1967 Greek coup d'état

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1967 Greek coup d'état
Part of the Cold War
1967-4-21 greece01.jpg
A Hellenic Army tank on the streets of Athens on 21 April 1967
Date 21 April 1967
Location Greece
Result Greek military victory.
King Constantine II flees to Italy.
Greek military junta created.
Greece Government of Greece Hellenic Army officers
Supported by:
 United States (disputed)
Commanders and leaders
Greece Panagiotis Kanellopoulos
Greece Georgios Papandreou
Greece King Constantine II of Greece
Colonel Georgios Papadopoulos
Colonel Nikolaos Makarezos
Brigadier Gen. Stylianos Pattakos
Lieutenant Gen. Odysseas Angelis
Colonel Ioannis Ladas
The emblem of the Junta

The 1967 Greek coup d'état took place on 21 April 1967, just weeks before scheduled elections, when a group of right-wing army officers led by Brigadier General Stylianos Pattakos and Colonels George Papadopoulos and Nikolaos Makarezos seized power in a coup d'etat.[1] The colonels were able to seize power quickly by using elements of surprise and confusion. Pattakos was the commander of the Armour Training Centre (Greek: Κέντρο Εκπαίδευσης Τεθωρακισμένων, ΚΕΤΘ), based in Athens.


Greek historiography and journalists have hypothesized about a "Generals' Coup", a coup that would have been deployed at Constantine's behest under the pretext of combatting communist subversion.

Before the elections that were scheduled for 28 May 1967, with expectations of a wide Center Union victory, a number of conservative National Radical Union politicians feared that the policies of left-wing Centrists, including Andreas Papandreou (the son of Georgios Papandreou, Sr.), would lead to a constitutional crisis. One such politician, George Rallis, proposed that, in case of such an "anomaly", king Constantine II of Greece should declare martial law as the monarchist constitution permitted him. According to Rallis, the king was receptive to the idea.

According to U.S. diplomat John Day, Washington also worried that Andreas Papandreou would have a very powerful role in the next government, due to his father's old age. According to Robert Keely and John Owens, American diplomats present in Athens at the time, Constantine asked U.S. Ambassador Philip Talbot what the American attitude would be to an extra-parliamentary solution to the problem. To this the embassy responded negatively in principle — adding, however, that, "U.S. reaction to such move cannot be determined in advance but would depend on circumstances at time." Constantine denies this. According to Talbot, Constantine met the army generals, who promised him that they would not take any action before the coming elections. However, the proclamations of Andreas Papandreou made them nervous, and they resolved to re-examine their decision after seeing the results of the elections.

In 1966, Constantine sent his envoy, Demetrios Bitsios, to Paris on a mission to persuade former prime minister Constantine Karamanlis to return to Greece and resume his prior role in politics. According to uncorroborated claims made by the former monarch, Karamanlis replied to Bitsios that he would only return if the King imposed martial law, as was his constitutional prerogative. According to New York Times correspondent Cyrus L. Sulzberger, Karamanlis flew to New York City to meet with USAF General Lauris Norstad to lobby for a conservative coup that would establish himself as Greece's leader; Sulzberger alleges that Norstad declined to involve himself in such affairs. Sulzberger's account rests solely on the authority of his and Norstad's word. When, in 1997, the former King reiterated Sulzberger's allegations, Karamanlis stated that he "will not deal with the former king's statements because both their content and attitude are unworthy of comment".

The deposed King's adoption of Sulzberger's claims against Karamanlis was castigated by Greece's left-leaning media, which denounced Karamanlis as "shameless" and "brazen". It bears noting that, at the time, Constantine referred exclusively to Sulzberger's account to support the theory of a planned coup by Karamanlis, and made no mention of the alleged 1966 meeting with Bitsios, which he would refer to only after both participants had died and could not respond.

As it turned out, the constitutional crisis did not originate either from the political parties, or from the Palace, but from middle-rank army putschists.

The coup d'état of 21 April[edit]

On 21 April 1967, just weeks before the scheduled elections, a group of right-wing army officers led by Brigadier General Stylianos Pattakos and Colonels George Papadopoulos and Nikolaos Makarezos seized power in a coup d'etat. The colonels were able to seize power quickly by using elements of surprise and confusion. Pattakos was the commander of the Armour Training Centre (Greek: Κέντρο Εκπαίδευσης Τεθωρακισμένων, ΚΕΤΘ), based in Athens.

The coup leaders placed tanks in strategic positions in Athens, effectively gaining complete control of the city. At the same time, a large number of small mobile units were dispatched to arrest leading politicians, authority figures, and ordinary citizens suspected of left-wing sympathies, according to lists prepared in advance. One of the first to be arrested was Lieutenant General Grigorios Spandidakis, Commander-in-Chief of the Hellenic Army. The colonels persuaded Spandidakis to join them, having him activate a previously-drafted action plan to move the coup forward. Under the command of paratrooper Lieutenant Colonel Kostas Aslanides, the LOK took over the Greek Defence Ministry while Pattakos gained control of communication centers, the parliament, the royal palace, and — according to detailed lists — arrested over 10,000 people.

By the early morning hours, the whole of Greece was in the hands of the colonels. All leading politicians, including acting Prime Minister Panagiotis Kanellopoulos, had been arrested and were held incommunicado by the conspirators. At 6:00 a.m. EET, Papadopoulos announced that eleven articles of the Greek constitution were suspended. One of the consequences of these suspensions was that anyone could be arrested without warrant at any time and brought before a military court to be tried. Yannis Ladas, then the director of ESA, recounted in a later interview that, "Within twenty minutes every politician, every man, every anarchist who was listed could be rounded up...It was a simple, diabolical plan".

Georgios Papandreou was arrested after a nighttime raid at his villa in Kastri. Andreas was arrested at around the same time, after seven soldiers armed with fixed bayonets and a machine gun forcibly entered his home. Andreas Papandreou escaped to the roof of his house, but surrendered after one of the soldiers held a gun to the head of his then-fourteen-year-old son George Papandreou. Gust Avrakotos, a high-ranking CIA officer in Greece who was close with the colonels, advised them to "shoot the motherfucker because he's going to come back to haunt you".

U.S. critics of the coup included then-Senator Lee Metcalf, who criticised the Johnson Administration for providing aid to a "military regime of collaborators and Nazi sympathisers." Phillips Talbot, the U.S. ambassador in Athens, disapproved of the coup, complaining that it represented "a rape of democracy", to which Jack Maury, the CIA station chief in Athens, answered, "How can you rape a whore?" Papadopoulos' junta attempted to re-engineer the Greek political landscape by coup.