John O. Iatrides Review: The Greek Connection

Elias Demetracopoulos

With this exhaustively researched, historically balanced and highly readable book James H. Barron has succeeded in rescuing from near obscurity a remarkable journalist, political activist,  and controversial operative, Elias Demetracopoulos, whose achievements earned him the admiration as well as the disdain of many in his homeland, Greece, and his adopted country, America. Relying in part on his subject’s recollections and private papers the author weaves smoothly his narrative into the fabric of Greek and American politics during Demetracopoulos’ long and adventurous life beginning with World War II and Greece’s brutal occupation by the Nazis.

This is the story of a talented, resourceful and ambitious teenager whose dream was to become an investigative reporter inspired, he would claim, by the murder in Salonica of CBS correspondent George Polk in 1948. He muscled his way into journalism, first in Athens, writing for several prominent Greek and American papers and becoming a confidant  of the liberal prime minister George Papandreou. Barely escaping the  1967 colonels’ coup, he settled in Washington, where he cultivated assiduously the powerful in political, military and business circles. He developed valuable contacts and sources, reporting on a wide variety of current political topics, and attracting growing attention as an insider, important journalist of liberal-democratic convictions and implacable critic of the Greek colonels’ dictatorship.

 Ironically, what might have been his greatest scoop that could have earned him a prominent place in the pantheon of American journalists alongside Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, fizzled, leaving him bitterly disappointed for the rest of his life. In 1968, when Vice President Spiro Agnew issued a ringing endorsement of the highly unpopular military dictatorship in Athens, Demetracopoulos unearthed evidence, which subsequently proved to be correct, that the Greek CIA had secretly transferred to the Nixon campaign over half a  million dollars, probably from US military assistance funds. If publicly revealed, the scandal would almost certainly have caused serious damage to the Republican administration  and may have cost Nixon the election. But in what Barron characterizes as “a fatal miscalculation,” Demetracopoulos chose to give the information to the Democratic leadership which, unconvinced of its accuracy, failed to exploit it.

Among the book’s cast of characters, of particular interest for the Greek-American community is Tom Pappas of ESSO Pappas fame, whose life and political, business and other exploits, are no less intriguing than those of Demetracopoulos.

“The Greek Connection” is a masterful biography of a remarkable career in journalism, political activism and intrigue. Thanks to Barron’s meticulous work and fine narrative, Elias Demetracopoulos has received the recognition he sought and deserved.

John O. Iatrides, Southern Connecticut State University