The name Angelos Klonis does not probably ring a bell to many people. But when you place a face to that name, you just might get hit by that moment of revelation. Angelos was the famous American hero featured on Life magazine’s cover during WW2. It is that rugged face of a man, looking alert with his cigarette hanging from his lip and rifle from his shoulder. Angelos left his home island of Kephalonia, Greece in 1936 at the age of 15 as a stowaway headed for Los Angeles in the United States to live the ‘American dream’.
Angelos Klonis in his 20s
Little did he know that he would eventually become that iconic face on one of the world’s most prestigious magazines, and even end up on a US Federal post stamp. When the United States officially entered the Second World War after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour, Angelos’s life was about to change forever. The United States military was asking for volunteers to join the ranks, and with it the promise for citizenship to immigrants. The Greek quickly signed up to for the Army in 1942 and was assigned to the Ranger battalion.
The famous Life magazine cover of the ‘Alert soldier’-Angelos Klonis
After his service, and having suffered a back injury, he returned to his adopted home in Santa Fe, where he had opened a cafe with his wife Angeliki. He was discharged with his papers writing that he had been stationed in Germany, Normandy, Belgium and France. Angelos was very secretive of his army days and avoided talking about what he had done or where he had been, but had told his son Nick that there was a photographer from Life magazine that had snapped some shots of him during the war, egging him to find that photo.
Angelos Klonis on a US Federal stamp
After a lot of research Nick managed to pinpoint the name of renowned WW2 photographer Eugene Smith and eventually his father’s famous photo in 1991. Unfortunately, his father had passed away in 1989 and never got to see the photo. Strangely, even though Angelo’s papers showed him serving in the European war theatre according to a short paragraph under Eugene Smith’s famous picture, captioned simply ‘alert soldier’, the location where that photo was taken was in Saipan, in the western Pacific. His son Nick believes his father was was involved in a number of secret WW2 operations and is continuing his research to shed light on his late father’s war days.