Manolis Bikakis – a Cretan-born hero of Cyprus.
His story is not well known, but one thing is for sure, everyone who reads about him will feel that he justly deserves a place next to the greatest Heroes of Hellenism.
On July 20, 1974, Turkey began its brutal invasion of Cyprus began, and Greece, being controlled by a CIA-installed military dictatorship, did next to nothing to support the Cypriots.
Born in 1954 in the village of Asi Gonia between Chania and Rethymnon, Manolis Bikakis 1974 served in the 1st Parachute Squadron in Maleme.
The Squadron was one of the few to be called upon to defend Cyprus.
As the planes full of commandos approached Nicosia airport after a low flight two to three meters above the sea, they came under fire from the Turks and Cypriot Greeks, who mistakenly thought they were Turkish planes.
One of the planes was shot down by the friendly fire, killing all the commandos and the crew except Thanasis Zafiriou, who jumped out and was rescued with serious injuries.
Bikakis, only 20 years old at the time, in the chaos of the battle, was separated from his comrades who believed he had died. He was alive and had a PAO (Non-Reversible Cannon) and eight missiles.
He was on a hill west of Nicosia,Agios Dometios.
Despite being alone, the Cretan soldier did not even think of leaving the hill to save himself, knowing Nicosia airport would inevitably fall to the invaders if the Turks captured the mountain.
His first launched missile destroyed a Turkish tank causing the panicked crew to abandon it and run for safety. Because his position from the shot was known by the Turks, he quickly changed position, with difficulty, since he had to carry the PAO and seven more missiles.
He marked the second Turkish tank from the new position and completely destroyed it, killing the entire crew.
There was confusion, and the next two Turkish tanks changed direction. Bikakis targeted one tank, which he also destroyed with a well-aimed shot.
Then destroyed another tank.
He was left with only two missiles.
When he saw the Turkish soldiers running to cover themselves in a building, he armed the PAO again. The last two missiles hit the building where the Turkish infantry battalion was covered.
No one knows how many were killed.
He single-handedly managed to prevent the Turkish attack aimed at occupying Agios Dometios, which would mean a siege against Nicosia and cutting off access to Nicosia airport.
In the middle of the summer, the Cretan was left alone for four days looking for other commandos, having with him only a machine gun he found on the hill. He succeeded in finding a building with a telephone and immediately called his superiors.
– Forward, Commander, Commander Bikakis.
– Where are you, my child! Are you alive; What happened to you; Are you well?
– I am well, Commander, I am in the FORD delegation.
– Wait, I’m sending a vehicle to pick you up. Your eyes are fourteen. You are in a danger zone.
– Commander, I have not eaten in four days, send food together, and I have no water at all.
He joined his unit, and after the end of the invasion, he returned to Greece.
Despite his commander submitting a petition for him to be awarded a medal, the Greek state never honoured him. Bikakis got married and started a family working as a builder in Crete.
He claimed neither laurels nor honours.
It is little wonder why he is known as the “Greek Rambo.”
The heroic Greek soldier tragically died in a car accident on October 22, 1994, while driving on the GR-8A road that connects Corinth with Patras.
Despite his heroism in Cyprus, he was only honoured posthumously in 2015, more than 40 years after his actions and 21 years after his death.