This publication replaces DA Pam 20-260, November 1953
Facsimile Edition, 1984, 1986
CENTER OF MILITARY HISTORY
UNITED STATES ARMY
The purpose of this study is to describe the German campaigns in the Balkans and the seizure of Crete within the framework of Hitler’s military policy during the second year of World War II. The study is the first of a series dealing with large-scale German military operations in Eastern Europe; other historical studies such as Germany and Finland–Allies and Enemies in World War II, The Axis Campaign in Russia, 1941-45: A Strategic Survey, and German Army Group Operations in Russia will follow.
«The German Campaigns in the Balkans» is written from the German point of view and is based mainly on original German records and postwar military writings by Dr. Helmut Greiner, General Burkharth. Mueller-Hillebrand, and the late General Hans von Greiffenberg. The lessons and conclusions following each narrative have been drawn from the same German sources. (These records and manuscripts are listed in appendix III.) Material taken from U.S. and Allied sources has been integrated into the text, but specific cross references have been made only in those instances where these sources deviate from the German documents. Συνέχεια
The Yugoslav army was regarded for one of the strongest in Europe. Its prestige was strengthened by glorious traditions of the Serbian army from two Balkan and the First World wars. That was however the army of ethnically homogeneous Serbia whereas in 1941 the army was comprised of soldiers of multinational Yugoslavia and within its ranks occurred all the contradictions splitting this country.
During the peacetime the Yugoslav army numbered about 150,000 men divided among 20 divisions. Mobilization plans foresaw formation of 31 divisions (28 infantry and 3 cavalry ones) as well as many border, fortress and auxiliary units; altogether 1.7 million men. This large force had inadequate armaments, especially in anti-tank, anti-aircraft weapons and vehicles (only two tank battalions were available, which possessed only one modern tank). Partially modernized air forces had about 520 aircraft, and smallish navy apart from the Adriatic fleet also had its own air force, coastal defence and a large riverine flotilla. Συνέχεια
First shots were fired yet before the midnight on 5 April 1941: German assault groups attacked several object along the Yugoslav borders. At 2:00 a German engineer group took by surprise the Yugoslav side of the Iron Gate and voided the Yugoslav plan to block the shipping on the Danube. At 5:00 German and Italian air forces set off for the action, and at 5:15 started the German attack on Skopje, Veles and Strumica. At 6:30 first aircraft from the German 4th Air Fleet flew over Belgrade. Συνέχεια
In October 1940 the British command happened to withdraw some forces from North Africa to give aid to Greece, a rather moral one. The Greeks though proved to be inflexible beyond expectation, they had fought off advanced Italian divisions, driven them back, and close behind them entered Albania. The general situation in the Balkans was worsening week after week and the reinforcement of British expeditionary forces in Greece was becoming an urgent necessity. To the country of the Hellenes had been sent one of two brigades of the 2nd Armoured Division, two infantry divisions and a considerable part of aviation, 50,000 men altogether. A highland rifles brigade had to join them soon. In command was Gen. Henry Maitland Wilson. Συνέχεια
ΣΥΝΤΟΜΟ ΙΣΤΟΡΙΚΟ ΣΗΜΕΙΩΜΑ
ΠΕΡΙ ΤΗΣ ΔΡΑΣΕΩΣ ΤΩΝ ΕΥΕΛΠΙΔΩΝ
ΚΑΤΑ ΤΗΝ ΠΕΡΙΟΔΟ 1940-45
Α. ΕΛΛΗΝΟΪΤΑΛΙΚΟΣ ΚΑΙ ΕΛΛΗΝΟΓΕΡΜΑΝΙΚΟΣ ΠΟΛΕΜΟΣ – ΜΑΧΗ ΤΗΣ ΚΡΗΤΗΣ (28 Οκτωβρίου 1940 – 31 Μαΐου 1941)
1. Παραμονές του Πολέμου
Λίγες μέρες πριν από τον ύπουλο τορπιλλισμό του Καταδρομικού «Έλλη» από ιταλικό υποβρύχιο, στο λιμάνι της Τήνου (15 Αυγ. 1940) κι’ ενώ τα σύννεφα του πολέμου συσσωρεύονταν απειλητικά στον ουρανό της Ελλάδος, 289 απόφοιτοι Ευέλπιδες ορκίστηκαν (10 Αυγ. 1940) ως Ανθυπολοχαγοί ενώπιον του τότε βασιλιά Γεώργιου Β΄. Ήταν η τάξη του 1940. Δυόμηση δε μήνες αργότερα (παραμονές του πολέμου) φοιτούσαν στη ΣΣΕ τρεις (3) Τάξεις, σύμφωνα με τον ισχύοντα τότε Οργανισμό της:
– Η νεοπροαχθείσα ΙΙΙη Τάξη (από το φθινόπωρο του 1938).
– Η νεοπροαχθείσα ΙΙη Τάξη (322 μαθητές) από 29 Οκτωβρίου 1939.
– Η μόλις εισαχθείσα Ιη Τάξη (326 μαθητές) από 2 Οκτωβρίου 1940.
Υπόψη ότι σε κτίριο της Λεωφόρου Αλεξάνδρας λειτουργούσε ταυτόχρονα και η «Στρατιωτική Σχολή Αξιωματικών Σωμάτων και Υπηρεσιών» (ΣΣΑΣΥ) με 109 συνολικά μαθητές των ειδικοτήτων: Υγειονομικού, Διαχειρίσεως, Στρατολογίας και Αυτοκινήτων. Επίσης δε στις εγκαταστάσεις της Σχολής στρατωνίστηκε από τον Νοέμβριο του ‘40 ο Ουλαμός Εφέδρων Αξιωματικών. Συνέχεια
The Battle of Crete, the subject of this volume, is the final act of the war drama that resulted in the occupation of Greece by the German and Italian forces.
The loss of the Battle of Crete by the British forces which were assembled in the island in a disorganized condition and, in some cases, without weapons after their struggle in mainland Greece, was largely due to total lack of air support and poor means of antiaircraft defense. Lack of coordination in the defense efforts of the British forces, the result of the destruction of the communication means of the British command with its subordinated forces from the very first hours, also contributed greatly to the unfortunate outcome of the battle.
The Greek units, hastily organized, with only very limited arms and equipment, as well as the voluntary participation of the local populace of Crete in the struggle, could not prevent the inevitable, despite their acts of heroism. Συνέχεια
Όταν τον Οκτώβριο του 1940 η Ιταλία επετέθη κατά της Ελλάδας, είχε μόλις τότε τελειώσει η Μάχη της Αγγλίας και τα Βρετανικά Στρατεύματα είχαν υποχωρήσει από την Ευρώπη στην Δουνκέρκη. Μεταξύ Γερμανίας και Σοβιετικής Ενώσεως ίσχυε από το 1939 Σύμφωνο Φιλίας. Η Μάχη της Ελλάδας κατά των απρόκλητων Ιταλικών αρχικά από 28 Οκτωβρίου 1940 επιθέσεων αργότερα δε από και των 6 Απριλίου 1941 Γερμανικών, διήρκεσε συνολικά 216 ημέρες. Αυτό προκάλεσε παγκόσμια κατάπληξη και αιτία πολλαπλού γενικευμένου θαυμασμού και εγκωμίων. Ήταν κάτι το μεγαλειώδες, το οποίο δικαίως θεωρήθηκε ως Ελληνικό θαύμα. Όπως αναφέρει ο Peter Young στο βιβλίο του “WORLD ALMANAC BOOK OF WW II”, για την κατάληψη της Γαλλίας ο Άξονας χρειάστηκε 45 ημέρες, παρά τη στρατιωτική βοήθεια που της εδόθη με την εκεί παρουσία ισχυρών Αγγλικών δυνάμεων, του Βελγίου 185 μέρες, ενώ η Δανία υπέκυψε σε ώρες και οι Βουλγαρία, Ουγγαρία, Ρουμανία και Αλβανία προσεχώρησαν ή παρεδόθησαν αμαχητί. Συνέχεια
Greek soldiers leaving for the front
Άσβεστον κλέως οίδε φίλη περί πατρίδι θέντες
Αμφεβάλοντο νέφος κυάνεον θανάτου.
Ουδέ τεθνάσι θανόντες επεί σφ’αρετή καθύπερθε
κυδαίνουσ’ ανάγει δώματος εξ Αίδεω. Θουκιδίδης, Περικλέους Επιτάφιος, 431 π.Χ.
By wrapping round themselves the dusky cloud of death these men clothed their dear country with an unquenchable renown.
They died, but they are not dead, for their own virtue leads them gloriously up again from the shades. Thucydides, Pericles Epitaph, 431 BC
BEFORE THE BEGINNING…
Italy has annexed Albania in 1939. Thus Greece was the next, seemingly easy, target.
- 1940 August 15: The Greek cruiser Helle is torpedoed and sunk, lying at anchor in Tinos harbor. Fragments of the torpedo reveal that the armament was of Italian manufacture.
- October 15: The Italian War Council decides on the attack on Greece.
- October 28: Greek Prime Minister Metaxas rejects an ultimatum from the Italian ambassador in Athens, demanding the passage of Italian troops to unspecified points in Greece. Italian troops poor over the Greco-Albanian frontier into Greece. Britain immediately promises help.
Greek infantry fighting in the mountains. In the harsh weather conditions and forbidding terrain the Greeks repelled the Italian invasion, while a German invasion was being prepared in their rears.
The Greek intelligence became aware of the operation Marita quite soon. Greece had found itself in the position of a man, who, while fighting with one stooge, simultaneously has behind his back another stooge, pointing a gun at his head. The only solution of the situation was seen in creating some great coalition of the Balkan countries and Turkey, British support, and defeat of the Italian forces in Albania sooner than the Germans could manage to appear on the scene. The Greek prime minister, Ioánnis Metaxás, did not abandon any available option, but, being a sober man, he decided to face the German invasion even if left alone, for he realised that the Allied cause would eventually prevail. Since all the resources at that time were engaged in the war with Italy, Greece could put against the Germans only five weak divisions. It meant a fight purely for honour, for there was not the slightest chance to repel the invasion. Along those lines Metaxas rejected British support, if it had to be merely symbolical, since he rightfully realised that would only prompt Germans for further actions.
In the end of October 1940 a beautiful Mediterranean autumn ruled in Rome and Athens. But to the Greco- Albanian frontier running through the wilderness of the Pindus plateau came a Balkan winter – cold, rainy, even snowy in upper parts of the mountains. In that frontier, which separated Greece from Italian- occupied Albania, since some time had been freezing soldiers of both sides: Italian, who by Mussolini’s will were about to march on Athens, and Greek, who were preparing to defend their country of the invasion. Italian soldiers expected a tourist march to Athens, after which they would promptly return to their homes. The commander of the Aquila Battalion from the 3rd Alpine Division (Giulia), Major Fatuzzo, on 27 October 1940 noted in his diary: Συνέχεια
Development of the situation in Greece had frustrated Germans’ hopes for quick conquest of Greece by Italy. Quite the contrary, Berlin contemplated a possibility to face a broader anti-fascist coalition in the Balkans, including Turkey siding with the British. Also the Bulgarian government warned Berlin that Yugoslavia also might change its policy. In those circumstances Adolf Hitler decided about an intervention in Greece. However, such an intervention required additional political manoeuvres. It was necessary to attract Bulgaria and Yugoslavia to the «Axis», neutralize Turkey, obtain Romania’s consent to increase the contingent of the German troops in that country, and obtain Hungary’s consent for transporting the troops via its territory. It was also important to mask all those actions in a way that would not alarm the Soviet Union. Moreover, the military operation against Greece had to be completed soon enough to engage the participating troops against the USSR before May 1941. Hence the obvious tendency had emerged to solve the Italo-Greek conflict by «peaceful» means. Politicians in Berlin expected that merely a threat of a German intervention would be enough to force Greece’s capitulation. Συνέχεια
Although politicians in Rome were talking about an occupation of the whole Greece, there was barely enough troops concentrated in Albania to seize Epirus. Bigger operations had to be improvised while the hostilities were already going on. Out of 140,000 men deployed in Albania 100,000 were in combat units: five infantry divisions, one armoured, and one alpine division. Moreover three cavalry regiments, one grenadier regiment and some smaller units were used to create the Coastal Group, which more or less equalled in strength to a division. Most of those forces were concentrated along the Epirus frontier. General Sebastiano Visconti Prasca exercised the command through the Supreme Command Albania (Superalba). On 24 October his forces were divided into two army corps: 25th or Ciamuria in Epirus under the command of Gen. Carlo Rossi, and 26th in Western Macedonia under the command of Gen. Gabriele Nasci. The Ciamuria Corps had to strike with the forces of the Division Ferrara (23rd Inf.) and the Armoured Division Centauro (131st Amd.) from the area of Tepelena and Gjirokastra on Kalpakion, Yannina and Arta. The Infantry Division Siena (51st Inf.) had to force the Kalamas River, and support the advance on Yannina. Συνέχεια
Greek drama. The combat spirit of the Greek army was high, but it had to perish before the technical superiority of the invaders.
While the Army Eastern Macedonia and the forces of the 3rd Military District, deployed on the Bulgarian frontier, were falling apart under the blows of the German 12th Army, the troops commanded by Gen. Henry Maitland Wilson were still organizing defences along the line Aliakmon valley – Vermion mountains – lake Vegoritis – Kajmakcalan. The news about the Yugoslav debacle on the Vardar caused that Gen. Wilson began to worry that the enemy troops could reach the rears of his left wing. Upon an agreement with General Aléxandros Papagos it was decided that the left wing of the Greco-British troops would be evacuated from the sector Vegoritis – Kajmakcalan to the area of the pass Kirli Derven near Klidi, where they would build new defences blocking the northern approaches from Bitola. While the troops were already on the move, the news came that the enemy took Bitola. It meant that the Yugoslav defence in that area was broken, and the German command got an opportunity to engage more forces in Greece. Συνέχεια
The Battle of Greece (also known as Operation Marita, German: Unternehmen Marita) was a World War II battle that occurred on the Greek mainland and in southern Albania. The battle was fought between the Allied (Greece and the British Commonwealth) and Axis (Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and Bulgaria) forces. With the Battle of Crete and several naval actions, the Battle of Greece is considered part of the wider Aegean component of the Balkans Campaign of World War II.
The Battle of Greece is generally regarded as a continuation of the Greco-Italian War, which began when Italian troops invaded Greece on October 28, 1940. Within weeks the Italians were driven from Greece and Greek forces pushed on to occupy much of southern Albania. In March 1941, a major Italian counterattack failed, and Germany was forced to come to the aid of its ally. Operation Marita began on April 6, 1941, with German troops invading Greece through Bulgaria in an effort to secure its southern flank. The combined Greek and British forces fought back with great tenacity, but were vastly outnumbered and outgunned, and finally collapsed. Athens fell on April 27. However, the British Commonwealth managed to evacuate about 50,000 troops. The Greek campaign ended in a quick and complete German victory with the fall of Kalamata in the Peloponnese; it was over within twenty-four days. Nevertheless, both German and Allied officials have expressed their admiration for the strong resistance of the Greek soldiers. Συνέχεια
H αερομεταφερόμενη επίθεση των Γερμανών για την κατάληψη της Κρήτης απετέλεσε ακρογωνιαίο λίθο για την μελλοντική ανάπτυξη και διαμόρφωση των δυνάμεων αλεξιπτωτιστών έως και σήμερα. Το αλεξίπτωτο ως υλικό ήταν γνωστό από τον A’ Παγκόσμιο Πόλεμο στις διάφορες στρατιωτικές υπηρεσίες, οι οποίες το Θεωρούσαν μόνον ως ένα διασωστικό μέσο και μάλιστα κακής υπόληψης, καθώς κάποιοι θεωρούσαν δειλία την εγκατάλειψη ενός φλεγόμενου αεροσκάφους! Σε κάποια ανήσυχα και διορατικά μυαλά, ωστόσο, απετέλεσε την αφορμή για την εκπόνηση νέων στρατηγικών και τακτικών μάχης, οι οποίες σήμερα, στην πλέον εξελιγμένη μορφή τους, έχουν προκαλέσει μια πλήρη μεταβολή του σύγχρονου πεδίου μάχης, των αρχών και των μηχανισμών διεξαγωγής του πολέμου. Συνέχεια
Ξημερώνοντας του Αγιαννιού, με την αύριο των Φώτων, λάβαμε τη διαταγή να κινήσουμε πάλι μπροστά, για τα μέρη όπου δεν έχει καθημερινές και σκόλες. Έπρεπε, λέει, να πιάσουμε τις γραμμές που κρατούσανε ως τότε οι Αρτινοί, από Χειμάρρα ως Τεπελένι. Νύχτα πάνω στη νύχτα βαδίζαμε ασταμάτητα, ένας πίσω από τον άλλο, ίδια τυφλοί. Και τις λίγες φορές όπου κάναμε στάση να ξεκουραστούμε, μήτε που αλλάζαμε κουβέντα, μονάχα σοβαροί και αμίλητοι, φέγγοντας μ ένα μικρό δαδί, μία-μία μοιραζόμασταν τη σταφίδα. Ή φορές πάλι, αν ήταν βολετό, λύναμε βιαστικά τα ρούχα και ξυνόμασταν με λύσσα ώρες πολλές, όσο να τρέξουν αίματα. Τι μας είχε ανέβει η ψείρα ως το λαιμό, κι αυτό ήταν πιο κι απ την κούραση ανυπόφερτο. Συνέχεια
The Sunday 3 October 1943 was a divinely sunny autumn day.
To the Lingiadites it was a day of lighter peasant works. They would mostly see to walnut trees and collect walnuts in the vicinity of Moglius. The way was not long but it became the way of salvation. Those, who took the usual road, survived.
The day followed its routine. Nobody had a foreboding of the coming disaster. It was about the mid- day when the peasant women driving mules laden with large water-drums (since the village had no water wells) took the road back to the village. On the way they kept knitting or spinning the wool, since country women never let a minute go without a work. As they were approaching to the village, they found themselves under machine-gun fire from the Island (on the Lake Yannina). Here we owe one explanation: As the GESTAPO came to Yannina, the Wehrmacht command installed itself not in the town, but on the Island, in the house of the Lappas, on the Drabovota side. Συνέχεια
Ustaši, the terrorist and extreme nationalist fascist organzation, originated from the extremist Croatian Law Party founded by Ante Starèeviæ – also the founder of the idea of a «Greater Croatia», which claimed a racial and religious exclusiveness of the Croats, and advocated their right to territorial expansion. On 7 January 1929 it was hypocritically named Hrvatski Ustaški Pokret, which means the Croatian Insurgent Movement. Smallish in numbers, and organized along the military patterns, it fought against the Yugoslav statehood by the means of terror. Among others on 9 October 1934 in Marseilles ustaši murdered the King of Yugoslavia Alexander I, and the French foreign minister Jean Louis Barthou. In this and many other cases they enjoyed the support of fascist Italy, which harboured their leadership with the chief of the ustaši, Ante Paveliæ. Also Hungary lent its territory to the ustaši terrorist operations. They particularly intensified their activities after the change of the government in Belgrade and Italy’s decision to join the German aggression against Yugoslavia. Then they also obtained support of the Nazis. The crimes ustaši committed during the Second World War in their own country gained them infamy in the whole civilized world. Nevertheless, after the war many ustaši found shelter in the United States, Argentina and Spain, where among others Paveliæ spent the last years of his life.
It is particularly hideous that the ustaši since the beginning of their existence enjoyed a full support of the Roman Catholic Church. Paveliæ’s terrorist bands had been morally and financially encouraged and supported by the Vatican. Monasteries had been used as the clandestine headquarters of the ustaši long before the Nazi attack on Yugoslavia. Secret separatist and military activities had been disguised for years under the cloak of religion. The Catholic priesthood in Croatia, Herzegovina and Dalmatia had repeatedly convoked so-called eucharistic congresses which in reality were for extremist political purposes. The sundry semi-military, illegal terrorist movements were likewise screened by the mantle of religion. Most of them were affiliated with Catholic organizations under the direct supervision of the Catholic Action and its leader Feliks Niedzielski. Most of the members of such religious organizations were active in sabotage and acts of terrorism, and a good number of them even participated in the treacherous disarming of the Yugoslav army following German attack. As soon as they came into the open, many of them appeared transformed into ustaši authorities, functionaries in ustaši commissions, heads of district councils, or even of concentration camps. On the same day as the German army had entered the capital of Croatia, Zagreb, archbishop Alojzije Stepinac called on the leader of the ustaši and urged all the Croats to support the so-called Independent State of Croatia. During the war Stepinac became one of the most notorious war criminals and was sentenced to 20 years in prison in post-war Yugoslavia. Nevertheless he was beatified by the pope John Paul II in 1994.