Greece in World War II

Greek: Ελλαδα Β’ Παγκοσμιος Πολεμος
Major Victories: Greco-Italian War
Casualties: 400,000

Greece - World War II.

Greece – World War II.

During the outbreak of World War II in September, 1939, Greece had maintained a neutral position. However there was constant pressure from Italy, who were allied with Germany, as they were looking for their first victory of the war. Then, on October 28, 1940 Ioannis Metaxas, the Dictator of Greece, wasgiven a 3-hour ultimatum from the Italian dictator Mussolini to allow the free passage of Italian troops to unspecified strategic points in Greece. Metaxas rejected the ultimate, today known as “Oxi Day”, a day still celebrated by Greeks around the world. This was the beginning of Greece’s involvement in World War II and the start of the Greco-Italian war.

The Italians began marching through Albania and into Greece where the Greek army counter-attacked and forced the Italians to retreat and kept them at bay for six months.This victory over the Italian forces was the first Allied land victory of World War II and helped to raise the morale of occupied Europe. The victory forced the German forces to postpone their invasion of Soviet Union in order to help the Italians against Greece. This delayed the Germans attack on Soviet Union long enough to be subjected to the cold harsh winters of Russia, thus leading to their ultimate defeat at the Battle of Moscow.

On April 6, 1941 the Germans invaded Greece and by April 30 had conquered all of mainland Greece. The only Greek territory left for the Germans to conquer was the Greek island of Crete. For the Germans, they saw Crete as a strategically important position and in order to conquer it launched the largest airborne attack ever seen, known as the “Unternehmen Merkur”. The attack was launched on May 20, 1941 and ended with 4,000 German casualties on the first day but by the second day the Germans were able to secure Maleme airfield in western Crete. They were then able to fly in thousands of reinforcements and eventually overwhelmed the allied forces and on June 1 the island was under German control. The Greek government and King then fled into exile in Egypt and for the next few years the Greeks tried to liberate Greece until in October of 1944 mainland Greece would finally be liberated. All in all the Greeks suffered more than 400,000 casualties during the occupation and their Jewish community was nearly exterminated in the Holocaust.

Greek quotes from World War II:

  • “For the sake of historical truth I must verify that only the Greeks, of all the adversaries who confronted us, fought with bold courage and highest disregard of death.”
    - Adolf Hitlers speech delivered to Reichstag on 4, May 1941
  • “Hence we will not say that Greeks fight like heroes, but that heroes fight like Greeks” 
    - Winston Churchil

Greece, The first victory:

Nazi Invasion of Crete pt1-2 circa 1944 Office of Strategic Services (OSS) World War II:

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