282. Telegram From the Embassy in Greece to the Department of State1

5016. 1. At his request2 I rendezvoused today with Brigadier Patakos, Minister of Interior. We met at the home of JUSMAGG officer with whom Patakos was associated at Fort Knox in early 1950’s and has worked in recent months on questions related to armor training center which Patakos commanded. Initially somewhat reserved but later open, Patakos quickly expressed pro-American attitudes and identified his American connections. These include siblings in Sioux City, Iowa and Salt Lake City and two nephews who are officers in US Army, one a major in DOD/ASCI and the other a dental officer in Vietnam.

2. Patakos impressed me along lines we have heard him described. As military operator, precise and effective executive, who insists he is in a revolutionary movement but is himself no long-haired revolutionary theorist. Like other coup leaders, he had been working almost without sleep for a week, but was alert and energetic throughout our conversation. After leaving me, he was to meet King at Tatoi.

3. After somewhat slow conversational start, I proposed we might proceed by his commenting on questions that face USG as it attempts to understand what happened in Greece and to sort out its policy in relation to new situation. He would understand events of past week in Greece had come as great shock to us, and that in interest of looking to future it would be well to be frank and specific. Patakos agreed. He neither requested nor got any assurance about U.S. policy. In answering my questions, he commented on purposes of revolution, plans for constitution-writing, current status of detainees, and intentions toward political prisoners. He repeatedly referred to what has happened as “the revolution” and to present GOG as “the revolutionary government.” He exuded confidence that revolution is irreversible fact, whether or not US finally accepts proffered hand of friendship. With consolidation effected, he emphasized current task is to look forward to running government and returning to constitutional rule.

4. Patakos assured me he sincerely desires friendship of America. He would be our friend even if we were not his. New GOG had not made deep or broad plans prior to the coup but had acted primarily to save situation [Page 595] in Greece which leaders felt was rapidly deteriorating. Now they are studying and planning to rectify all shortcomings they had earlier suspected. They had not known all specifics before, but now with opportunity to look into Ministries and other facets of government, they feel able to develop concrete programs. Demagogues had split the Greek people into factions and lawbreakers such as robbers and murderers could be found on the streets. Greeks had even seen individual biting ear of a policy official. Revolution has tried to unite country and cleanse Greek life. In his own Ministry he had found civil servants sitting all day doing nothing except drinking coffee. Now, like military, they have daily planning conferences at 7 a.m. New government wishes to be more responsive to public needs, and to bring tranquility to the people. It should restore their confidence in economic and political facets of Greek life.

5. We wasted little time on military aspects of takeover. As to ways in which his group will move to next phase of governmental operations, he had studied problems Ayub and Turkish military leaders had faced in managing government after their military takeovers, and would draw on their experience while adding essentially Greek approaches. With confidence born of one week’s experience, he felt sure new GOG could operate Greece’s official establishment much more effectively than had its predecessors.

6. I asked about role of King. He reaffirmed that King had known nothing about coup. He could not be a revolutionary, and therefore was kept out until it fait accompli. King remains as head of state and head of army, though not responsible for appointment of persons in government. (I do not feel remarks I was able to draw from Patakos fully illuminates what role new GOG expects to permit King to play. My tentative conclusion is that Patakos, like most traditional Greek politicians, views throne as useful unifying symbol, so long as King doesn’t interfere too much in their affairs. This aspect will bear further watching.)

7. As to constitutional status, Patakos said Constitution has not been suspended. He stated flatly GOG will shortly set up constitution commission of eminent jurists who will determine what sort of Constitution Greece should have. They will draw on experience of other states, such as US. They will examine why Greece’s affairs sank so low under existing constitution and what changes would be necessary to prevent repetition. Proposed revisions, or new Constitution, will be submitted to government and thence to plebiscite. Once adopted, new Constitution would provide framework for new elections. I asked how long this process would take. He did not know, would not guess, and declined to be drawn into comment on my speculation that it might take anything from a few months to a few years. I asked when constitution-making process would be announced. He said as soon as possible, which he defined as within [Page 596] next few days. I commented that this would be of considerable interest to my country, a nation deeply devoted to democracy, which after military takeovers in such countries as Pakistan, Turkey and South Vietnam had unfailingly and vigorously encouraged existing authorities to take steps that would lead their people back to constitutional and representative rule. Patakos said he understood this. Process could start quickly in Greece.

8. I asked about situation of detainees. Patakos was carrying a folder which he opened to reveal exact statistics and certain names that he was about to report to King. (He asked me not to transmit these to Washington until he had had chance to present them to King and Prime Minister. To help establish basis for continuing relations, we will telephone him tomorrow to get his approval for transmission of following statistics to Washington.) According to Patakos, up to April 26, 6,500 prisoners had been taken into custody and 1,701 subsequently released, leaving 5,437 still in custody. Of those, 1,558 had already been installed in camps on Island of Yioura and 1,727 were now being shipped in that direction by boat, leaving 2,152 still in detention on mainland. Some of these latter would be sent to camps being constructed on Yioura and on island of Makronisi.

9. For ease in handling, detainees being classified in three categories, “A”,“B,” and “C”. Investigation of these people does not look to misdeeds of long ago, presumably during the Communist war of 1946–49, but rather to their current records. Persons in “A” category would be quickly releasable if nothing adverse found. In “B” category are persons not easily determined to be releasable but also not well-known Communists or anarchists. These persons will be examined to determine whether they should be put in “A” or “C” categories. In “C” category are those individuals who are initially regarded as dangerous. If investigation proves otherwise, some of these too could be released. Others will be “instructed” and “re-educated” to become good citizens.

10. In addition, Patakos spoke of 25 “special class” detainees in Athens, 33 others in provinces, and 4 in “special economic class.” These are being held in hotels or at home under guard. (Names he mentioned being transmitted separately.)3

11. Patakos said Andreas Papandreou is detained for two reasons. First, on charges of involvement in Aspida conspiracy, he is being investigated by public prosecutor (this confirms our understanding that GOG has decided to bring Andreas to civil trial on Aspida charges, which as we understand it could bring maximum sentence of 28 years). He is also being held because of his declarations that he would cause revolution. Patakos would not say that Andreas would be tried on these second [Page 597] charges. His summary response to my several questions was that Andreas would be held in detention until they could be satisfied that he would not attempt revolution. I concluded that GOG is thinking of dealing with Andreas on civil charges unless he gets disagreeable in which case he could be court martialed on second set of charges.

12. As to others, Patakos said Mitsotakis has now declared he is “with” government but leaders of revolution unconvinced.4 He did not name economic detainees, but did not dissent when I said we had heard these include Professor Stratis Andreadis, Chairman of the Ionian Popular Bank and other financial and industrial institutions, and Bank’s general manager. Patakos said heavy bank withdrawals on first days after coup had stopped suddenly when a few bankers detained.

13. In response to my further questions, Patakos answered specifically that regime intends to kill no one. All such rumors, including recent stories of planned execution of Glazos (Athens 5013)5 are false. He warned however that saboteurs would be dealt with severely—whatever that means.

14. Patakos summarized by restating strong desire to work closely with Americans. Whether that possible or not he said, success of revolution is sure.6 He expressed satisfaction at direct contact with me, and hoped we could continue to meet and deal frankly with new problems that might arise.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 15 GREECE. Secret; Priority. Repeated to Ankara, London, Nicosia, USCINCEUR, and the Secretary of Defense. Passed to the White House, CIA, DOD, NSA, and USIA.
  2. Talbot reported the request and sought authorization for a meeting in telegram 4984 from Athens, April 27. The Department of State gave authorization in telegram 183174 to Athens, April 27. (Both ibid., POL 23–9 GREECE)
  3. In telegram 5016 from Athens, April 28. (Ibid.)
  4. Telegram 4969 from Athens, April 26, reported that in his initial contact with a U.S. Government official Patakos had explained that the junta feared Mitsotakis would lead an insurrection in Crete. Patakos added that Mitsotakis had shown hostility to the new regime, but, as a fellow Cretan, he would try to secure his release. (Ibid.)
  5. Not found.
  6. In the conversation summarized in footnote 4 above, Patakos concluded: “Just remember, we are with you whether you want us or not.” This comment was reported to Secretary Rusk in an April 27 memorandum from Battle. (Ibid.)