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Saving Privates Stone, Ramirez and Gonzales

Updated on September 18, 2012

On a Military Transport

With President Kyprianou    Returning from Belgrade On a Military Airplane
With President Kyprianou Returning from Belgrade On a Military Airplane
On a Military Hercules C3
On a Military Hercules C3
Outward flight
Outward flight

Trying to Save American Soldiers

When one reads or hears of the achievements of various politicians in solving apparently unsolvable problems, one bows to their brilliance and skill in awe and admiration, convinced that only politicians of their calibre could possibly have carried out such feats. This indeed was my own reverential perception. Until reality decided to intervene.

I am going to tell you the secret background to a story that was front page news internationally for a few days and explain to you how it very simply came about, how politicians of all persuasions falsely tried to claim paternity to the story and how the bureaucrats of the most powerful countries in the world were caught with their pants down. Interested? Then if you are sitting comfortably let us begin.

I was a fairly frequent visitor to the USA for business purposes and I always returned home to Cyprus loaded with very pleasant memories about the friendliness of the natives. From the passport control officer at the airport, through the cleaning ladies at the various hotels I stayed at, to the businessmen I had to deal with, I was overwhelmed with kindness and gestures of friendship. Naturally, as a result, I felt a very friendly affinity towards the group of people collectively know as “Americans”.

In 1999 NATO was at war with Yugoslavia and the Serbians managed to capture three American soldiers. They were Privates James Stone, Andrew Ramirez and Steven Gonzales.

On returning from one of my trips to the USA, again filled with the nicest memories of the help and cooperation I received while there, I decided to try to get the three American boys released.

I typed out one list of the reasons that it would be in the immediate national interest of the Yugoslavians to release the boys and one other list analyzing why it would benefit Cyprus if the boys were released to us. I typed a third list combining the first two and took it to the President of the Cyprus Parliament Mr. Spyros Kyprianou, whom I knew quite well.

Now look at the dates and see how frighteningly fast and how easy it is to manipulate the powers that rule us:

Day 1 - Monday 5th April 1999

I met with President Kyprianou and showed him list Number 3. He read it carefully and said that it sounded good. Did I know the Yugoslavian Ambassador? I told him no, but I knew the Russian Ambassador through various receptions I had attended. Russia was an ally of Yugoslavia. An appointment was made through his secretary with the Russian Ambassador for next day Tuesday 6th April, at 10:00.

Day 2 - Tuesday 6th April

· I met with Ambassador Muratov and another Russian at the Embassy and gave each of them the idea as I had written it down on list Number 1. They each read it quietly and when they finished they looked at each other and the Ambassador turned to me and said that he thought it was a good idea and would I be willing to show it to the Yugoslavian Ambassador? I confirmed that I was willing, so he got up, called the Yugoslavian on the phone and in a very friendly voice told him that he had a friend with him who had an idea that he should consider seriously. An appointment was made for me to see the Yugoslavian Ambassador at 12:00 that same day.

· I kept the appointment and gave a copy of the same written text I had given to Muratov, list Number 1. After reading it carefully he told me that he thought it was a good idea, but that the only thing he could guarantee me was that the document would be on President Slobodan Milosevic’s desk by 16:00 that afternoon.

· I left and called President Kyprianou and told him that if nothing happened within a week, we should forget about it. I used an open line because we had nothing to hide.

· That evening, the British Minister of Defence went on television to say that NATO expected a good will gesture from Milosevic, but that “it would not be enough”, confirming that President Kyprianou’s telephones were tapped. It also confirmed that NATO did not want the American soldiers released, as the soldiers’ capture provided a public relations tool at home which they could use to the full.

· At fifteen minutes to midnight I received a call from President Kyprianou. He said “Don’t say anything on the telephone, but we have the go ahead and be at my house tomorrow at 07:00 am”.

In other words the whole thing was set up within 14 hours!

Day 3 – Wednesday 7th April

· Met with the Russian and Yugoslavian Ambassadors at the Russian Embassy, who confirmed Milosevic’s agreement to release the Americans to Cyprus. Only one condition: That President Kyprianou would give a press conference to say that he was going as a friend of both countries to negotiate the release, not that an agreement had already been made.

· Flew to Athens with President Kyprianou, his assistant, a doctor and two security men on a commercial flight, in order to take a Greek military airplane to Belgrade.

· In Athens we were told that flight to Belgrade had been approved for next day only.

· Larry King of CNN requested an interview with President Kyprianou for 00:400 am in order to present the story live on his programme in the US, but was refused.

Day 4 – Thursday 8th April

· A Greek Air force Hercules C3 with a medical team on board was waiting for us and we took off amidst chaotic activity.

· The Yugoslav Foreign Minister was waiting to welcome us in Belgrade and we were taken to the Hyatt Hotel, where President Kyprianou was given the suite previously used by Richard Holbrooke, the US representative.

· The Yugoslav Foreign Minister gave a dinner in honour of President Kyprianou, which I attended.

Day 5 – Friday 9th April

·Over the previous evening and during our stay in Belgrade, NATO intensified the bombing all around Belgrade, obviously hoping to annoy Milosevic enough to refuse the release of the three prisoners, confirming that they did not want their soldiers released.

Day 6 – Saturday 10th April

The meeting between President Kyprianou and Milosevic took place. Milosevic refused to let the Americans go reneging on an agreement already made, because, according to him, of the NATO bombardment of Belgrade during our visit.


We returned to Cyprus without the three Americans, but over this one week’s period Cyprus was front page news all over the world and in particular in every American voter’s home, in a very favourable light.

While all this was happening, many politicians came out of the woodwork to claim credit for “carefully planning the project over a long period of time”, even though I had only thought about it and implemented it within 48 hours!

The boys were eventually released to Rev. Jesse Jackson, because the reasons I gave in List Number 1 were still valid and it was in the national interest of the Yugoslavs to release the three boys. I am not going to tell you what was on that list… :-)

The attached photographs are of the three boys and of me in the military transport plane involved, next to the “negotiator”, President Kyprianou.

Dimitris Mita

De Greek


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    • Sisyfus profile image


      8 years ago from Europe

      After everything has calmed down,truth is that as all wars,there are always heroes.But no one really mentions why those men were there?What were they protecting and what did they know?They were just sent there.Serbians are really a nation of people that like peace and mostly to be left alone.Surely there were psychopaths like everywhere that led the country to wars without meaning.And everybody will defend their country when attacked.But to demonize the people is too much.The same people that have to live in a region that is polluted by the uranium from the bombs....

    • De Greek profile imageAUTHOR

      De Greek 

      8 years ago from UK

      Shades, what can I say? We debonair men of the world, and all that....? :-))

      Thank you for your comments :-)

    • Shadesbreath profile image


      8 years ago from California

      What a great story. You have some fantastic connections too, making adventure having very cool. It's kinda depressing to hear why things go the way they do sometimes, as far as the actual release went. I guess they call pawns, pawns for a reason.

      As for the walking stick, I think it's a nice accoutrement for the society you keep. Gives a nice air of sophistication. I don't envy you the experience that made it necessary, but it is a look that works for you. :)

    • De Greek profile imageAUTHOR

      De Greek 

      8 years ago from UK

      But how can I not, LadyJane? Let it go to my head I mean? A man is made of flesh and blood and his resistance to flattery has limits. Even we men of steel sometimes look in teh mirror and prim ourselves :-))

    • ladyjane1 profile image


      8 years ago from Texas

      Very interesting hub and you are quite handsome in your pictures just don't let it go to your head (anymore)lol

    • sunflowerbucky profile image


      8 years ago from Small Town, USA

      Thanks so much for the mention De Greek, so kind!

    • De Greek profile imageAUTHOR

      De Greek 

      8 years ago from UK

      Now you went and spoilt it! You took my comments about the hotel staff as being literal. IT WAS A JOKE CHILD! Tsk, tsk.... and then you wonder who is the parent and who the offspring. Can't trust you alone for a minute...

    • Nellieanna profile image

      Nellieanna Hay 

      8 years ago from TEXAS

      I'd guess those hotel personnel are well trained to be particularly kind to hotel clients, although I suspect there's an underlying natural trait, too.

      I'll check out Facebook. Thanks.

      Adopted father? Is that a valid offer? Haven't had a live one for so long, I'm not sure how to respond! And it might be a challenge for folks to figure out which was the parent and which was the offspring! hahahaha!

    • De Greek profile imageAUTHOR

      De Greek 

      8 years ago from UK

      I jsut now did the deed.

      So am I now your adopted father?

      About your thanking me for my words about how nice people are in the USA, I must say that the staff at the Waldorf Astoria and the Intercontinental hotels, were particularly kind...:-)

    • Nellieanna profile image

      Nellieanna Hay 

      8 years ago from TEXAS

      Must await your acceptance of me as a friend over there in order to see any but your profile picture. So am reduced to twiddling my thumbs in the meantime.

    • Nellieanna profile image

      Nellieanna Hay 

      8 years ago from TEXAS

      Did you know that you were born a day after my Dad's 58th birthday? He too was a warm-hearted, brilliant Leo whom I loved dearly who always took the time to praise my meagre efforts & treat them like pearls from the sea. The July birthdays that year just happened to be a couple of months after I graduated high school, at barely 16, since my birthday is in February. I had the credits to graduate at midterm, which would have been @ 15, but my parents wisely kept me going for graduating with my class. I was at boarding school, too - so they would have had a dilemma what to do with me next! Anyway, if that doesn't put things in a more proper perspective, I don't know what will!

      I most certainly will check out your Facebook profile & look forward to seeing your lovely wife's picture! I'm on there too, though my activity is spasmodic. Several of my kinfolks are there and sometimes I get to know what they're up to by checking it out.

    • De Greek profile imageAUTHOR

      De Greek 

      8 years ago from UK

      Having lost the will to live, I no longer enjoy the banter, at least for today. I have just read your latest hub “Non-attachment” and I have realised how mediocre my own efforts are. It is a blow to one’s ego…:-)

      However, since you were kind enough to comment, let me respond by saying that there are many things left unsaid and it is certainly best to be so.

      Thank you for the compliments. However the times of expensive shoes and three thousand dollar suits are past. Now the only suits one wears are track suits and one is supported by one’s wife :-).

      You are welcome to check out my current good looks on my Facebook account at

      Do not be disappointed by the added extra kilos, they are in the process of being dealt with. And as you will see, I am, indeed, married to a Goddess-in-Human-Shape.

    • Nellieanna profile image

      Nellieanna Hay 

      8 years ago from TEXAS

      And here I was just thinking the cane was the possible result of that wild lambada in the other Hub. So thank you for clearing that up for me.

      I regret that I didn't get to the comments earlier on, though, before many others were posted, because as I was into the ariticle, I was prepared to comment on your hunky good looks and express my delight to see that the same amused expression plays around the corners of your mouth and dances in your eyes even in such a serious situation in these photos as in the one which I presume is a more recent photo - the one on your profile (Quite a contrast to President Kyprianou, I might add.) Perhaps I needn't mention any of thist now that the moment is gone. ;)

      Anyway I will have to mention that I can see no aging in any of your pix. Perhaps I'll lend you my "ageless" adjective, ok?

      I must mention one thing that really amused me about one photo though. Have you noticed that the perspective in one of them causes your shoe to look as big as your shoulders & almost as long as your foreleg (which is a tad out of proportion itself)? Too funny. At first glance, I thought, what IS that thing? LOL Now that I know - good-looking shoe, too!

      More pertinently though, I was swept along in your account and the well-suited way you chose to deliver it, using the actual itinerary/schedule to emphasize just how swiftly and unrelentingly the wheels of politics turn and crush opposition by one means or another. It's always suspected, I guess, by we little people, but it's dramatic to hear the steps and manner in which it's accomplished at the upper levels, related by someone who has been there and in a position to experience it first-hand. Thank you for sharing that.

      I'm certainly glad to know it was you who conceived of the idea & the plan for freeing the guys, no matter who tried to grab the credit. It happens to the best of us. But one of my favorite thoughts is "The truth will out." And perhaps the main thing was that the mission was accomplished in spite of the sharp-edged knife attempting to cut it out and the dull efforts to steal the glory.

      Sure, you’ve piqued my curiosity (that doesn’t seem like an “ou” location even for a Brit) so that I could be eager to hear more of the untold details were it not for the high probability that it’s not too prudent for you to stir up a hornet's nest & it's highly conceivable that there may be one or more hornets lurking in the shadows of this entire episode. For self-preservation's sake, it doesn't sound like a smart thing for you to do so I’ll hold my curiosity in check.

      At least I can be the first to thank you for the very kind words you wrote about America and Americans. Obviously there are some rotten apples in our national & local baskets as well, but generally I guess we're pretty decent folks. Just don't base any firm judgments of that on any college or NFL football events or any election campaign, though. Fierce is a word that comes to mind to describe the attitudes of American football fans and political supporters generally. I best not elaborate on that, either, at risk of being tarred & feathered - or worse, black-balled, shunned and crossed off the lists of the invited to the family's special events.

    • De Greek profile imageAUTHOR

      De Greek 

      8 years ago from UK

      Lee there is no reason for you to thank me. Afte all, Milosevic reneged on the agreement. But there are so many details that make intersting story telling, but the act of telling would step onto so many toes! :-))

    • Lee B profile image

      Lee Barton 

      8 years ago from New Mexico

      I'm so glad you told your story! I think I now vaguely remember this incident as reported on the news at the time. It's the behind the scenes details that are really interesting. Anybody ever say thank you? If not, let me be the first--Thank you!

    • De Greek profile imageAUTHOR

      De Greek 

      8 years ago from UK

      FP we famous authors like to be specific and informative when asked a question. You did ask after all :-)

      Cheryl, let us not contribute TOO much to the destruction of the Englsih language here. Hero?

      That is being really unfair to heros :-)) And what girls? You lost me there...

    • _cheryl_ profile image


      8 years ago from California

      What's this?! De Greek- a HERO? Why does this not surprise me...=) Wow, what a story. Very interesting, glad that you shared that amazing journey with us. It's a shame that credit isn't given where it's due. What you did was very admirable, I must say though that curiosity's killing me about your lists, which I'd love to have been able to read. Awesome work De Greek! I'm always inspired by you. =)

    • profile image

      Feline Prophet 

      8 years ago

      Six snake skin bags?!! Tch tch, DG, will have to send the animal activists after you! And you do indeed look youthful - if only you hadn't spoilt the effect by adding all those gory details about the kidney! :D

      Waiting to hear about Calcutta!

    • De Greek profile imageAUTHOR

      De Greek 

      8 years ago from UK

      Now, now, Green Lotus, modesty will causes one to blush prettily, if you carry on like this. :-)

      And it was the Greek air force, so smoking doesn’t really count because no one follows the rules :-)

      But, eleven years ago I was 51, so the years were not too bad to me, what?

      Thank you for your kind words :-)

      But nobody else looooooooooooves meeeeeeeeeeeee :-(

    • Green Lotus profile image


      8 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      You are one awesome guy and a true diplomat Greek. Your efforts were smoothly heroic. No matter how long it took to manifest, you were the true catalyst of the release of Stone, Ramirez and Gonzales. The photos btw are divine, but you should give up cigars especially on aircraft :) I don't dare criticize NATO's dealings as someone may be lurking. I do; however, look forward to reading more of your adventures!

    • De Greek profile imageAUTHOR

      De Greek 

      8 years ago from UK

      And besides, this trip was reported extensively at the time on CNN and other international news channels!! If you look at Indian newspapers with the dates I gave, you will find the story. My feelings are now officially hurt.. :-))))

    • De Greek profile imageAUTHOR

      De Greek 

      8 years ago from UK

      And if you are bad to me I shall write about my trip to Calcutta! :-))

    • De Greek profile imageAUTHOR

      De Greek 

      8 years ago from UK

      Girls, girls, girls, what a blow this is to me... I know that we De Greeks are not known for winning beauty contest, but you could have at least commented on how youthful I looked for my age!... :-)))))

      Zsuzsy, I left out a lot of details that would mke your hairs stand on end :-)

      And FP, I am surprised at you! If you think that this is fiction, then you are in serious danger, becasue when truth bites you in the derrier, you will think that it is a snake and you shall panic. By the way I bought some six wonderful snake skin bags for one of my wives in New Dehli, that were amazing!

      Also, that is a walking stick. Actually it is a walking stick which expands into a measuring stick for measuring fences for horses. I was using it because I had just had a procedure for removing kidney stones and I still had a plastic pipe running up all the way to the kidney. I had to keep going to the toilet to urinate blood, only there was no toilet on a military airplane. Just a receptacle through which you bless all those beneath you. :-)

    • profile image

      Feline Prophet 

      8 years ago

      Hmmm...can't make up my mind if you missed your vocation as a diplomat or a fiction writer!:D

      (Is that an umbrella you are wielding in the pictures or a walking stick?)

    • Zsuzsy Bee profile image

      Zsuzsy Bee 

      8 years ago from Ontario/Canada

      What an adventure. Politics just makes absolutely no sense to me. Never has and never will.

      Awesome hub Sir Greek

      kindest regards Zsuzsy


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