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 28 October 1940. Within weeks the Italians were driven out of 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 6 April 1941, with German troops invading Greece through Bulgaria in an effort to secure its southern flank. The combined Greek and British Commonwealth forces fought back with great tenacity, but were vastly outnumbered and out-gunned, and finally collapsed. Athens fell on 27 April. However, the British 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.
Some historians regard the German campaign in Greece as decisive in determining the course of World War II, maintaining that it fatally delayed the Axis invasion of the Soviet Union. Others hold that the campaign had no influence on the launching of Operation Barbarossa as monsoon conditions in the Ukraine would have postponed Axis operations regardless. Others believed British intervention in Greece as a hopeless undertaking, a "political and sentimental decision" or even a "definite strategic blunder." It has also been suggested the British strategy was to create a barrier in Greece, to protect Turkey, the only (neutral) country standing between an Axis block in the Balkans and the oil-rich Middle East.
BATTLE OF CRETE
The Germans drove straight to the Acropolis and raised the Nazi flag. According to the most popular account of the events, the Evzone soldier on guard duty, Konstantinos Koukidis, took down the Greek flag, refusing to hand it to the invaders wrapped himself in it, and jumped off the Acropolis. Whether the story was true or not, many Greeks believed it and viewed the soldier as a martyr.
WHY WAS THE GERMAN VICTORY IN GREECE SO COMPLETE?
- Germany's superiority in ground forces and equipment;
- German supremacy in the air combined with the inability of the Greeks to provide the RAF with more airfields;
- Inadequacy of the British expeditionary force, since the Imperial force available was small;
- Poor condition of the Greek Army and its shortage of modern equipment;
- Inadequate port, road and railway facilities;
- Absence of a unified command and lack of cooperation between the British, Greek, and Yugoslav forces;
- Turkey's strict neutrality;and
- The early collapse of Yugoslav resistance.
THE BRAVE GREEKS
Related: When German Paratroopers Executed Greek Villagers
Germans Move Into The Balkans: Invasion of Yugoslavia..