General Michael Arnaoutis was one of Greece's bravest heroes and greatest patriots. He was a man who had significantly shaped the fate and history of his country, and although in exile for thirty years, his heart and mind were always in Greece. He was born in Areopolis in Sparta in 1927 and in many ways was typical of the Spartans of legend: invincible and stoic. He entered the Military Academy in Greece in 1946 and graduated with honours in 1948 as one of the top students and was commissioned as second lieutenant of the Infantry. He took part in the Civil War in Greece in the course of which he was wounded and later decorated.
In 1951 he volunteered to be part of the Greek Regiment in the Korea Expeditionary Force where he fought with exceptional bravery and gallantry and broke the Iron Triangle, thus changing the entire course of the war and winning acclaim from the United Forces under General Van Fleet (who "christened" him the Benjamin of the United Nations), and from the Korean Government. He was awarded the American Bronze Star twice and the Silver Star twice. A strategic hill in North Korea was named after him. He was awarded three Greek Gold Medals for Gallantry in the Civil War; a further four Greek Medals; and a host of foreign medals making him one of the most decorated men in Greece. HM The King awarded him the Chain and the Grand Commander of the Royal Family Order of St George and St Constantine, an exceptional honour as this is an Order only bestowed to royalty.
After Korea he trained at Fort Benning, Georgia, U.S.A. at the Infantry School, again winning high honours. He then spent some time in Japan as one of the youngest ambassadors ever in the occupying forces. On his return to Greece from Korea he was appointed instructor at the Military Academy of Greece which was a rare honour for somebody of his age and went on to write the definitive handbook of military warfare for the Academy.
In 1955 he was chosen from amongst all his peers to be the instructor to the then Crown Prince Constantine and in 1958 on the coming-of-age of the Crown Prince he was appointed his Aide and in 1960 became Chief of the Military Household of the Crown Prince which was a position he held until March 1964 when the Crown Prince acceded to the throne. Michael Arnaoutis then became Private Secretary to King Constantine and occupied this post until April 1967.
This was the year in which the coup against the Crown took place and Michael Arnaoutis was the first person to be arrested, as it was well known by the leaders of the coup that if they immobilised him the coup would be successful. His house was surrounded and machine gunned; his doors broken down and he was beaten up severely bearing the scars of his ordeal until the day he died. He was then taken to the Military Headquarters and held by the coup leaders in an effort to ensure the success of their coup.
He was violently opposed to the swearing in of the Military Government and as a result of his violent opposition was sentenced to death immediately. It was finally agreed that he could go into exile in London immediately as an Assistant Military Attaché, and he left for London in May of 1967. He remained at the embassy until December 1967 when the King's attempt to restore parliamentary democracy failed.
Michael Arnaoutis was above all an Officer and had sworn an oath of allegiance to his country and to his King, and had promised King Paul that he would take care of his young son King Constantine. He did his duty and remained in his position and paid the unbearable price of exile from his beloved country.
The Military Government asked for the recall of Michael Arnaoutis who was then a lieutenant colonel, but he refused to return to serve them and was thus committed to trial by court martial and an order was put out for his arrest should he ever enter Greece again. He was not even allowed to return to his homeland to bury his parents or his brothers which was a source of great sadness to him and something he mentioned in the very last week of his life with great emotion.
He graduated from the London School of Economics with post-graduate degrees in social administration and in economics and history. He spoke fluent Russian, German and English and in later years taught himself Spanish and with his usual determination and meticulousness perfected the language to such an extent that he was reading abstruse works of philosophy and economics in the Spanish language which he loved. He met his wife Thene at the London School of Economics in 1968. It was a great love affair and Michael Arnaoutis later told a very close friend "You marry for love and passion, and if after several years you still have love and passion and friendship this is not only a gift from God but from the Gods - something given to the lucky ones: I am a lucky one."
Despite his extraordinary military background, he published a monumental work on the history of Greek and Impressionist painting which is encyclopaedic in its scope and volume and sensitive in its content. He was a man of extraordinary physical and spiritual grace and beauty and had great generosity of spirit and nobility of soul. All who knew him speak of his kindness and sensitivity and his innate knack of knowing when to listen and when to speak. He was a man of amazing generosity and if you admired one of his possessions he gave it to you immediately. He had a great sense of humour and an infectious laugh and was a wonderful raconteur, beginning his accounts with "I'll tell you a very nice story." His integrity was absolute and his ideals of honour and dedication rare. Despite his multiple talents he was a modest and self-effacing and totally discreet and loyal to his friends.
He was tall, handsome and impeccably dressed and lived as a hero and died as a hero. He was finally welcomed back to Greece as a hero where he was given a full military funeral with fulsome eulogies. As he was lowered into the family tomb the large assembled crowd broke into the National Anthem.