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Alexandros Papagos
Alexandros Papagos as Field Marshal, 1950Template:Deletable image-caption
Prime Minister of Greece

In office
19 November 1952 – 4 October 1955
Monarch Paul
Preceded by Dimitrios Kiousopoulos (caretaker)
Succeeded by Constantine Karamanlis
Personal details
Born (1883-12-09)9 December 1883
Athens, Greece
Died 4 October 1955(1955-10-04) (aged 71)
Athens, Greece
Nationality Greek
Political party Greek Rally
Military service
Allegiance  Kingdom of Greece
Service/branch War flag of the Hellenic Army.svg Hellenic Army
Years of service 1906–1951
Rank GR-Army-OF10 (1937).svg Field Marshal
Commands Commander-in-Chief of the Hellenic Armed Forces
Chief of the Hellenic National Defense General Staff
Chief of the Hellenic Army General Staff
Battles/wars Balkan Wars
Asia Minor Campaign
Greco-Italian War
Battle of Greece
Greek Civil War
Awards Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire

Alexandros Papagos KBE (Greek: Αλέξανδρος Παπάγος; 9 December 1883[1] – 4 October 1955) was a Greek Field Marshal who led the Hellenic Army in World War II and the later stages of the Greek Civil War and became the country's Prime Minister after his victory in the 1952 elections. His premiership was defined by the Cold War; American military bases were allowed on Greek territory, a powerful and vehemently anti-communist security apparatus was created, and the communist leader Nikos Ploumpidis was executed by firing squad.

Military career

Alexander Papagos was born in Athens in 1883.[2] His father was Major General Leonidas Papagos, who occupied senior posts during his military career, including Director of Personnel at the War Ministry and aide-de-camp to the King. His ancestry was partly Vlach and partly from Syros.

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.[2] 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 attached to the field headquarters of Crown Prince, and from 1913, King Constantine. In 1913 he was promoted to Captain.[2] 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 royalist, he was dismissed from the Army in 1917 as a result of the National Schism.[2]

He was recalled to active service in 1920 following the electoral victory of the royalist 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.[2] 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.[2] In 1927 he was appointed as commander of the 1st Cavalry Division. Promoted to Major General in 1930, in 1931 he was named Deputy Chief of the Hellenic Army General Staff.[2] 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 Regime

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.[2] Papagos remained Minister of Military Affairs until Kondylis' resignation on 30 November,[3] and was re-appointed to the post in the succeeding Konstantinos Demertzis cabinet on 13 December 1935 until 5 March 1936.[4] 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.[2] 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 II

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.[2] 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 years

Papagos remained in occupied Greece. During 1943 he established with other ex Army officers, a resistance organization, the Military Hierachy. In July of the same year, he was arrested by the German occupation authorities and transported to Germany as a hostage.[2] 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.[5]

Greek Civil War

In 1945 he returned to Greece, rejoined the Army and reached the rank of full General in 1947.[2] In August 1945, he was appointed an Honorary Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire by the British.[6][7][8][9]

In January 1949, he was once again appointed Commander-in-Chief in the ongoing Greek Civil War.[2] 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 to 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."[10] 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.[10]

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.[2] He continued to serve in his capacity as Commander-in-Chief until 1951,[2] while Greece was in a state of political instability, with splinter parties and weak politicians unable to provide a firm government.

Political career

A statue of Papagos in Athens opposite the Ministry of National Defence

In May 1951 he resigned from the Army in order to become involved in politics. He founded the Greek Rally (Ελληνικός Συναγερμός), modelled after De Gaulle's Rassemblement du Peuple Français and won the September elections with 36.53 percent of the vote, 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 this 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. In response to demonstrations in the streets of Athens, Papagos reluctantly, as this would put Greece in confrontation with Great Britain, ordered Greece's UN representative in August 1954 to raise the issue of Cyprus before the UN General Assembly. When the EOKA rally to end the British rule 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.

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. Papagos' condition worsened, until on 11 October 1955 he died due to a lung hemorrhage.[11]

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. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 2.13 2.14 "Στρατάρχης ΠΑΠΑΓΟΣ ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΣ του ΛΕΩΝΙΔΑ, ΑΜ 5434." (in Greek). Athens: Army History Directorate. 2001. p. 157. 
  3. "Error: no |title= specified when using {{Cite web}}" (in Greek). General Secretariat of the Government. Retrieved 21 March 2014. 
  4. "Error: no |title= specified when using {{Cite web}}" (in Greek). General Secretariat of the Government. Retrieved 21 March 2014. 
  5. Peter Koblank: Die Befreiung der Sonder- und Sippenhäftlinge in Südtirol, Online-Edition Mythos Elser 2006 (German)
  6. 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"
  7. 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.
  8. 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."
  9. "Error: no |title= specified when using {{Cite web}}". 6 August 1945. 
  10. 10.0 10.1 Woodhouse 2002, p. 270.
  11. "Greece Faces New Crisis as Premier Dies". The Record (Troy). p. 1. Retrieved 5 January 2016. 


  • Woodhouse, Christopher Montague (2002). The struggle for Greece, 1941–1949. C. Hurst & Co. Publishers. ISBN 978-1-85065-487-2. 

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Georgios Kondylis
Minister for Military Affairs
10 October – 30 November 1935
Succeeded by
Konstantinos Demertzis
Preceded by
Konstantinos Demertzis
Minister for Military Affairs
13 December 1935 – 5 March 1936
Succeeded by
Ioannis Metaxas
Preceded by
Ioannis Pitsikas
Minister for National Defence
23 November – 2 December 1952
Succeeded by
Panagiotis Kanellopoulos
Preceded by
Dimitrios Kiousopoulos
Prime Minister of Greece
19 November 1952 – 6 October 1955
Succeeded by
Constantine Karamanlis
Party political offices
New political party President of the Greek Rally
Succeeded by
Constantine Karamanlis
as President of the National Radical Union
Military offices
Preceded by
Lt. General Aristeidis Chasapidis
Chief of the Hellenic Army General Staff
Succeeded by
Lt. General Konstantinos Pallis
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

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