The Greek military junta of 1967–1974
, alternatively "The Regime of the Colonels"
(Greek: Το καθεστώς των
Συνταγματαρχών, To kathestos ton Syntagmatarhon), or in Greece "The Junta", (English pronunciation: /ˈdʒʌntə/ or /ˈhʊntə/;
Greek Χούντα, [ˈxuda]) and "The Seven Years" (Greek: Η Επταετία, I eptaetía) are terms used to refer to a series of right-wing
military governments that ruled Greece following a coup d'état led by a group of colonels on 21 April 1967. Military rule ended in July 1974.
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 quickly seize power by using
surprise and confusion. Pattakos was 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 and authority figures, as well as many 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 Greek Army.
The conspirators were known to Spandidakis. Indeed, he was instrumental in bringing some of them to Athens, to use in a coup he and other leading Army
generals had been planning, in an attempt to prevent George Papandreou's victory in the upcoming election and the Communist takeover that would,
supposedly, follow it. The colonels succeeded in persuading Spandidakis to join them and he issued orders activating an action plan (the
"Prometheus" plan) that had been previously drafted as a response for a hypothetical Communist uprising (see Operation Gladio). Under the command of
paratrooper Lieutenant Colonel Kostas Aslanides, the LOK (see above) took control of the Greek Defence Ministry while Brigadier General Stylianos
Pattakos gained control over 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 a.m. on the day of the coup Papadopoulos announced that eleven
articles of the Greek constitution were suspended.
One of the consequences of Papadopoulos' annulment of the eleven key articles of the Greek Constitution was that anyone could be arrested without
warrant at any time and brought before a military court to be tried. Yannis Ladas the then director of ESA in an interview referring to the coup said:
"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 Papandreou was arrested at around the same time after seven
soldiers with fixed bayonets and one with 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 14-year old son George Papandreou. Gust Avrakotos, a high ranking CIA officer in
Greece who was close with the colonels who lead the coup
, advised them regarding Andreas: "shoot the mother#er 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 US ambassador in Athens, disapproved of the military coup, complaining that it
represented "A rape of democracy", to which Jack Maury, the CIA chief of station in Athens
, answered, "How can you rape a whore?"
Will History repeat itself?