781.00/11–1952: Telegram

No. 435
The Chargé in Greece (Yost) to the Department of State1

top secret

1659. Noforn. Ref Embtel 1620 Nov 14.2 Deptel 1666 Nov 18.3 Our efforts at least to delay reshuffle in Army High Command have proved fruitless.

I saw Papagos yesterday to congratulate him on victory4 and we had most cordial conversation in which he discussed with me cabinet list and explained his plans for immed future and at end of conversation I set forth our apprehensions over sudden wholesale shifts in High Command, stressing, (1) importance of not interrupting close and effective NATO liaison established particularly with Grigoropoulos, and (2) our strong feeling, which we had forcibly presented to King and govt during Kitrilakis affair, that General Hart should be consulted in advance about important military affairs.

Marshal replied that he had highest esteem for Gen Hart, that he desired to establish with Gen same intimate relations he had had with Van Fleet5 and Jenkins,6 and that he would be glad to discuss this particular matter with Gen that evening. He declared however, that he had made firm decision to oust Grigoropoulos, Tsakalotos, Pentzopoulos and Vasilas7 and that action would be [Page 811] taken as soon as he assumed office. He contended that Tsakalotos and Vasilas had involved themselves inexcusably in politics, that Grigoropoulos as responsible head of armed forces had failed to control them and moreover, by locking himself in room on famous night of May 30, 1951,8 had displayed notable lack of courage and that Pentzopoulos is a “vagabond”. He declared Kitrilakis would be brought back, but that officers ousted for IDEA activities would not be reinstated and no other changes in mil leadership were contemplated. He concluded that he himself would assume Defense Min for few weeks after which it would be turned over to Canellopoulos.

Gen Hart saw Marshal last evening and approx same ground was covered. Papagos, while adamant on ouster of four generals, discussed replacements in cooperative fashion and accepted several of Gen Hart’s suggestions. Hart was on whole pleased with outcome of interview. Kitrilakis will be chief of NDGS and Tsigounis chief of army staff. Dovas9 and Balodimos10 will remain in present postions.

Gen Hart and I are convinced after our conversations with Papagos that he feels so strongly on this matter that nothing short of some sort of United States ultimatum, and possibly not even that, would prevent him from making these changes and making them immed. He obviously considers these generals as traitors to him who would, if left in office, prevent him from establishing effective control over armed forces. While believing changes undesirable from many points of view, we do not think their effect will be so serious as to justify on their account destroying our excellent relations with man who will be governing Greece for some time to come. Past experience with Marshal indicates that he will after brief period of transition, re-establish atmosphere of stability in Greek Armed Forces and maintain close and effective cooperation with NATO commanders.

In absence of instructions to the contrary therefore, we do not propose to press matter further.

  1. Repeated for information to Paris for Reinhardt and to Rome for Unger.
  2. Telegram 1620 reported that an Embassy representative informed Markezinis on Nov. 14 that in event of a Rally victory in the elections of Nov. 16 the Embassy in Athens hoped Papagos would make necessary changes in the Greek high command only after the passage of a sufficient period of time to avoid undesirable political repercussions within and without Greece. (781.00/11–1452)
  3. In telegram 1666, the Department suggested that Yost briefly mention the subject of the Greek high command in his next conversation with Papagos and tell him that Peurifoy intended to discuss it on his return to Greece. (781.00/11–452) Peurifoy left Athens for home leave on Sept. 26 and resumed charge of the Embassy on Dec. 22.
  4. Greek Parliamentary elections were held on Nov. 16 and resulted in the victory of 239 candidates on the Greek Rally ticket with 783,514 votes and 61 on the EPEK–Liberal Union ticket with 588,644 votes. The Communist-front EDA received 151,861 votes, 9.6 percent of the 1,592,212 valid votes cast, but failed to win a seat in Parliament. The Greek Rally received almost half of the total vote, but gained roughly 80 percent of the total of 300 Parliamentary seats under the plurality electoral system used. (Despatch 764 from Athens, Dec. 31; 781.00/12–3152)
  5. Lt. Gen. James A. Van Fleet, Chief of the Joint United States Military Aid Group in Greece, 1948–1950.
  6. Maj. Gen. Reuben E. Jenkins, Chief of the Joint United States Military Aid Group in Greece, 1950–1951.
  7. Lt. Gen. Efthemios Vasilas, Commanding General, Second Corps of the Greek Army.
  8. Regarding the aborted coup by military officers belonging to IDEA, May 31, 1951, see the editorial note in Foreign Relations, 1951, vol. v, p. 475.
  9. Lt. Gen. Constantine Dovas, Coordinator for NATO Affairs at the National Defense General Staff.
  10. Lt. Gen. Andreas Balodimos, Deputy Chief of the General Staff of the Army and of the National Defense General Staff.