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How Germany Did It. - © The Hamilton Spectator, Reproduced with the permission of the Hamilton Spectator.
How Germany Did It
© The Hamilton Spectator, Reproduced with the permission of the Hamilton Spectator.

The Invasion of the Balkans: Yugoslavia, Greece and Crete, 1940-1941

On October 28, 1940, the Italian Duce, Benito Mussolini, invaded northern Greece from Albania, which was at that time under Italian control. Although greatly outnumbered, within a month the Greek army had pushed the Italians back into Albania.

Adolf Hitler was unwilling to allow Italy, his major ally, to be humiliated and he prepared to attack Greece, Britain's last European ally. He had already got the cooperation of Hungary, Rumania and Bulgaria, which were to the north and east of Greece, but Yugoslavia lay between the German forces and Greece. A move against the government in the Yugoslav capital of Belgrade provided the excuse for the Germans to attack both Yugoslavia and Greece on April 6, 1941. Resistance in Yugoslavia quickly collapsed. The Greek armies, reinforced by British, Australian and New Zealand forces, did not last much longer. German soldiers raised the swastika flag over the famous Acropolis in Athens on April 27.

Greek, British and British Commonwealth soldiers who escaped from Greece moved to the nearby island of Crete, where they were joined by fresh New Zealand, British and Australian forces. Hitler's men hit them hard with a new form of German "blitzkrieg" warfare, the first major airborne ssault ever attempted. General Kurt Student's parachutists landed and surrounded the defenders on May 20. Although the Germans suffered many losses, they had driven Allies out by the end of the month.

Flight Lieutenant V.C. Woodward, a Canadian flying a Hawker Hurricane in No. 33 Squadron, RAF, shot down as many as ten Italian and German aircraft in the chaotic conditions of Greece and Crete. He finished the campaign fighting on the ground in Crete armed only with his pistol.

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