Words at War: Escape from the Balkans / Ave Duce / A Book of War Letters

Words at War: Escape from the Balkans / Ave Duce / A Book of War Letters

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The Balkans Campaign was the invasion of Greece and Yugoslavia by the Axis powers during World War II. It began with Italy's failed invasion of Greece on 28 October 1940 and ended with the capture of Crete by German and Italian forces on 1 June 1941.

The Greco-Italian War lasted from 28 October 1940 to 30 April 1941 and was part of World War II. Italian forces invaded Greece and made limited gains. But soon the Greeks counter-attacked and the Italians were repulsed and driven back into Albania. The Italians spent much of the winter stabilizing a line which left them in control of only about two-thirds of Albania. A much anticipated Italian offensive in March 1941 failed to make sufficient progress. Germany intervened in April and invaded Greece after a successful invasion of Yugoslavia.

The Invasion of Yugoslavia (also known as Operation 25) began on 6 April 1941 and ended with the unconditional surrender of the Royal Yugoslav Army on 17 April. The invading Axis powers (Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, Hungary, and Bulgaria) occupied and dismembered the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. By cobbling together Bosnia and Herzegovina, some parts of Croatia, and Syrmia, the "Independent State of Croatia" (Nezavisna Država Hrvatska, NDH) was created by Germany and Italy. In some of the territory of the former Kingdom of Serbia and the Banat, the German-occupied Territory of the Military Commander in Serbia, the Germans appointed a puppet government, the Government of National Salvation led by Milan Nedić. In Montenegro, a puppet "Independent State of Montenegro" was created as an Italian protectorate. However, the "protectorate" was nominally a kingdom even though Prince Michael of Montenegro never accepted the crown.

Hitler began planning to invade Greece in November 1940, after the British occupied Crete and Lemnos. He ordered the German Invasion of Greece — code-named Unternehmen Marita (Operation Marita) by Germany — on December 13, 1940 for execution in March 1941. The stated aim of the operation was to prevent the British from getting air bases within striking range of the Romanian oilfields.[1] On April 6, 1941, the German Army invaded northern Greece, while other elements launched an attack against Yugoslavia. Breaking through the Yugoslav lines in southern Yugoslavia allowed Germany to send reinforcements to the battlefields of northern Greece. The German army out-flanked the Greek Metaxas Line fortifications and, despite the assistance provided by a British expeditionary corps, set out to capture the southern Greek cities. The Battle of Greece ended with the German entry into Athens and the capture of the Peloponnese, although about 40,000 Allied soldiers were evacuated to Crete, prompting one of the largest airborne attacks in the history of warfare: Operation Merkur, or the Battle of Crete.

By June 1, 1941, all of Albania, Yugoslavia and Greece were under Axis control. Greece was placed under triple occupation, and Yugoslavia was dissolved and occupied. Germany had gained a significant strategic advantage: direct access to the Mediterranean. The Allied High Command feared that Crete and Greece would be used as "springboard" for an invasion of British Egypt or Cyprus. However, any plans for a large-scale invasion of Egypt and Palestine were abandoned when Operation Barbarossa commenced on June 22.