The folowing article was written by Savvas Vlassis and is published here with his consent. Savvas is a former Greek Army paratrooper and, since 1994, professionally writes about matters of defense, foreign policy and history. Since 2004, he is the  publisher, editor and writer of the military magazine, Dourios Ippos (Trojan Horse). In this article he rebukes the claims in the book “1st Commando Battalion in Cyprus in 1974″ (1’nci Komando Taburu 1974 Kibris) of Haluk Üstügen.

Last summer, a retired Turkish Army major, veteran of the 1974 invasion in Cyprus (Operation ATTILA) visited Cyprus and met Greek and Greek-Cypriot veterans. He served with the 1st Commando Battalion as a lieutenant company commander and recently he published a book about his war memories. I respect utterly every war veteran who fought for his country. However, the story of Mr. Haluk Üstügen struck me from the first moment because of the distortion of the truth he gives to his readers about the 1974 military operations.

Live Your Myth In Occupied Cyprus
Kotzakaya on the right as seen from Aetofolia (eagles nest) to the west. photo by Savvas Vlassis on the site of the battle in 2004.

The Turkish invasion started on the morning of 20 July. The Turkish Commando Brigade landed in Cyprus wave after wave οn Huey helicopters, just north of Nicosia, along with the Parachute Brigade that was dropped in the nearby DZs. Without any particular difficulty from enemy fire (at first, orders from Athens Greece to the Cypriot National Guard were to hold fire in order to clarify the situation on a political level), the commando and para battalions moved north to the Agirta pass.

Their objective was to reinforce the Turkish-Cypriot positions on the Pentadaktylos mountain. The Agirta pass was of strategic importance as it exercised control over the main road from Nicosia to the north coast, where a Turkish amphibious force landed and managed to secure a limited beachhead. In reaction to the landings, three Mires Katadromon* were ordered to attempt the capture of the hills east and west of the pass, clearing the Turkish presence on them.

The goal of the operation was to block the road and prevent the Turkish troops from moving from the beachhead through Pentadaktylos and advancing in the valley south straight to the capital Nicosia. The 31st MK was to attack from the west, having as objective the Kotzakaya hill. The other two units, the 32nd and 33rd MKs, were to attack from the east, to the Aspri Moutti and Petromouthia hills respectively.

The Greek Mires Katadromon entered the fight after five days in alert status, following the 15th July coup d’ etat; an action where they had suffered significant casualties. The 31st Raider squadron had lost its CO (WIA) and second in command (KIA) so a new CO had been posted just the day before the Turkish invasion.

Despite these difficulties, all the Greek Mires Katadromon entered the fight in very high morale and confident about their capabilities. Leaving one platoon behind for security duties in Nicosia, the 31st Raider squadron attacked Kotzakaya at 2300 hours. Three Strike Companies moved unseen through the enemy lines, managed to climb the hill and silently entered the enemy camp. They took the Turks completely by surprise and cleared the barracks, finding inside a mix of Turkish-Cypriots and some Turkish Army commandos resting.

A platoon commander of the 31st Raider squadron, the 2nd Lieutenant Matthaios Economides described: “There was an outer wall damaged in two points. Lieutenant Glentzes entered from one of these openings and fell on the sentry accidentally, managing to shoot him with his Kalashnikov. Luckily no one from the enemy heard the noise because of the forest fire and explosions in the surrounding area. We moved to the barracks.”