WASHINGTON, Oct. 24, 2013 – Not enough is said about the contribution of the people of Greece to the Allied victory in World War II, Derek Chollet, assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs said today.
“During World War II, devastation and sacrifice inhabited every corner of the earth,” Chollet told the audience at a ceremony hosted by the Oxi Day Foundation at the World War II memorial.
At the annual ceremony, three veterans of World War II receive the Greatest Generation Award, which honors a Greek, a Greek-American and an American for their service in the war. Greek Army Lt. Gen. Konstantinos Korkas, the late U.S. Army Lt. Col. Christopher Mehiel and Congressman John Dingell were honored today.
The foundation draws its name from the response given in 1940 by Greece’s prime minister to an Axis demand that Greece surrender. By this point the Axis powers had already defeated 15 countries, Chollet said, but Prime Minister Ioannis Metaxis responded, simply, “Oxi.” -- Greek for “No.”
“In many ways, there might not be a more consequential word for that era,” Chollet said. “Winston Churchill put it best when he said that if there had not been the virtue and the courage of the Greeks, we do not know what the outcome of World War II would have been,” he added.
“The Greeks showed resilience and courage, and ultimately were the first to defeat the Axis powers in World War II,” Chollet said.
The world continues to look to Greece as an example of strength and strong partnership, the assistant defense secretary said.
The United States and Greece have a robust and enduring relationship, Chollet said, noting that the military to military engagement is particularly strong.
“We continue to work together in joint training and multilateral exercises,” he said. “Greece has acquired a significant amount of United States' technology for its military. And we work together in coalition operations around the world.”
Greece also hosts forces at Souda Bay, which was essential to NATO's successful 2011 air campaign over Libya, Chollet said.
As recently as August, President Barack Obama hosted Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras at the White House and praised the strong bilateral military and intelligence cooperation between our two countries, the assistant defense secretary said.
“The United States’ relationship with our European partners, especially Greece, is crucial, and we look forward to continuing our cooperation and to working together to achieve our common security interests,” Chollet said. “The three heroes honored here today are a testament to our many decades of work and sacrifice together, and members of my generation draw inspiration from this greatest generation.”