached over Athens, flying at 20,000 feet, Argery began anxiously searching the sky for the appearance of German fighters. Nervously squeezing the machine gun in his hands, he glanced at the ground, trying in vain to see the Acropolis, but the first explosions of the anti-aircraft fires made him crouch in his position. The Germans responded with a heavy barrage of fire, which, although accurate regarding the height nevertheless concentrated a little further away from the formation's B-24Ds. The north side of the Tatoi airfield (Menidi) was soon covered by bomb blasts. The runway was repeatedly hit, while four direct blows were observed to the aircraft hangars, one of them disappeared in a large explosion. A bomb also hit the airport headquarters, while of the 40 more or less Me-110 fighters stationed in the dispersal areas, four caught fire and were destroyed. There were no losses or casualties amongst the bombers and six B-24s, equipped with cameras, took several shots for the photos to be analyzed later. Lieutenant Repp said that the bombs of his aircraft hit the area of ​​the hangars and the area of ​​the dispersals which were covered by explosions, smoke, and dust clouds. Two bombs struck the bomb bays, but he later managed to drop them over the sea.

The next day, Kavafes and the rest of the crew flew again with the "ROSIE WRECKED 'EM" and bombed the Eleusis airfield. A total of 42 aircraft from the 376th and 98th Bomb Groups emptied their deadly cargo over the runway and the facilities north of the airfield. Like Tatoi, so in Eleusis, about 40-50 twin-engine aircraft were again located in the dispersal areas. Most of them had twin tails and were identified as Me-110. This time the Germans were better prepared, and the bomber formation was intercepted by nine Me-109Gs, which had taken off from the airport in Kalamaki (Hasani). During the air battle, six B-24Ds were hit, one of them seriously, but despite the damage they suffered, they managed to return to their base. "ROSIE WRECKED 'EM" received some frontal attacks, from "12 o'clock", however, the defensive fire of the gunners from the bombers hit two Me-109G, which appeared to be crashing into the sea. Shortly afterward, the bomber was attacked three more times, from their "6 o'clock". Two Me-109Gs approached in close range and fired from 500 and 300 yards, inflicting some hits before disengaging. Kavafes spent 60 rounds of ammunition, firing on one of the Messerschmitts, but did not claim any success. The formation's machine gunners were credited with a total of three confirmed victories. On October 6, no missions were carried out and the crews took the opportunity to rest and unwind for a while from the war stress. The next four days were going to be "hot", as the officers of the 12th Air Force planned to strike the Luftwaffe airfields in Crete.

Standing from left to right: Sgt John H. Hoh (Gunner), Sgt Argery H. Kavafes (Gunner), Sgt Howard C. Brown (Gunner), Sgt Leonard J. Majcher (Gunner), Sgt Max A Glandbard (Gunner), S.Sgt Lester A. Hildebrand (Gunner). Kneeling from left to right: 2nd Lt Joseph Murphy (Bombardier), 2nd  Lt John M. Repp (Pilot), 2nd Lt James M. Rosenblum (Navigator), 2nd Lt. Burton R. Dayharsh (Co-Pilot). During the combat missions in a period of seven months, the roster of the original crew changed several times as at least three men were wounded by anti-aircraft fire and attacks of German fighters and replaced. Glandbard left after the first 1 or 2 missions for reasons that are not specified. Rosenblum and Brown were wounded in different missions and left, while Hildebrand was probably killed or seriously wounded around his 12th mission. Some of their replacements also had a similar fate. No further details are known about Kavafes's injury. (Gary Kavafes Archive)
Kav 7
The B-24D 41-11803, 'ROSIE WRECKED 'EM', was the first bomber assigned to Lieutenant John M. Repp's crew as soon as they joined the 344th BS. By November 2, 1943, Kavafes had flown a total of 13 combat missions. In the nine of them, he had flown with 41-11803. On November 2, the aircraft was damaged by enemy fire on a bombing mission in Wiener Neustadt, Austria. Lieutenant Repp managed to force-land it on Lake Lesina near Foggia, Italy. After this incident, the aircraft was repaired and transferred to the 376th BG. (http://www.b24bestweb.com/rosiewreckedem1.htm)
Left: Some of the crewmen of the B-24D 'ROWDY ANN' pose in front of the nose-art of the aircraft. The gunners that flew on missions with the crew of Captain John M Repp, achieved 8 confirmed victories and 4 probable. They also shared one or two more victories with the gunners of other crews, while with their defensive fires they caused some damages, to an unspecified number of German fighters. (Sara Repp Archive)
Right: In mid-April 1944, it was decided that B-24D 41-23656, ‘ROWDY ANN’ would be flown to the United States for a nationwide tour to raise money from the sale of war bonds. The aircraft was transferred to the facilities of the Ogden Air Service Command in Utah. The technicians who examined the aircraft, during the general inspection, were surprised by his "wounds". In addition to the 114 bombing missions and the 18 "kill markings" that was painted on its nose, this particular B-24D bore the marks of at least 200 patched holes, which had been caused by flak and machine-gun bullets and cannon shells. During the inspection, a 2-inch-diameter hole was discovered in the shield of one of the self-sealing fuel tanks, and the forgotten fragment was removed. (Sara Repp Archive)
The depicted B-24D 41-23656, 'L', 'ROWDY ANN', was assigned to the crew of Lt John M. Repp, on November 19, 1943. S.Sgt Kavafes and his colleagues flew with this aircraft 21 combat missions at least. In the air raid against Ploesti on April 5, 1944, the aircraft suffered severe damage. After its repair, it was transferred to the 376th Bombardment Group, but there it was used only to transport veterans to the US, who had completed their service at the front. The swastikas that are painted on the nose of the bomber, are the air victories that were achieved by the gunners of the crews that flew with it. The last "kill marking" painted was about the downing of an Fw-190, achieved by S.Sgt Argery H. Kavafes, over Ploesti, on April 5, 1944. (Copyright Bertrand Brown aka Gaetan Marie)

On October 7, 1943, the target assigned to the 98th BG was the German airport in Kastelli. A total of 24 bombers took part in the mission, and this time Kavafes and the rest of the crew flew with the B-24D xx-xx023, 'D', which hit the runway with nine 500-pound bombs. The anti-aircraft fire was accurate, in terms of the height and direction of the aircraft, but there were no losses. On October 8, 22 bombers strike Crete once more, this time bombing the German airfield in Heraklion, trying to make the runways non-operative. Lieutenant Repp's crew flew again with ‘023D’, however, he was forced to drop all the bombs (salvo), due to damage to the intervalometer on the bomb panel. During the raid, several hits were observed at the intersections of the runways. Two fuel and ammunition depots were also hit and set on fire. The next day, the 98th BG bombed the same target for the second time. The "023D" bombs, hit the crossroad of the runways and some exploded between three aircraft. During the de-briefing, Kavafes and his colleagues reported that they located some cannon positions on the ground, which were dug on the rocky shore. They also mentioned the existence of another airfield, which was not on the map, at 3515N and 2513E. It was probably the landing field in Tympaki. On October 10, the target was again the northern part of the runways in Heraklion airfield, but this time the dense cloud layer affected the accuracy of the bombing, and the results could not be ascertained. In the following days, the USAAF staff focused on targets in Italy and Central Europe. On October 13, the 344th Bombardment Squadron relocated from Benina, Libya, to Hergla Airport, 90 km southwest of Tunis. From there they flew four more times until the end of the month, bombing various targets in Italy and Austria. In all these combat sorties they flew the B-24D, ‘803K’, 'ROSIE WRECKED 'EM’ which had now been repaired, after the damage it had suffered a few days ago, during the raid on Eleusis.


On November 2, 1943, Staff Sergeant Kavafes and his colleagues took part in one of the most difficult and adventurous missions of their tour. The 98th Bombardment Group took off 26 aircraft which, in collaboration with the 99th Bombardment Group B-17Gs, would bomb the huge industrial complex at Wiener Neustadt, 50 km away south of Vienna. Their target was a factory that made fuselages for the Me-109s. Also, in the various factories in the greater area the famous Panzer tanks and the Me-110 fighters were manufactured, while there were also repair shops for the Junkers bombers. The mission did not start well as seven Liberators were forced to abort due to technical problems and bad weather. Above the target, the flak was intense and accurate and Kavafes saw with horror a B-24D receiving a direct hit and disintegrated in the air without survivors. Through the ball turret, he watched in awe the anti-aircraft fire, while on the ground he could see the smoke and the explosions of the bombs, which were leveling buildings and facilities. During the return flight, the Luftwaffe's fighters hit the American bombers. A group of about 40-50 Me-109s and Fw-190s attacked them, initially from the right side, at "3 o'clock". In the formation of the B-24D dozens of machine guns turned towards them, firing a barrage of bullets. As the German fighters opened fire, thousands of tracers began flying through the sky in all directions. A Me-109G dived from above at "8 o'clock" firing at the B-24D, '803 K' and some bullets pierced the fuselage and the wings of the bomber. As the fighter kept closing the gunner in the mid-upper turret, Staff Sergeant John E Hoh, fired 50 rounds, some of which hit the fuel tank. The 109 suddenly exploded in the air and disintegrated into pieces, wrapped in an orange glow of a fire and black smoke. The intercom was overwhelmed by the screams and excitement of the men, but Lieutenant Repp drew their attention, ordering them to continue pointing their guns to their targets, indicating position-height-direction, for each enemy fighter approached them. Meanwhile, Staff Sergeant Kavafes seating inside the all-metal spherical ball turret continued to rotate in all directions, firing with his two 0.50 inches machine guns against those German pilots who crossed the formation vertically. Another Me-109G attacked the B-24D ‘803 K’ from the rear hemisphere, high at "6 o'clock", firing furiously, but received the defensive fire from the gunners and exploded. The stricken fighter passed under the belly of the bomber, entering the sights of the Greek American gunner, who fired a long burst against him. The attacks continued for 35 minutes and then the German pilots withdrew. Another B-24D appeared to enter a slight descent and fall out of the formation, leaving behind a thin line of smoke. The B-24D "FINITO BENITO" had managed to bomb the target but a little later received a hit in the empty bomb bay. The blast created a huge hole near the junction with the wings, destroying the top of the fuselage! Five parachutes were seen open in the sky and immediately after the hit the aircraft was cut in half. At the end of the air battle, the gunners claimed 7 confirmed kills and 3 more as probables. Argery had fired 350 bullets, claiming a probable victory against a Me-109G

Bombs, dropped by planes of 98th Bomb Group, burst on Eleusis Airdrome, Athens, Greece,  September 1944. S.Sgt Kavafes took part in two bombing missions against the specific airfield on October 5 and December 6, 1943. The three large hangars and the aircraft in the dispersal area stand out from the scene. These are probably Junkers-52 transports. During one of these missions, S.Sgt saw for the first time and at a close distance the famous Me-109G and fired his guns against it. (Gary Kavafes Archive)
Two Greek Americans of the 344th Bomb Squadron pose together. The photo was probably taken at Lecce airfield in Italy in mid-May 1944. S.Sgt Argery H. Kavafes (right) poses with 2nd Lt. Nicholas J Stathakis (left), who as command pilot of a B -24, has just arrived in Squadron with his crew. Kavafes was at the time waiting for his written order to return home, while Stathakis had an uncertain future ahead of him, with the task of fulfilling a difficult duty of 50 combat missions. However, he managed to survive and in early 1945 completed his tour and returned to the United States, as a decorated veteran. (Gary Kavafes Archive)

As the stricken '803 K' began to move away from the target it was obvious that it would not be able to reach its base in Hergla, Tunisia. The damage suffered by the anti-aircraft fire and the fighter attacks was serious, but Argery and the rest of the crew did not want to parachute over the Adriatic Sea. Their memories from the accident they faced back in the United States four months ago were still fresh. In addition, the left waist gunner, Staff Sergeant Howard C. Brown, was seriously injured by a fragment and needed medical treatment. Arriving off the coast of central Italy, Lieutenant Repp decided to make an emergency landing. He managed to land the ‘803 K’ at a shallow point of Lake Lesina, which is located a few kilometers northeast of Foggia. Unfortunately, the 98th Bombardment Group battle report, apart from the name of the lake, does not provide further details about the incident. The crew was taken later to a nearby Allied airport, where it was picked up the next day by Lieutenant Andrew M. Shappell B-24D and returned to their base. By that time (November 2, 1943) Kavafes had put 13 missions in his assets. In 9 of them, he had flown with ‘803 K’. Although the extent of the damage suffered is not known, it is certain that after this mission, the B-24D 41-11803, 'K', "ROSIE WRECKED 'EM", was removed from the 98th BG inventory. It was later transferred to the 376th Bombardment Group (February 1944).  On November 19, a new Liberator was assigned to the crew. It was the B-24D, 41-23656, 'L' "ROWDY ANN"' with which they flew four missions till the end of the month. On November 22, the 344th Bombardment Squadron left Tunisia and settled at Brindisi Air Base in southeastern Italy. On December 6 and 14, Kavafes flew over Greece again, taking part in two more missions against the airfields of Eleusis and Tatoi. During the first one, a Me-109G attacked the "ROWDY ANN", diving from above at "11 o'clock". The navigator, Lieutenant James M. Rosenblum, using one of nose machine guns, fired at him but did not notice any hits. The Messerschmitt, having been aligned at the same height as the B-24D, disengaged by diving below and Argyris through the ball turret, only took a glance of the dark silhouette of the Me-109 with the white spinner of the propeller. The P-38s escorting the bombers engaged the German fighters, shooting down two of them. In the second mission, the dense clouds (10/10) above the Athens sky, forced the bombers in Kavafes formation to return to their base in Brindisi.
On December 19, 1943, the target assigned to the 98th Wing was Messerschmitt's aircraft manufacturing plant in Augsburg, Bavaria. Once again, the Greek American gunner and his colleagues would face death and the cruelty of the war. Flying 30 miles southeast of Augsburg the formation took its first anti-aircraft fire. The dense cloud cover in the area of ​​the factories reached 10/10 and forced the aircraft to turn to their secondary target. But once again the bad weather forced them to blind bombing. Shortly afterward they were attacked by 20 Me-109Gs, 15 Fw-190s, and 20 Me-110s, which attacked from above from every direction. Some Ju-88s suddenly appeared and fired rockets that exploded in the middle of the formation. Three B-24Ds were hit by fighters and crashed into flames. Kavafes in his ball turret claimed a probably destroyed Me-109G, which headed for the clouds wounded. The rest of the crew claimed three confirmed kills. Right waist gunner T / Sgt Leonard J. Majcher spotted a pair of Me-109s attacking a B-24D and fired at one with a short burst. The Me-109 half-rolled and dived to the ground emitting smoke. The upper turret gunner Seargent John E. Hoh reported an attack of a Me-109, which was diving against them from "5:30". He immediately engaged the target by firing a long burst of 80 rounds from his twin 0.50-inch guns. The Me-109, having reached literally just at a breathing distance from the bomber, exploded at 150 yards (140 meters) and was wrapped in a fireball. A Ju-88 approached from the left side at "9 o'clock" but was hit by the combined fire of the gunners of "ROWDY ANN". The massive twin-engine fighter rolled and dived to the ground, leaving behind a line of black smoke, with Kavafes and the other gunner continuing to fire at him. Tail gunner Richard P. Wallace was confronted with a Me-109 which started firing from 300 yards. Wallace fired a shot of 50 rounds, hitting his engine, which was engulfed in flames. The fighter pulled up but after a while lost speed, and started to fell off on its tail. Argery watched in awe the sky around him, which was filled with burning aircraft and tracers. Suddenly his eyes spot two B-24Ds flying lower to the right of the formation. The two aircraft collided with each other and the wing of a B-24D began to disintegrate as the bomber fell to the ground. This was the last action of the air battle. Finally, the crew of Lieutenant Repp, which had taken off at 07:10, managed to return safely to its base in Brindisi, at 15:25, after 8 hours of flight. His men managed to survive once again, flying on a mission with terrible weather conditions, deadly anti-aircraft fire, and savage fighter attacks.

The two pilots of Kavafes' crew, pose together. The pilot 2nd Lt. John M. Repp (left) and the co-pilot 2nd Lt. Burton R. Dayharsh (right) were a great team. They flew together most of their approximately 50 missions, mainly with the B-24D 41-11803, 'ROSIE WRECKED 'EM', and the B-24D 41-23656, 'ROWDY ANN'. Although both aircraft were frequently damaged by anti-aircraft fire and attacks by German fighters, they always managed to bring them and the crew back to their base safely. (Sara Repp Archives)
Bomb damage to Kalamaki Airdrome, Athens, Greece after a raid by planes of the 98th Bomb Group. September 1944. (National Archives 78018AC)


On January 17, 1944, the 98th Bombardment Group relocated to Lecce Airport and the missions continued without stopping. It was now part of the 15th Fifteenth Air Force and its crews continued to hit targets in Italy, the Balkans, Austria, Germany, and France. Argery and the rest of the crew were now an experienced crew, with 33 missions to their credit. On February 22, they flew for the first time as a "Lead Crew", leading the formation of the 344th Squadron on a successful bombing of an aircraft factory in Regensburg, Bavaria. The "ROWDY ANN", although hit by anti-aircraft fire, nevertheless suffered only minor damage. As it was moving away from the target, it was attacked by twenty Me-110s which, after launching some rockets against the formation, then attacked from "3 o'clock" and "7 o'clock". Kavafes manning the ball turret, saw several times his tracers hit the fuselage and wings of some Messerschmitts but did not claim any kills. On the contrary, the radio operator, Staff Sergeant Leonard J. Majcher, managed to shoot down a Me-110 while the tail gunner, Staff Sergeant Richard P. Wallace, claimed another Me-110 as probable. Early next month, on March 2 and 7, Kavafes flew two more missions at German artillery positions in Cisterno and a railroad station in Poggibonsi, central Italy. For the next three weeks, Kavafes did not take part in any mission. He may have been injured and hospitalized, or he may have been on leave. The records of the 98th Bombardment Group show that during this time, the crew of Lieutenant John M. Repp continued to fly normally on missions, but the name of the Greek American gunner was not on the crew list. Finally, on March 30, Argery returned to action, flying with his colleagues in the B-24D "ROWDY ANN", in a bombing mission against the marshaling yards in Sofia, Bulgaria. The target was covered in thick smoke and the crew bombed a building complex, in the residential area of ​​the city, in which a huge explosion was observed. It was found during the de-briefing that it was a fuel or ammunition depot, which exploded. A little later a Me-109 attacked them from "6 o'clock" low, but the well-aimed fire of the tail gunner, Staff Sergent Richard P. Wallace, seriously damaged it and forced the pilot to disengage. The fighter flew away followed by the tracers of Kavafes who manned the right waist guns and Seferino A Troncoso, who manned the ball turret.
In the air raid against Ploesti on April 5, 1944, Argery logged his 41st mission. The veteran airman has always proudly referred to the fact that he had flown against one of the most "tough" targets in Europe. From June 1942 to August 1944, USAAF carried out 25 air raids against Ploesti, while RAF carried out three more. The ‘ROWDY ANN’ that day, was placed in position No.3, in the Squadron that would lead the formation. The targets assigned to them were the city's railway station while other formations, in collaboration with the 450th Bombardment Group, would hit the oil refineries. The smokescreen was ineffective, and bombers successfully dropped their bombs, despite the heavy anti-aircraft fire. Soon two huge flames appeared to burn down the Phoenix Orion Oil Refineries. Fuel storage tanks appeared to be shaking in the air and a sky-high column of dense black smoke had reached a height of 15,000 feet. The B-24D was about to leave the area of ​​the flak when suddenly some shells exploded nearby. Fragments pierced the aircraft from nose to tail and the left wing was severely hit. The left aileron became non-operable and suddenly, dozens of dark spots appeared in the sky, high at "12 o'clock", rapidly approaching the formation. It was a group of 60-70 Luftwaffe fighters consisting mainly of Me-110, Fw-190, Me-109, and a few Ju-88 and Me-210. 

The German pilots acted in two groups. In the beginning, about 30 Fw-190s and Me-109s carried out two massive attacks, attacking head-on from above high at "12 o'clock", firing furiously with all their weapons. They were then split into pairs and began attacking from every direction. Three B-24s were shot down by these attacks and 12-18 parachutes appeared to open in the sky. Lieutenant James M. Rosenblum who in previous missions had been credited with the confirmed kill of a Me-109 and one more probable for a twin-engine Me-210, this time was not lucky. Severely injured by shrapnel, he fell to the floor of the aircraft covered in blood while the bombardier Lieutenant Joseph T. Murphy rushed to him. Meanwhile, Kavafes manning the right waist gun calmly targeted an Fw-190 which was diving against them from "3 o'clock". Holding the 0.50-inch Browning grips tightly with both hands, he let it get close and then squeezed the trigger with his thumbs, firing a long burst of 5 seconds. Some tracers appeared to hit the Fw-190 engine which exploded, and soon engulfed in flames. At the rear of the bomber, the tail and ball turret gunners watched in amazement as the Fw-190 dived to the ground like a comet. The left waist gunner Staff Seargent Troncoso, with whom Argery fighting back to back, patted him on the shoulder and said with a smile:  

"Good job Arge." 

The Greek American gunner finally achieved his first confirmed victory and had every reason to be satisfied. After their return to the base, Lieutenant John M. Repp noted in his report:  
"Anti-aircraft fire over target, moderate accurate and aimed. Lieutenant Rosenblum was injured. S/Sgt Kavafes shot down one enemy aircraft. Severe damage to the left-wing of aircraft. "ROWDY ANN" rides no more."

On April 15, 1944, Kavafes reached the magical number of 50 combat missions, thus completing a long and difficult tour at the Mediterranean and European Theater of Operations. He actually flew in 44 combat missions, but some of them were considered double missions, due to their long duration, which sometimes exceeded 9-10 hours. He had logged more than 300 combat hours to his credit, having been credited with one confirmed kill of an Fw-190 and the two probable kills of Me-109s. For his actions, he was awarded the Air Medal with 8 Oak Leaf Clusters, the Purple Heart, the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, and many more medals. In these seven months of action, the original crew composition changed several times, as three men were injured by anti-aircraft fire and fighter attacks and replaced. Captain Repp flew in addition 2-3 missions, seconded to other crews, as "Lead Crew". After his promotion on April 16, he took over for a period of time administrative duties in the 344th Bombing Squadron. Kavafes returned to the United States on May 30, 1944. One would expect that the veteran gunner would spend the rest of the war in a USAAF Unit, training new enlisted men. Nevertheless, Argery, taking advantage of the abolition of the regulation, which required college studies from anyone who wanted to become a pilot, decided to pursue his old dream and asked to be trained as a fighter pilot. So, after 9 months of training, he received his wings but did not manage to be sent to the front, for a second tour of duty, because World War II came to an end. At that time, the young pilot was at his operational training, but unfortunately, it is not known with which type of fighter he flew. The loss of his logbook made our research more difficult. After the end of the war, Argery retired on September 25, 1945. During his civilian life, he initially worked as a radio technician for the Columbia Broadcasting Company and from there moved to WCAU TV in Philadelphia where he worked until his retirement. On November 18, 1950, he married his beloved Gloria Mates Kavafes in the Greek Orthodox Church of St. Demetrius in New York. The couple had two children Denise and Gary and five great-grandchildren. The veteran WW2 gunner died on October 27, 2004, in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, at the age of 83.

L to R: Captain John M Repp and S.Sgt Argery Harry Kavafes pose along with two other colleagues, upon their return to the US. (Gary Kavafes Archive)
S.Sgt Argery Kavafes poses on the wing of a Boeing PT-17 Stearman training aircraft. The photo was probably taken in early 1945. After completing his combat duty and returning to the United States, Argery was informed that the regulation requiring college studies had been abolished, for anyone who wanted to become a pilot. So, he decided to pursue his old dream and asked to be trained as a fighter pilot. However, he did not manage to be sent to the front, for a second tour of duty, because World War II had come to an end. (Gary Kavafes Archive)
Argery H. Kavafes poses during his training as Aviation Cadet. On the left side of his uniform, he wears the wings of Radio Operator Gunner and the medals he received, during his first combat tour at the Mediterranean and European Theater of Operations. In his cap stands out the Aviation Cadet's badge. The wings intersect by a vertical two-blade propeller.  (Gary Kavafes Archive)
S.Sgt Argery Kavafes poses happily with his sister, Despina shortly after completing his tour of duty and returning back to the United States. (Gary Kavafes Archive)
The medals and memorabilia of the veteran aviator which his children hold as precious items, for them to remember their father's service with pride. (Gary Kavafes Archive)
S.Sgt Argery Kavafes poses happily with his sisters, Despina and Virginia, shortly after completing his tour of duty and returning back to the United States. (Gary Kavafes Archive)


October 5, 1943, above Eleusis. B-24 Liberators of the 98th and 376th Bombardment Squadrons took off from Benghazi to hit German targets near Eleusis Airfield. The take-off began around 11:00 local time and the arrival at the destination took place at 14:15. The drawing shows the last B-24D team of section B (right side of the formation) shortly before being attacked by the JG 27 ace, Heinrich Bartels with his BF-109G-6. Bartels fired first at the B-24D 41-24035, '72' "GREMLIN", which will explode in the air, and immediately afterward he attacked the B-24D 42-40206,' 64 ', "EIGHT BALL" which will be dropped a little later. The Bartels' plane is marked "Marga" (after Margo's wife's name) on the left side of the fuselage, under the hood. In his rudder, the 51 kills that had been confirmed until October 5 can be seen. The three B-24D bombers in the picture are from left to right, 42-72843, '24', "STRAWBERRY BITCH" (survived the war and exhibited in a Museum), 42-40206, '64', "EIGHT BALL" and 41-24035, '72' "GREMLIN". Kavafes was lucky as his plane was not targeted by one of the most capable German Luftwaffe pilots of the war. (Copyright George Moris)

114518 - 09 -1943B-24D, #41-11803, 'K', 'Rosie Wrecked 'Em'Marshaling Yards,
Pescara, Italy
214620 - 09 -1943B-24D, #41-11803, 'K', 'Rosie Wrecked 'Em'Railroad Bridge,
Grosetto, Italy
314801 - 10 -1943B-24D, #41-11803, 'K', 'Rosie Wrecked 'Em'Airframe work factory,
Wiener Neustadt, Austria
414904 - 10 -1943B-24D, #41-11803, 'K', 'Rosie Wrecked 'Em' Menidi Airfield,
515005 - 10 -1943B-24D, #xx-xx023, 'D'Eleusis Airfield,
615107 - 10 -1943B-24D, #xx-xx023, 'D'Kastelli Airfield,
Crete, Greece
715208 - 10 -1943B-24D, #xx-xx023, 'D'Heraklion Airfield,
Crete, Greece
815309 - 10 -1943B-24D, #xx-xx023, 'D'Heraklion Airfield,
Crete, Greece
915410 - 10 -1943B-24D, #41-11803, 'K', 'Rosie Wrecked 'Em'Heraklion Airfield,
Crete, Greece
1015514 - 10 -1943B-24D, #41-11803, 'K', 'Rosie Wrecked 'Em'Railroad Bridge,
Porto Civitanova, Italy
1115721 - 10 -1943B-24D, #41-11803, 'K', 'Rosie Wrecked 'Em'Railroad Bridge,
Orvieto, Italy
1215824 - 10 -1943B-24D, #41-11803, 'K', 'Rosie Wrecked 'Em'Airframe Factory,
Wiener Neustadt, Austria
1315902 - 11 -1943B-24D, #41-11803, 'K', 'Rosie Wrecked 'Em'Airframe Factory,
Wiener Neustadt, Austria
Crash landed because of
flak damage in Lake
Lesina, Italy.
Kavafes claimed
1 probable Me-109 kill
1416111 - 11 -1943B-24D, #41-11810, 'Q', 'Floogie Boo'Railroad Bridge,
Viaduct, France
1516215 - 11 -1943B-24D, #42-72782, 'P',Eleusis Airfield,
Aborted, 3 generators out after take off
1616319 - 11 -1943B-24D-1-CO, #41-23656, 'L', ‘Rowdy Ann’Aviano Airfield,
1716424 - 11 -1943B-24D-1-CO, #41-23656, 'L', ‘Rowdy Ann’Marshalling yards,
Sofia, Bulgaria
1816525 - 11 -1943B-24D-1-CO, #41-23656, 'L', ‘Rowdy Ann’Aircraft Factory,
Klagenfurt, Austria
1916830 - 11 -1943B-24D-1-CO, #41-23656, 'L', ‘Rowdy Ann’Aircraft Factory,
Klagenfurt, Austria
2017003 - 12 -1943B-24D-1-CO, #41-23656, 'L', ‘Rowdy Ann’Casale Aerodrome
Rome, Italy
2117106 - 12 -1943B-24D-1-CO, #41-23656, 'L', ‘Rowdy Ann’Eleusis Airfield,
2217310 - 12 -1943B-24D-1-CO, #41-23656, 'L', ‘Rowdy Ann’Railroad Station,
Sofia, Bulgaria
2317414 - 12 -1943B-24D-1-CO, #41-23656, 'L', ‘Rowdy Ann’Menidi Airfield,
Aircraft returned back
with bombs due to
bad weather over
the target
2417515 - 12 -1943B-24D-1-CO, #41-23656, 'L', ‘Rowdy Ann’Railroad Bridge,
Avisio, Italy
2517616 - 12 -1943B-24D-1-CO, #41-23656, 'L', ‘Rowdy Ann’Railroad bridge,
Dogna, Italy
2617719 - 12 -1943B-24D-1-CO, #41-23656, 'L', ‘Rowdy Ann’Aircraft Factory,
Augsburg, Germany
Kavafes claimed 1
probable Me-109 kill
2717820 - 12 -1943B-24D-1-CO, #41-23656, 'L', ‘Rowdy Ann’Marshalling Yards,
Sofia, Bulgaria
2817925 - 12 -1943B-24D-1-CO, #41-23656, 'L', ‘Rowdy Ann’Marshalling Yards,
Udine, Italy
2918028 - 12 -1943B-24D-1-CO, #41-23656, 'L', ‘Rowdy Ann’Marshalling Yards,
Rimini, Italy
3018310 - 02 -1944B-24D-1-CO, #41-23656, 'L', ‘Rowdy Ann’Railroad junction,
Anzio, Italy
3118414 - 02 -1944B-24D-1-CO, #41-23656, 'L', ‘Rowdy Ann’Marshalling Yards,
Ferrara, Italy
3218515 - 02 -1944B-24D-1-CO, #41-23656, 'L', ‘Rowdy Ann’Marshalling Yards,
Arezzo, Italy
3318717 - 02 -1944B-24D-1-CO, #41-23656, 'L', ‘Rowdy Ann’Troop Concentration,
Anzio, Italy
Severe Damage due to Flak
3418922 - 02 -1944B-24D, #xx-xx006, 'B'Aircraft Factory
Regensburg, Germany
Lead Crew
3519125 - 02 -1944B-24D, #xx-xx854, 'M'Aircraft Factory
Regensburg, Germany
Turned back due to
gas leak from the left
wing tank
3619202 - 03 -1944B-24D-1-CO, #41-23656, 'L', ‘Rowdy Ann’Artillery Positions,
Cisterno, Italy
3719307 - 03 -1944B-24D, #xx-xx023, 'D'Railroad Station,
Poggibonsi, Italy
3820230 - 03 -1944B-24D-1-CO, #41-23656, 'L', ‘Rowdy Ann’Railroad Station,
Sofia, Bulgaria
3920302 - 04 -1944B-24D, #xx-xx250, 'E'Styer Factory,
4020403 - 04 -1944B-24D-1-CO, #41-23656, 'L', ‘Rowdy Ann’Marshalling Yards,
Budapest, Hungary
20605 - 04 -1944B-24D-1-CO, #41-23656, 'L', ‘Rowdy Ann’Marshalling Yards,
Ploesti, Roumania
Severe Damage due to enemy fire,
Kavafes claimed one confirmed kill
against an Fw-190
4220707 - 04 -1944B-24D, #xx-xx434, 'D'Marshalling Yards,
Mestre, Italy
4320812 - 04 -1944B-24D, #xx-xx890, 'H'Aircraft Factory,
Wiener Neustadt, Austria
4421015 - 04 -1944B-24D, #xx-xx250, 'E'Marshalling Yards, Bucharest, Romania



Personal correspondence of George Chalkiadopoulos with Denise Kavafes Donegan and Gary Kavafes (children of S/Sgt Argiris H. Kavafes). 

Personal correspondence of George Chalkiadopoulos with Sara Repp (daughter of Capt. John M Repp). 

Argery Kavafes Military File

98th Bomb Group War Diary

Accident Report No. 44-7-9-19