Field Marshal, Prime Minister of Greece (1883 – 1955)
Statesman and Field Marshal of modern Greece. He served as Commander-in-chief during the Greco-Italian war in 1940 and as Prime Minister of Greece during the final days of the civil war in 1952 until his death.
As cavalry captain he fought in the Balkan Wars during the years 1912 – 1913 and showed great courage and bravery for undertaking successfully difficult and dangerous missions, most notably in the Battle of Bizani when the Greek forces liberated the lands of Epirus. After the Balkan wars, Papagos was found in the midst of the National Schism. He was arrested and exiled for belonging to the side of the King but was eventually called up to serve as chief of staff in the Greco-Turkish war in Asia Minor in 1920 – 1922.
During the following years of political turmoil in Greece, Papagos became Minister of Defense and commanded important units of the Greek army. In 1936, Prime Minister Ioannis Metaxas took over and appointed Alexander Papagos as field marshal of the Greek army. As the most willing and capable man to lead the Greek army against the Italians in Second World War in 1940, Metaxas entrusted him with the country’s defense against the invading forces. Metaxas’ rightful decision did not prove him wrong. Papagos worked day and night to prepare the Greek army for war. He managed to do so excellently in spite of the time constraints and the country’s poor economic state.
On October 28th, 1940 the Italians declared war against Greece. It was Alexander Papagos who led the Greek army in the epic battle against the Italians in the Albanian front during the Second World War. His work on the preparations of Greece for the war was evident from the way the Greek resistance fought, which had earned the admirations of all Europe. This was later confirmed by Winston Churchill, who quoted “Greeks don’t fight like heroes, heroes fight like Greeks”.
When the front broke, Papagos rejected the king’s offer to escape with him to Cairo and remained in Greece where he formed a patriotic organization for the resistance against the German Axis Occupation. He was arrested by the Germans and sent to the concentration camps in Dachau where he remained imprisoned until the war was over. With his return to Greece, Papagos was tasked with combating the communist forces during the civil war.
Even after the civil was had ended, Papagos remained an active patriot both in the military and in politics, eventually becoming Prime Minister of Greece until his sudden death in 1955. During that time he reorganized and rectified the nation following the devastating consequences of the civil war and struggled for the unification of Cyprus with Greece. Today, Alexander Papagos is remembered for his decisive role during the most difficult years of modern Greek history as well as for his determination and struggle to keep Greece a free nation. His work was recognized by nearly all European nations, who awarded him with the highest honours.
- “Papagos, Alexander”. Helios New Encyclopaedic Dictionary. Passas, I. Athens: 1946. Print.
- Skefromaste Hellenica.”Alexandros Papagos (1883 – 1995)”. October 4, 2013. Web. 20 June, 2016.