Helias “Louis” Doundoulakis: WWII Spy, Radio Telescope Designer, Passes at 92

Helias “Louis” Doundoulakis, a spy for the Office of Strategic Services during World War II and the designer of the suspension system for the largest radio telescope in the world, died on February 29, in Freeport, NY. He was 92.

Doundoulakis was born July 12, 1923, in Canton, OH, to Greek immigrant parents, grew up in Crete, Greece, and returned to America in 1945 after serving in the United States Army and the OSS. When his maternal grandmother became blind, the family packed and moved to Greece to care for her. Mr. Doundoulakis was still in high school when Axis forces invaded Crete in 1941. Nevertheless, he joined the Cretan resistance movement and worked directly under English Intelligence with the legendary saboteur and author Patrick Leigh Fermor. His friendship with Leigh Fermor would serve as a catalyst for his future role in the OSS. Eventually, Doundoulakis fled, hiding in the Cretan mountains for a month. He finally escaped to Egypt on a torpedo boat provided by Leigh Fermor. Billeted in the Special Operations Executives’ lavish villa in Cairo, he was trained as a saboteur and then enlisted in the American Army. He was transferred to the OSS and was assigned to the SI, “Special Intelligence” section. Doundoulakis was trained for six months in the OSS’ Spy School.

After completion of his training, and armed with only a .32 cal. pistol and 150 gold sovereigns in a nylon belt, he set up a phony business which he used to send messages to Cairo by a wireless radio he smuggled into Greece, hidden in a can of olive oil. He was the only American spy in Salonica from March to December 1944, sending over 400 encrypted messages. With his wireless radio in plain view, he sent these messages from a blown-out textile factory once owned by prominent Greek Jews and had resolved to take a cyanide capsule to end his life if caught. One such message brought a squadron of American B-25’s to that city, destroying a trainload of troops scheduled to leave. On another occasion, the Germans leaked intelligence intending to trap him by triangulating his position but escaped. Continuously hunted by the Germans, he fabricated stories and remained cool-headed, fooling the Germans and even the Greeks.

After the war, he married Rita Gianoplus and settled in Brooklyn’s Borough Park neighborhood, eventually moving to Baldwin, Long Island. Helias became a prominent civil engineer and was employed at Grumman Aerospace Corporation for over 30 years. He worked on the Apollo Space missions, the F-14 fighter jet as well as the Space Shuttle. He was awarded a plaque by Captain James Lovell of the ill-fated Apollo 13 mission in recognition and ‘Thanks’ for his work on the oxygen tanks of the Lunar Module, which saved their lives. His crowning achievement was his unique patent for the largest radio telescope in the world, designed along with his brother George and constructed in Arecibo, Puerto Rico, at the NAIC Observatory. William J. Casey, CIA director under President Reagan, is an assignee of this patent.

Mr. Doundoulakis was a gifted writer, artist, and musician. He loved the opera and accordion music, and his hobbies included tango and ballroom dancing. He was known to paint on canvas anyone whom he met, and his love for photography and relentless ambition to record everything around him was known throughout Long Island. “I Was Trained to be a Spy” books I and II, “Trained to be an OSS Spy,” and “My Unique Lifetime Association with Patrick Leigh Fermor” are Doundoulakis’ books chronicling the war years. He is survived by his wife of 63 years, Rita, four children: James (Maro), Stephen (Elenne), Plato (Kristin), and Thomas; and ten grandchildren: Noelle (William), Elias, Tabitha, Justin, Sirena, Thalia, James, Zoe, Brienne, and Aurora. His love and commitment to his wife, family, and friends was unconditional. Mr. Doundoulakis was interred on Friday at Greenfield Cemetery in Uniondale, NY. Memorial donations may be made to the OSS Society, Washington, DC.


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