868.00(W)/2–749: Telegram

The Ambassador in Greece (Grady) to the Secretary of State


228. Joint Weeka No. 12, Part III Military, January 29.1 Saturday, February 5 at 5 o’clock there was a full meeting of the War Council with the King presiding. All members were present. Purpose of meeting was “announcements by the Commander-in-Chief”.

The War Council met irregularly during the remainder of 1949. The composition of the Council was later modified in response to subsequent changes in the composition of the Greek cabinet.

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I have been having great deal of renewed pressure from members of Government recently for increase in army requested in Sophoulis letter September 30.2 I know that definite drive along this line both by the Government and press was in offing. Saturday’s meeting was raising of the curtain. The meeting and report by General Papagos were obviously almost entirely for MA benefit. His presentation took an hour and a half. He reviewed status of the Greek Army, its power and morale and those of guerrilla forces. He was addressing himself throughout to thesis that size of Greek Army was inadequate to do job which Greece’s “allies” are expecting of Greece. He made it appear that his acceptance of position of Commander-in-Chief was based on understanding that he would be given the size army he considers that he requires. In his statement he overlooked fact that I had by letter to Prime Minister completely disassociated ourselves from any such understanding or agreement in connection with his appointment. He attributed disasters of Vitsi, Naoussa, Karditsa and Karpenision entirely to lack of adequate forces, although he is in process of disciplining the generals in command of these areas for failure to perform their duty. High point of his statement was to effect that 250,000 man army had been requested officially of me, of General Marshall, and of Secretary Royall and nothing had happened. Again he ignored fact that on November 2, I had given Greek Government our Government’s reply to Mr. Sophoulis’ request and have sent copies of my reply very recently to members of the present government, including Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of War. This position has been reiterated on a number of occasions in other letters to Greek Government.

After finishing statement, he read letters from General Van Fleet and General Down written in reply to request from him for comments on military situation. In neither of these letters was it stated that fault was lack of adequate forces. Both generals had commented on necessity of improving command, organization and training and will to fight.

Not only what Papagos said, but tone in which he said it deeply disturbed me. In the vernacular, he was telling us off. He did not threaten directly to resign, but quoted his letter to the Prime Minister of last fall in which he said that if he did not get army of 250,000 within 4 months after assuming command, he would resign.

My views were not requested at meeting, but I commented informally to several of the ministers after meeting ended that I had never [Page 247]heard or read any statement, even by most cynical critics of Greece, which was more discouraging in outlook than that of General Papagos, and that it was fortunate that members of Appropriations Committee of Congress were not present to hear the statement because it would have dramatically brought to their minds the query as to whether our present aid is not completely wasted. I made a point of saying this particularly to Markezinis who, I believe, arranged whole affair, including presiding by the King. Papagos statement was in script, apparently in his own handwriting, and no copies were made available to those who attended meeting. Papagos is forcing the Government to go ahead with the calling up of conscripts without reference to authorized ceiling. Canellopoulos, Minister of War, had previously announced, and Papagos repeated it in his statement, that officers’ salaries will be raised, special funds made available for families of officers and soldiers and a number of other things done which represent, in the aggregate, large drachma expenditures. These items have been put in the proposed budget which our Finance people are studying. Several of the items will alone cost drachma equivalent of $15,000,000. Not only have these items been put in the proposed budget, but legislation has been drafted which is shortly to be submitted with reference to increased allowances for families of soldiers. Papagos said that if the “allies” (I do not know why he used the plural) did not provide the funds necessary for what he regards as an adequate army, the Government itself must do so by some forms of confiscatory taxes. He apparently has no conception of the financial or economic side of the Greek problem. I could not help but think as I listened to him with the King on my left, that this is the man the King wants for Prime Minister.

I am having prepared a memorandum reviewing whole question of requests by Government (in the case of Papagos, it is more of a demand than request) as well as a statement of the budgetary situation. I shall again call the Government’s attention to fact that if there are any proper sources of taxation not yet tapped, these must be tapped to help balance the budget now burdened with heavy deficit. Moreover, I shall point out that in going ahead with an unauthorized expansion of the army, under pressure from Papagos, the Government is violating its agreement upon which our aid program is based.

War Council intends to have another meeting shortly to consider Papagos statement. Assumption on our side appears to be that Council members, including myself, must accept Papagos position and find ways and means of satisfying his demands.

I shall state to Government, after sending my memorandum, that I shall not attend next meeting of the War Council but that I will be represented by Van Fleet, since I will assume that meeting will [Page 248]concern itself entirely with technical military questions within scope of an army not greater than that which we have repeatedly stated we would finance.

I shall send highlights of my memorandum by cable and full memorandum by air pouch.

  1. Telegram MID–41, February 1, from Athens, transmitting Joint Weeka (the weekly review of major military and related political events prepared by military and political officers of the American missions in Greece) No. 12, not printed, reported that a law defining the powers and composition of the “War Council” had been promulgated on January 28. The War Council included the following members: Prime Minister Sophoulis, Deputy Prime Minister Diomedes, Minister of War Kanellopoulos, Minister of Navy Gerasimos Vassiliadis, Minister of the Air Force Aristides Protopapadakis, Minister of Foreign Affairs Tsaldaris, Minister of Public Order Constantine Rendis, Commander in Chief General Papagos, Ambassador Grady (in his capacity as Chief of the American Mission for Aid to Greece), Lt. Gen. James Van Fleet (in his capacity as Director, Joint U.S. Military Advisory and Planning Group in Greece), and Maj. Gen. Ernest E. Down, Commander of the British Military Mission in Greece. The Council was authorized to decide general questions relating to the defense of the country, appoint major military officers after competent ministerial proposals, and to submit emergency laws and decrees to competent ministries. (868.00 (W)/2–149)
  2. For documentation on the Sophoulis letter under reference and the subsequent American reply thereto, see Foreign Relations, 1948, vol. iv, pp. 1 ff.