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
By Squadron Leader David Stubbs
This paper suggests that the British decision to become involved in Greece, with a token RAF force in November 1940, helped set in train a series of events which ultimately led to the disastrous joint and coalition venture, where the military desire to satisfy the political appetite for grand strategy caused some commanders to ignore their own assessments that intervention was likely to fail without adequate air support. The paper will show how political pressure was applied to the military commanders and how their objections were gradually eroded so that they began to ignore their own rational analysis and come to believe that the impossible was possible, with ruinous consequences in terms of men and equipment. Συνέχεια
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Part One: THE BALKAN AREA AND ITS PEOPLES
•Chapter 1: Physical Geography
•Chapter 2: National States
•V. Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, and Turkey
•Chapter 3: Transportation and Communication
•II. Main Rail Lines
•III. Principal Highways
•IV. Waterways, Airfields, and Signal Facilities
Part Two: THE OCCUPATION OF THE BALKANS AND THE RISE OF THE GUERRILLA MOVEMENT (1941-44)
•Chapter 4: The Occupation Zone and Forces
•I. Division and Dismemberment
•II. The Italians
•III. The Germans
•IV. The Bulgarians and Hungarians
•V. The Puppet Governments
•Chapter 5. The Early Movement and Axis Countermeasures
•Chapter 6: Organization of Guerrilla Units
•I. Unit and Command Structure
•II. Communications and Supply
•III. Training and Tactics
Part Three. THE GUERRILLA MOVEMENT IN GREECE, YUGOSLAVIA, AND ALBANIA (1943-44)
•Chapter 7: Operations (January-August 1943)
•III. The German Situation by Mid-1943
•Chapter 8: The Defeat of Italy and Its Effects
•II. Yugoslavia and Albania
•Chapter 9: Operations to the End of 1943
•II. Yugoslavia and Albania
•Chapter 10: Operations in 1944
•II. The Area of Army Group E
•III. The Area of Army Group F
•Chapter 11. GEMSBOCK and STEINADLER
Part Four: RESULTS AND CONCLUSIONS
THE MILITARY-POLITICAL SITUATION IN THE BALKANS
(October 1940-March 1941)
General Reference Map (451K)
During the latter half of 1940 the Balkans, always a notorious hotbed of intrigues, became the center of conflicting interests of Germany, Italy, Russia, and Great Britain. From the beginning of World War II Adolf Hitler had consistently stated that Germany had no territorial ambitions in the Balkans. Because his primary interest in that area was of an economic nature—Germany obtained vital oil and food supplies from the Balkan countries—he was prepared to do his utmost to preserve peace in that part of Europe. For this reason he attempted to keep in check Italy’s aggressive Balkan policy, to satisfy Hungarian and Bulgarian claims to Romanian territory by peaceful means, and to avoid any incident which might lead to Great Britain’s direct intervention in Greece. It was no easy task to synchronize so many divergent political actions at a time when Germany was preparing the invasion of the British Isles and later planning as alternate measures the capture of Gibraltar, the occupation of Egypt and the Suez Canal, and the attack on Russia. Συνέχεια
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.
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
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
Hitler’s war directive No. 25
Concerning preparations for invasion
27 March 1941
The Führer and the Supreme Commander Führer Headquarters
of the Armed Forces. 27th march 1941.
DIRECTIVE No. 25
1. The military revolt in Yugoslavia has changed the political position in the Balkans. Yugoslavia, even if it makes initial professions of loyalty, must be regarded as an enemy and beaten down as quickly as possible.
- It is my intention to break into Yugoslavia in the general direction of Belgrade and to the south by a concentric operation from the Fiume-Graz area on the one side, and the Sofia area on the other, and to deal an annihilating blow to the Yugoslav forces. Further, the extreme southern region of Yugoslavia will be cut off from the rest of the country and will be occupied as a base from which the German-Italian offensive against Greece can be continued. Συνέχεια