Politics and Military Advice: Lessons from the Campaign in Greece 1941

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

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Codename MARITA

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

WWII German attack on Greece (operation Marita)

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

Battle of Greece – Operation Marita

 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

Directive No. 25, preparations for invasion of Yugoslavia-Greece, 27 March 1941

Hitler’s war directive No. 25
Concerning preparations for invasion
of Yugoslavia.
27 March 1941

The Führer and the Supreme Commander Führer Headquarters
of the Armed Forces. 27th march 1941.
13 copies

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.

  1. 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