Nicos Anastasiades unveils Noratlas aircraft in honour of Greek commandos killed during invasion
An aircraft, similar to Noratlas transport plane which was shot down by friendly fire during the 1974 Turkish invasion, was unveiled on Friday by President Nicos Anastasiades, in a sombre ceremony to mark the 44th anniversary of Turkey’s offensive against Cyprus.
The unveiling ceremony, at the site of the crash, has been described as a small token of appreciation and respect for the Greek commandos and crew of the Noratlas, killed during operation NIKI 4, in the early hours of Monday, July 22, 1974.
The state said it was honouring the 28 Greek commandos and four crew members who were dispatched to Cyprus at a most critical time to help as the Turkish invasion was unfolding. All, except one, were killed in the line of duty.
Anastasiades said Friday’s ceremony was “a minimum mark of respect and gratitude” to those who died.
He acknowledged the failings of successive governments to excavate the site where the plane was buried to give closure to the families and allow a proper burial.
“We will continue our efforts to carry out our duty to the relatives of our heroes and missing persons, with the aim of ending the unacceptable attitude demonstrated by Turkey,” he said.
“At the same time, we fight to find a solution that will safeguard the territorial integrity and full sovereignty of our country.”
Anastasiades expressed the gratitude of the people of Cyprus for the “full and enduring support of Greece in our struggle to end the occupation and to reunify our country”.
Greece was represented at the ceremony by Defence Minister Panos Kamenos, Georgios Varemenos, Second Deputy Speaker of the Hellenic Republic, as well as representatives of Greek fighters’ associations and relatives of the crew on board the fatal flight to Nicosia.
Noratlas, along with other Greek transport planes, set off in an operation code-named “Victory”, to transport a battalion of Greek commandos from Souda, Crete, to Nicosia, to help in the heavy fighting that took place at Nicosia International Airport. Greek aircraft however, were caught in friendly fire, which resulted in the loss of 31 men and the destruction of three aircraft.
Sixteen of the commandos, whose bodies were located at the site of the crash, were buried in Lakatamia military cemetery, a Nicosia suburb. One commando, Thanasis Zafiriou, survived the crash. He died in September 2016. The remaining commandos and crew were found inside the Noratlas plane when it was recently unearthed. The remains of 13 of them were identified and returned to their families. Three commandos are still missing.