Alexandros Papagos


Alexandros Papagos (Greek: Αλέξανδρος Παπάγος; 9 December 1883[1] – 4 October 1955) was a Greek army officer who led the Hellenic Army in World War II and the later stages of the subsequent Greek Civil War.[2] The only Greek career officer to rise to the rank of Field Marshal, Papagos became the first Chief of the Hellenic National Defence General Staff from 1950 until his resignation the following year. He then entered politics, founding the nationalist Greek Rally party and becoming the country's Prime Minister after his victory in the 1952 elections. His premiership was shaped by the Cold War and the aftermath of the Greek Civil War, and was defined by several key events, including Greece becoming a member of NATO; U.S. military bases being allowed on Greek territory and the formation of a powerful and vehemently anti-communist security apparatus. Papagos' tenure also saw the start of the Greek economic miracle, and rising tensions with Britain and Turkey during the Cyprus Emergency over the Cyprus issue.

Alexandros Papagos
Αλέξανδρος Παπάγος
Alexandros Papagos as PM.jpg
Papagos as Prime Minister.
Prime Minister of Greece
In office
19 November 1952 – 4 October 1955
Preceded byDimitrios Kiousopoulos (caretaker)
Succeeded byKonstantinos Karamanlis
Personal details
Born(1883-12-09)9 December 1883
Athens, Kingdom of Greece
Died4 October 1955(1955-10-04) (aged 71)
Athens, Kingdom of Greece
Political partyGreek Rally
RelationsGeorgios Averoff (great-uncle)
Parent(s)Leonidas Papagos
Maria Averoff
Alma materRoyal Military Academy (Belgium)
AwardsGRE Order Redeemer 1Class.png Grand Cross of the Order of the Redeemer
Royal Order of Saints George and Constantine ribbon.png Grand Cross of the Order of Saints George and Constantine
GRE Order of George I - Grand Cross BAR.png Grand cross of the Order of George I
GRE Order of the Phoenix - Grand Cross BAR.png Grand Cross of the Order of the Phoenix
GRE Commander's Medal of Valour ribbon.svg Commanders Cross of the Cross of Valour
GRE War Cross 1940 ribbon.svg War Cross
Greek Medal of Military merit ribbon.png Medal of Military Merit
Order of the British Empire (Military) Ribbon.svg Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire
Medaille militaire ribbon.svg Médaille militaire
Croix de guerre 1939-1945 with palm (France) - ribbon bar.png Croix de Guerre
Military service
AllegianceGreece Kingdom of Greece
Greece Second Hellenic Republic
Branch/service Hellenic Army
Years of service1906–1917
RankGR-Army-OF10 (1937).svg Field Marshal
CommandsCommander-in-Chief of the Hellenic Armed Forces
Chief of the Hellenic National Defense General Staff
Chief of the Hellenic Army General Staff
Battles/warsBalkan Wars

Greco-Turkish War of 1919-1922
World War II

Greek Civil War

Military careerEdit

Alexandros Papagos was born in Athens in 1883.[3] His father was Major General Leonidas Papagos from the island of Syros, who occupied senior posts during his military career, including Director of Personnel at the War Ministry and aide-de-camp to the King. His mother was Maria Averoff, the niece of the magnate George Averoff, granddaughter of the magnate Georgios Pahis from Arta and was of partially Aromanian ancestry.[4]

In 1902 he entered the Brussels Military Academy and followed it up with studies at the Cavalry Application School at Ypres. He was commissioned as a Cavalry 2nd Lieutenant in the Hellenic Army on 15 July 1906.[3] He married Maria Kallinski, the daughter of Lt. General Andreas Kallinskis-Roïdis.

Promoted to Lieutenant in 1911, he participated in the Balkan Wars of 1912–13[2] attached to the field headquarters of the Crown Prince, and from 1913, King Constantine. In 1913 he was promoted to captain.[3] After the Balkan Wars, he served in the 1st Cavalry Regiment and the staff of III Army Corps. Promoted to major in 1916, he was appointed as chief of staff of the Cavalry Brigade. A confirmed monarchist, he was dismissed from the Army in 1917 as a result of the National Schism.[3]

He was recalled to active service in 1920 following the electoral victory of the monarchist parties, with the retroactive rank of Lt. Colonel, serving once more as chief of staff of the Cavalry Brigade and of the Cavalry Division during the Asia Minor Campaign against the Turkish National Movement of Mustafa Kemal.[3] After the disastrous defeat of the Greek army in August 1922 and the subsequent outbreak of a military revolt, he was once more dismissed from the army, but was recalled in 1926, with the rank of colonel.[3] In 1927 he was appointed as commander of the 1st Cavalry Division. Promoted to major general in 1930,[2] in 1931, he was named Deputy Chief of the Hellenic Army General Staff.[3] In 1933–35 he served as Inspector of Cavalry, followed by commands of the I and III Army Corps. He was promoted to Lt. General in 1935.

Restoration of the Monarchy and the Metaxas RegimeEdit

On 10 October 1935, along with the service chiefs of the Navy (Rear Admiral Dimitrios Oikonomou) and the Air Force (Air Vice Marshal Georgios Reppas), he toppled the government of Panagis Tsaldaris and became Minister for Military Affairs in the new cabinet of Georgios Kondylis, which immediately declared the restoration of the Greek monarchy.[3] Papagos remained Minister of Military Affairs until Kondylis' resignation on 30 November,[5] and was re-appointed to the post in the succeeding Konstantinos Demertzis cabinet on 13 December 1935 until 5 March 1936.[6] On 5 March 1936 he was named Inspector-General of the Army, holding the post until 31 July. On the next day he was promoted to Chief of the Army General Staff.[3] From his position, he employed the Army to support Metaxas' declaration of dictatorship on 4 August 1936.

Papagos (left) with General Archibald Wavell, General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Middle East Command of the British Army, in Athens in January 1941.

During the next years, as Chief of the General Staff, he actively tried to reorganize and reequip the Army for the oncoming Second World War.

World War IIEdit

At the outbreak of the Greco-Italian War on 28 October 1940, he became Commander-in-Chief of the Army, a post he retained until the capitulation of the Greek armed forces following the German invasion of Greece in April 1941.[3] Papagos directed Greek operations against Italy along the Greek-Albanian border. The Greek army, under his command, managed to halt the Italian advance by 8 November and forced them to withdraw deep into Albania between 18 November and 23 December. The successes of the Greek Army brought him fame and applause. A second Italian offensive between 9 and 16 March 1941 was repulsed. Despite this success, Papagos chose to maintain the bulk of the Greek Army in Albania, and was unwilling to order a gradual withdrawal to reinforce the north-eastern border (and a defense along the so-called Haliacmon line, considered to be more defensible) as German intervention came closer. After the German invasion on 6 April 1941, outnumbered Greek forces in Macedonia fiercely resisted the German offensive at the Metaxas Line, but were outflanked by the enemy and so Papagos endorsed their surrender. Soon after the Army of Epirus capitulated and by 23 April the Greek government was forced to flee to Crete.

Occupation YearsEdit

Papagos (center) with other officers as POW in Dachau.

Papagos remained in occupied Greece. During 1943 he established with other ex Army officers, a resistance organization, the Military Hierarchy. In July of the same year, he was arrested by the German occupation authorities and transported to Germany's concentration camps as a prisoner.[3] In late April 1945 he was transferred to Tyrol together with about 140 other prominent inmates of the Dachau concentration camp, where the SS left the prisoners behind. He was liberated by the Fifth U.S. Army on 5 May 1945.[7]

Greek Civil WarEdit

In 1945 he returned to Greece, rejoined the Army and reached the rank of full General in 1947.[3] In August 1945, he was appointed an Honorary Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire by the British.[8][9][10][11]

In January 1949, he was once again appointed Commander-in-Chief in the ongoing Greek Civil War.[3] Papagos led the final victory of the government forces over the Communist Democratic Army of Greece, employing extensive American material aid (including napalm equipped aircraft [1]), and the extensive deployment of Hellenic Mountain Raider Companies of Special Forces (LOK), during the Grammos-Vitsi campaign between February and October of that year.

The British officer Christopher Woodhouse, who had been active in the Greek Resistance and knew the country well, considered that his predecessor, Lt. General Dimitrios Giatzis, had "virtually won the war" before his dismissal, but that Papagos' appointment was beneficial because Papagos, through his seniority and prestige, "could impose his own plans and wishes on both the Greek high command and the allied military missions, which had been for some months at loggerheads with each other."[12] He further qualifies Papagos as a "superlative staff officer, impeccable in logistic planning and exact calculation, a master of the politics and diplomacy of war", but "with little experience of high command in battle", and a tendency to command from Athens, seldom even visiting the front lines. Papagos' aloof leadership style led to clashes with one of the most important subordinate commanders, the impetuous Lt. General Thrasyvoulos Tsakalotos.[12]

As a reward for his services, he was awarded the title of Field Marshal on 28 October 1949, the only Greek career officer to ever hold this rank.[3] He continued to serve in his capacity as Commander-in-Chief until 1951,[3] while Greece was in a state of political instability, with splinter parties and weak politicians unable to provide a firm government.

Political careerEdit

Prime minister Papagos at the courtyard of Les Invalides, after being decorated with the Médaille militaire during his visit in France (1954).

In May 1951, Papagos resigned from the Army to enter politics. He founded the Greek Rally (Ελληνικός Συναγερμός), modelled after De Gaulle's du Peuple Français,[2] and won the September elections with 36.53 percent of the vote. For a time, the Palace feared that he might establish a dictatorship, largely due to his popularity, his image as a strong and determined leader, and the communist defeat in the civil war, which was attributed in great part to his leadership.

Despite his victory, Papagos was unable to form a government on this majority, and had to wait until the November 1952 elections, where his party tallied an impressive 49 percent of the popular vote, gaining 239 out of 300 seats in Parliament. The Field Marshal, with his popular backing and support from the Americans was an authoritative figure, leading to friction with the Royal Palace. Papagos' government successfully strived to modernize Greece (where the young and energetic Minister of Public Works, Constantine Karamanlis, first distinguished himself) and restore the economy of a country ruined by 10 years of war, but was criticized by the opposition for doing little to restore social harmony in a country still scarred from the civil war.

Statue in Ioannina.

One of the major issues faced by Papagos was the Cyprus problem, where the Greek majority had begun clamouring for Enosis (Union) with Greece. Though reluctant to confront Great Britain, demonstrations in the streets of Athens prompted him to order Greece's UN representative to raise the issue of Cyprus before the UN General Assembly in August 1954. When the EOKA campaign to expel the British and initiate enosis in Cyprus began in 1955, Papagos was in declining health and unwilling to act. The clashes in Cyprus, however, led to a deterioration of Greco-Turkish relations, culminating in the Istanbul Pogrom in September.[citation needed]

In January 1955, Papagos began to develop gastric issues, a result of his imprisonment during World War II; he appointed Stefanos Stefanopoulos to serve as provisional premier during his illness. However, Papago's condition worsened, and he suffered a fatal lung hemorrhage on 11 October 1955.[13]

The Athens suburb of Papagou, where the Ministry of Defence is located, is named after him.


  1. ^ Note: Greece officially adopted the Gregorian calendar on 16 February 1923 (which became 1 March). All dates prior to that, unless specifically denoted, are Old Style.
  2. ^ a b c d "Alexandros Papagos | Greek statesman". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2019-01-13.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o "Στρατάρχης ΠΑΠΑΓΟΣ ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΣ του ΛΕΩΝΙΔΑ, ΑΜ 5434". Συνοπτική Ιστορία του Γενικού Επιτελείου Στρατού 1901–2001 [A Concise History of the Hellenic Army General Staff 1901–2001] (in Greek). Athens: Hellenic Army History Directorate. 2001. p. 157. ISBN 960-7897-44-7.
  4. ^ Jovanovski, Dalibor; Minov, Nikola (2017). "Ioannis Kolettis. The Vlach from the ruling elite of Greece". Balcanica Posnaniensia. Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań. 24 (1): 222–223. ISSN 2450-3177. Retrieved 8 May 2017.
  5. ^ Κυβέρνησις ΓΕΩΡΓΙΟΥ ΚΟΝΔΥΛΗ - Από 10.10.1935 έως 30.11.1935 (in Greek). General Secretariat of the Government. Retrieved 21 March 2014.
  6. ^ Κυβέρνησις ΚΩΝΣΤΑΝΤΙΝΟΥ ΔΕΜΕΡΤΖΗ - Από 30.11.1935 έως 13.4.1936 (in Greek). General Secretariat of the Government. Retrieved 21 March 2014.
  7. ^ Peter Koblank: Die Befreiung der Sonder- und Sippenhäftlinge in Südtirol, Online-Edition Mythos Elser 2006 (in German)
  8. ^ British Official Wireless KING HONOURS GENERAL PAPAGOS LONDON, Tuesday. Quote: "Lieut-General Alexander Papagos Greek Commander in Chief has been honoured by King George, who has conferred on him an honorary G B E. General Papagos who is so brilliant executing the policy of the late Premier General Metaxas is about 55 and has been a soldier since his youth"
  9. ^ Australian Newspapers Quote: "Lieut-General Alexander Papagos. Greek Commander in Chief has been honoured by King George, who has conferred on him an hononrary [sic] G.B.E.
  10. ^ DOCUMENTS RELATING TO NEW ZEALAND'S PARTICIPATION IN THE SECOND WORLD WAR 1939–45: VOLUME I335 — THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR DOMINION AFFAIRS2 TO THE PRIME MINISTER OF NEW ZEALAND Quote: "General Alexander Papagos, GBE, Commander-in-Chief, Greek Forces, 1940–41, and of the Greek and Allied Forces, 1941; resigned 21 Apr 1941."
  11. ^ "GBE for Gen. Papagos". Official Appointments and Notices. The Times. No. 50213. London. 6 August 1945. col E, p. 3.
  12. ^ a b Woodhouse 2002, p. 270.
  13. ^ "Greece Faces New Crisis as Premier Dies". The Record (Troy). p. 1. Retrieved 5 January 2016.


External linksEdit

Political offices
Preceded by Minister for Military Affairs
10 October – 30 November 1935
Succeeded by
Preceded by Minister for Military Affairs
13 December 1935 – 5 March 1936
Succeeded by
Preceded by Minister for National Defence
23 November – 2 December 1952
Succeeded by
Preceded by Prime Minister of Greece
19 November 1952 – 6 October 1955
Succeeded by
Party political offices
New political party President of the Greek Rally
Succeeded byas President of the National Radical Union
Military offices
Preceded by Chief of the Hellenic Army General Staff
Succeeded by
ad hoc position
Commander-in-Chief of the Greek Armed Forces
Greek capitulation
ad hoc position
Title last held by
Alexandros Othonaios
(in 1944–45)
Commander-in-Chief of the Greek Armed Forces
Creation of the General Staff of National Defence
New institution Chief of the Hellenic National Defense General Staff
Succeeded by
Lt. General Theodoros Grigoropoulos