Papagos took command of the Greek army in September 1940 and prepared Greek forces for the anticipated Italian invasion of Greece, which began on 28 October 1940. Under the leadership of Papagos, Greek forces halted the Italian invasion and then assumed the offensive. Papagos adroitly confined Greek military operations to the mountain areas, where the Italians could not exploit their technological advantage. Papagos's forces defeated the Italian Ninth Army and then invaded Italian-held Albania. He halted another Italian offensive in March 1941. Following the German invasion beginning on 6 April 1941, Greek forces fought bravely, but Papagos was slow to withdraw them to the Aliakmon Line; he could not halt Field Marshal Wilhelm List's Twelfth Army, even with British assistance. Taken prisoner, Papagos was sent to Germany and imprisoned at Dachau.
Papagos was released by U.S. troops in 1945 and returned to Greece. Recalled to active duty in 1947, he was promoted to the rank of general and reappointed commander in chief of the army in January 1948. Papagos used American aid to defeat communist insurgents in the ensuing civil war. Hailed as the savior of democratic Greece, Papagos was advanced to the rank of field marshal in October 1949.
Papagos resigned his military posts in May 1951. He then formed the conservative Greek Rally Party, which he led to victory in the November 1952 elections. As prime minister, Papagos strengthened ties with the West, improved the Greek economy, and signed an alliance with Yugoslavia and Turkey in August 1954. Greece's greatest soldier of modern times and one of its most adroit political leaders died in office in Athens on 4 October 1955.
David M. Bull and Charles R. Shrader
Cervi, Mario. The Hollow Legions. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1971.; Myers, E. C. W. Greek Entanglement. London: Rupert Hart-Davis, 1955.; Papagos, Alexandros. The Battle for Greece. 1940–41. Trans. Patrick Eliascos. Athens: J. M. Scazikis "Alpha" Editions, 1949.