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The Pyrros Papers

The Pyrros Papers, a collection on the anti-junta struggle dealing with the colonels' coup and the dictatorship in Greece from 1967-1974 and efforts to affect U.S. policy, were donated by James G. "Jim" Pyrros to the Labadie Collection of Social and Political Protest Literature, University of Michigan Hatcher Graduate Library Special Collections on December 19, 2000. The collection consists of four 2 x 4 foot boxes of files in chronological order dating from the early 1960s to the end of 1975.

James G. Pyrros was born in Detroit on 3/10/28. He has been active in politics since 1949. He is a U.S. army veteran with service in Korea-including time with the American liaison detachment to the Greek Expeditionary Force; formerly an assistant attorney general in Michigan; administrative assistant in Washington, D.C. for Congressman Lucien N. Nedzi (D.-Michigan) for 19 years (1961-1980). He worked in the legal department, Detroit Edison (1981-1992). He is also a book collector. Mr. Pyrros involved himself in the anti-junta effort for the entire 1967-1974 period, with extensive contact-and participation-with most of the American and Greek players.

Mr Pyrros responded to a series of questions:

Q: How and why did you collect the anti-junta materials?
A. I was an observer and participant, blessed in the sense that I was at the crossroads of information, action, and intrigue. A steadily increasing interest and knowledge about the subject, combined with "a collector's instinct," served to create the collection. I added to it almost daily for more than seven years. (And, in 2000, am still adding to my files).

Q. Which period do the papers cover?
A. The early 1960s to the end of 1975. The heart of the collection, however, is the period of the junta in Greece from 1967-1974, beginning on April 21, 1967, the date of the colonels' coup, and culminating with the collapse of the junta on July 22-23, 1974, and the return of Constantine Karamanlis as prime minister. The coup against Archbishop Makarios of Cyprus on July 15, 1974 is detailed, as is the Turkish invasion and its aftermath. Virtually all of the material is in English the first several years. Near the end there are quite a few "tear sheets" from Greek language newspapers in Athens and one in New York. American labor, particularly from the UAW, played a role. Jack Conway, Victor Reuther, and others with UAW ties, were involved. The AFL-CIO nationally was passive….Materials streamed in to Capitol Hill, where I saw it and kept it.

Q. How would you define the contents? How much of the material is from the press or is official, how much is correspondence, etc. Are there one-of-a-kind pieces?
A. This is surely the most comprehensive collection of anti-junta material, especially from an American perspective, to be found anywhere in America. (And probably the world). There are thousands of newspaper clippings, plus magazine articles, transcripts of TV programs, State Department briefings, excerpts from the Congressional Record, copies of the major anti-junta, pro-democracy periodicals published in London, Washington, Boston, and Chicago. It includes all of the proceedings of the U.S. Committee for Democracy in Greece. There are internal documents and personal letters, including some from political prisoners in Greek prisons. There is an abundance of pro-junta articles and statements from the Greek junta embassy, AHEPA, the Hellenic Chronicle, and conservative columnists William F. Buckley, Henry J. Taylor, and James J. Kilpatrick. There are copies of personal letters from Margaret Papandreou to me in the 1965-68 period. And congressional testimony. All sides are represented, with the pro-democracy material pre-eminent.

Q. Finally, could you highlight a few items-3 or 4 items-that you consider to be unique, important, or unusual?
A. The totality of the material is what is unique. Of course, there is a rare collection of the periodical published in London by Eleni Vlachou and Panagioti Lambrias, but that doesn't reflect the real action, which was in Washington. The day of the coup and the reaction is significant, then the formation of the U.S. Committee for Democracy in Greece, then the Washington appearances of political exiles Andreas Papandreou, Constantine Mitsotakis, George Rallis, Dimitri papaspyrou, Mikis Theodorakis, Eleni Vlachou, Amalia Fleming, etc. For background, see, in Box one, my 30-page memo to General Orestes Vidalis (written at his request in 1991) on the origins of the anti-junta movement in Washington. I called it Memories of Anti-Junta Days. For rarity, see Box 4, the secret, unpublished testimony of former U. S. Ambassador Henry J. Tasca in the Fall of 1975, to a Pike Committee investigator. Mr. Pyrros promises subsequent donations to the collection. He says he will group such things as the Pike Committee Report on Cyprus, House and Senate hearings held during the junta years, the Turkish Aid Embargo fight, a rare copy of the ASPIDA indictment, and his files from 1976 to perhaps 1990 or even 2000.