On July 15, 1974, with the support of the Ioannides  junta in Athens, a coup d’état  against the Cypriot government of the archbishop Makarios, took place. The reason for that were Makarios’ efforts to reduce the junta’s influence by expelling all Greek military personnel from Cyprus. This would have meant the loss of military control over Cyprus on the part of Greece, and the humiliation and probable downfall of Ioannides. The situation not only created hostility among the Greeks, but also the chance for Turkey to take advantage of its status as guarantor and invade the island on July 20. As Cyprus had not requested the intervention of the guarantor countries, Turkey’s actions were, in one word, illegal.

The response of the Greek military junta was uncoordinated, passive and sometimes blatantly treacherous. The same can be said for the reaction of the subsequent Greek government appointed before the second part of the Turkey’s invasion. The motives behind the lack of effectiveness remain unrevealed and can only be speculated upon, as the Cyprus File, a collection of documents from any government agency involved, has yet to be opened. Theories range from simple incompetence to full submission to foreign influences, mainly from the USA and their Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, who supposedly was always in favor of the Turkish invasion.

At 05:00 on 20 July 1974, the invasion on Cyprus began with the code name “Attila,” when Turkish forces landed on Pentemili beach of Kyrenia. The first resistance they encountered were the Greek-Cypriot navy torpedo boats T1 and T3. T1 went ashore after it was hit by the Turkish Air Force, with six wounded. T3 managed to reach the Turkish landing fleet before it was destroyed completely, with only one survivor. At the same time, the camp of the Greek Force of Cyprus was being bombarded by the Turkish Air Force, while Turkish paratroopers were dropped on Kioneli.

The reaction of Athens was that of utter panic. The military actions decided upon were the general mobilization of the army reserves, the reinforcement of units in the Aegean and the northern border with Turkey, the preparation of reinforcement to Cyprus and the dispersion of the Air Force and Navy. Although the units that were to be sent to Cyprus were predetermined by the plan “K” (a plan created in 1968 in order to defend Cyprus against possible invasion), and those were Air Force and Navy units with the mission of attacking the Turkish beachhead, the junta leadership chose to send a raiders squadron, a unit unsuitable to the needs of the fight at hand.

Even though its main purpose was to offer an excuse for the junta and it could do little to change the outcome of the invasion, the Alpha Raiders Squadron, along with a platoon of Gama Amphibious Raiders Squadron, managed to defend the Nicosia airport and, on August 16, they stopped an attempt to encircle the city.

Nord Noatlas

Operation Victory

Alfa Raiders Squardron CO Major George Papameletiou

Initially, the Beta Raiders Squadron was to be deployed to Cyprus on Boeing 707 aircrafts. A mission cancelled due to technical problems. Instead, the Alpha Raiders Squadron was sent on Nord 250 1D-Noratlas. In the afternoon of July 21st, the Alpha Raiders Squadron, who up to that moment had been prepared to deploy in the Aegean, received the order to move to the airfield of Suda, Crete. Almost simultaneously, the Noratlas crews were ordered to move in the same direction. One of the major problems the raiders had to face was the decision of who to leave behind, as no one wanted to miss such an important mission. One distinguished case was that of Andreas Pantelis, who was to be discharged two days later and was to remain in the camp. He climbed the small ladder in the back of his unit’s bus, only to be discovered and sent back 4 kilometres later.

The Noratlas crews’ mission was to fly at a height of 500ft, speed of 150 miles/hour, with total radio silence, without navigation lights and with the flight course being along the FIR Athens-Cairo, in order to avoid detection. They would then land in Nicosia airfield, unload the Raiders and their equipment, and return to Crete. The objective was to complete the mission during the nighttime, and so, only fifteen of the twenty available aircrafts were used.