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20 Mei 1941 - Duitsers val Kreta binne - Geskiedenis

20 Mei 1941 - Duitsers val Kreta binne - Geskiedenis

Die laaste deel van Griekeland wat nie deur die Duitsers verower is nie, was die eiland Kreta. Die eiland in die Middellandse See beslaan 'n oppervlakte van 3,206 vierkante myl en was bergagtig. Die Geallieerdes het troepe gestuur om die eiland te help verdedig en geglo dat dit suksesvol verdedig kan word, veral omdat die Britte die see beheer het.

Op 20 Mei het die Duitsers 'n verrassende valskermsoldaataanval op die eiland geloods. Dit was die eerste keer dat valskermsoldate in oorlogvoering gebruik is. Die Duitser het swaar verliese gely in die aanvanklike landings van beide valskermsoldate en opvolgsweeftuie. Teen die tweede dag het die Duitsers geleidelik vordering gemaak en het een van die vliegvelde beslag gelê. Die Geallieerdes is gedwing om terug te trek na die Suide. Die Duitsers het beheer oor die lug gehad en het met hul meerderwaardigheid die geallieerde magte suksesvol verslaan wat binnekort op 28 Mei begin terugtrek het. Die laaste troepe is op 1 Junie ontruim met die oorblywende troepe oorgegee.


Kretaanse weerstand

Die Kretaanse weerstand (Grieks: Κρητική Αντίσταση) was 'n versetbeweging teen die besettingsmagte van Nazi -Duitsland en Fascistiese Italië deur die inwoners van die Griekse eiland Kreta tydens die Tweede Wêreldoorlog. [1] Dit was deel van die groter Griekse verset en duur van 20 Mei 1941, toe die Duitser Wehrmacht het die eiland binnegeval in die Slag van Kreta, tot die lente van 1945 toe hulle hulle aan die Britte oorgegee het. Vir die eerste keer tydens die Tweede Wêreldoorlog het die aanvallende Duitse magte op Kreta 'n aansienlike weerstand van die plaaslike bevolking beleef. Kretaanse burgerlikes het valskermsoldate afgeneem of met messe, byle, steen of selfs kaal hande aangeval. As gevolg hiervan is die indringende Duitse valskermsoldate tydens die geveg baie ongevalle aangerig.


Slag van Kreta: Dit het begin met die invasie deur die lug in Duitsland - Operasie Mercurius

In die herfs van 1940 was Adolf Hitler seker dat Josef Stalin hom voorberei het om hom aan te val. Die woord van die Sowjet -diktator se paranoïese opruimings van sy militêre hoë kommando in die laat dertigerjare was 'n gerusstellende nuus vir die Duitse Führer in Berlyn. Maar toe Hitler in 1940 die nuus bereik dat die Sowjets besig is om 'n hele nuwe offisierskorps op te lei, het die Führer weer begin bekommer en beveel sy generaals om planne op te stel vir die inval in die Sowjetunie. Sy rooster is egter weggegooi deur 'n reeks onverwagte ontwikkelings in die suide.

Die Italiaanse diktator Benito Mussolini het Griekeland op 28 Oktober 1940 binnegeval, op die verkeerde tyd van die jaar, maar die aanval het vinnig in die herfsreën neergeval en toe die Grieke op 5 November teenaanval, ry hulle die Duce‘s -magte terug na hul beginpunt aan die Albanese grens.

Britse magte het saam met die Grieke geveg, en Hitler was gedwing om in te gryp, sodat sy vyande nie 'n vastrapplek op sy suidelike flank sou kry nie. Duitse leërs het die Balkan binnegedring en gedemp, en Mussolini gered en die grootste deel daarvan verseker. Die Britse premier Winston Churchill het toe eenhede van die Royal Navy na die oostelike deel van die Middellandse See gestuur in afwagting van 'n Duitse inval op Kreta, die grootste van die Griekse eilande, aan die suidoostelike kus van die Griekse vasteland.

Dit was 'n uitgemaakte saak dat die Duitsers die groot eiland daarna sou teiken. Die teenwoordigheid van Brittanje daar het die Geallieerdes 'n waardevolle basis vir hul lug- en seevloot gegee om voorrade en versterkings wat vir die as -magte in Noord -Afrika bestem was, te bedreig. Bomwerpers van die Royal Air Force gebaseer op Kreta kan ook die belangrike Roemeense olievelde bereik, wat die Duitse oorlogsmasjien aangevuur het, en Kreta kan selfs 'n opvanggebied bied vir 'n geallieerde inval in Suid -Europa.

Vir die Duitsers was tyd van kardinale belang. Operasies in Griekeland en Kreta moes suksesvol afgehandel word voordat die inval in die Sowjetunie onderneem kon word met die vooruitsig op 'n vinnige oorwinning voor die winter. Die elite -lugmagte onder bevel van generaal Kurt Student is op 1 Mei 1941 op hul hoede geplaas. Hulle sou slegs 20 dae hê om voor te berei vir die aanval op hierdie verre, onbekende eiland. Operasie Mercurius, soos dit genoem is, is aan die gang gesit.

Omdat die veldtog inderhaas uitgevoer moes word, was daar op geen vlak tyd vir voorbereiding nie. 'N Totaal van 500 Junkers Ju-52/3m vervoervliegtuie sal nodig wees om die troepe in die lug na die geveg te vervoer. Die vliegtuie was egter tydens die onlangse aanvalle op Joego -Slawië en Griekeland ernstig oorwerk, en hul vliegtuie en enjins moes groot onderhoud ondergaan. Op 1 Mei het die hele vloot noordwaarts gevlieg na tientalle vliegtuigonderhoudsfasiliteite versprei oor Duitsland, Oostenryk en Bohemen-Morawië. Teen 15 Mei was 493 opgeknap, hersweis en andersins herstel Ju-52's terug in Griekeland. Die volgende probleem wat aangespreek moes word, was die vind van geskikte opstelareas vir die armada in die lug.

Die handjievol Griekse vliegvelde met geplaveide wegholbane is reeds deur die Duitse VIII Air Corps ’ bomwerpereenhede beset. Die vervoer sou met stofvelde en grondpaaie moes klaarkom. Toe kolonel Rudiger von Heyking die aanloopbane vir sy 150 Ju-52's ondersoek, rapporteer hy aan sy meerderes: ‘Hulle is niks anders as woestyne nie! Swaar belaaide vliegtuie sal tot by hul enkels sak. ’

Heyking se ontsteltenis was geregverdig. Sy vliegveld buite Topolia is deur sy vorige bevelvoerder geploeg in 'n poging om dit meer gelyk te maak. volg mekaar met tussenposes van minder as 17 minute. Dit was 'n probleem wat die Duitsers dwarsdeur die ontwikkelende teater geteister het. Vervoergroepe in Dadion, Megara, Korinte en Tanagra moes landerye gebruik wat van onstabiele sand verander het.

Die Duitsers het ook gebuk gegaan onder 'n ernstige brandstoftekort. Die drie vlugte deur 493 Junkers om die valskermsoldate na Kreta te lewer, sal na raming 650 000 liter petrol verg. Vanaf 17 Mei het geen brandstof opgedaag nie. Op 26 April het Britse infanterie die brug oor die kanaal van Korinte ingeneem, waardeur die Duitsers 'n brandstofdraende tenkwa moes ry van Italië. Die Britte het die brug, wat in die kanaal geval het, opgeblaas en dit effektief geblokkeer. Teen 17 Mei, Kriegsmarine duikers het daarin geslaag om die puin voldoende op te ruim om die tenkwa te laat verbygaan, en die volgende dag het sy by die Griekse hawe Piraeus aangelê, waar die kosbare brandstof in vate van 45 liter gepomp en op vragmotors gelaai word om na die vliegvelde te vervoer.

As gevolg van die vertraagde tenkwa, is die inval van 15 tot 18 Mei en uiteindelik tot 20 Mei uitgestel. Teen middernag van 19 tot 20 Mei wag 'n paar vervoerskwadrons nog steeds op hul brandstof, en toe dit uiteindelik aankom, was dit tyd so kort dat valskermsoldate moes help om die vate af te laai, dit na die vliegtuie te rol en dan te help terwyl die tenks stadig gevul word met handpompe. Om te vergoed vir die harde nag se werk, het die soldate amfetamiene gekry om hulle wakker te hou gedurende die lang dae wat voorlê.

Die aanranding in die lug het met dagbreek begin, met vloote van Ju-52's wat oor die Kretaanse kus brul, wolke vermoeide valskermsoldate ontwrig terwyl ekstra soldate per sweeftuig aankom. Die aanvanklike lugdruppels is gemaak deur 'n mag van 3000 man onder bevel van genl.maj. Eugen Meindl naby Maleme en Canea aan die noordweste van Kreta. Dit is die middag van die 20ste gevolg deur 2 600 soldate in Heraklion en 1 500 by Rethymnon.

Studente se magte het sulke groot ongevalle gely dat massiewe versterkings nodig geword het om 'n volslae nederlaag te voorkom. Die opposisie teen die inval was baie sterker as wat verwag is. Meer as 40 000 troepe, waaronder Griekse soldate wat uit die vasteland en Britse staatsmagte ontruim is onder bevel van genl.maj. Bernard Freyberg, 'n Nieu -Seelander, het wreed geveg.

Die primitiewe toestande en moorddadige vuurwapenvuur oor Kreta het gedurende die eerste twee dae van die aanval soveel van die belangrikste Ju-52's geëis dat die Duitse hoë bevel getwyfel het dat verdere lugdruppels raadsaam was.

Afgesien van die swaar verliese van Luftwaffe vervoer, was daar die probleem met die lewering van broodnodige artillerie, ammunisie, tenks en ander swaar toerusting, wat almal te swaar was om met vliegtuie vervoer te word. Die oplossing was om die aand van 20 Mei 'n konvooi van Griekse vissers- en handelskepe met 2,331 soldate van die 100ste Bergregiment se 3de Bataljon, volledig gewapen en toegerus, te stuur. Die Duitsers het hul Italiaanse bondgenote probeer oortuig om 'n groot vloot in die weste om die koninklike vloot van die konvooi weg te trek, maar die bewondering van Mussolini het min belangstelling getoon in so 'n riskante slenter. In plaas daarvan het die Duitsers gehoop om hul vyand te mislei met valse radioseine en na Kreta te kom onder die duisternis.

Die probleem met die plan was dit Luftwaffe lug superioriteit was in die nag betekenisloos, en as die Royal Navy die seestrein kon opspoor, kon niks 'n bloedbad voorkom nie. Die swaar gelaaide en bejaarde vaartuie is deur die teenstrydige winde vertraag en was teen dagbreek nog ver van hul bestemming af Luftwaffe verkenning het hulle gewaarsku dat hulle Britse oorlogskepe nader. Die bont vloot het van rigting omgekeer en teruggekeer na sy beginpunt, die kus -eiland Menlos.

Ses uur later het die Duitsers weer probeer, in die hoop dat die vyand nie so gou weer 'n poging sou verwag nie. Maar deur so laat in die dag te begin, het hulle die kans verbeur om Kreta voor donker te bereik. Elemente van die Britse Middellandse See -vloot het aan die noordkus van Kreta gepatrolleer in afwagting van so 'n stap. Net voor middernag het drie kruisers en vier verwoesters van die kommando van admiraal sir Andrew Cunningham in die feitlik onbeskermde Duitse konvooi ingebars.

'N Oorlewende van die aanval skryf later: ‘ Vir ons lyk die soekligte soos vingers van die dood. Skerp gesny teen die duisternis wat hulle hier en daar oor die water rondtas. Vir 'n oomblik raak hulle ons mastpunte in helder lig aan, en dwaal dan verder. Is ons te klein om gesien te word? ’ Klaarblyklik nie, want toe die verskrikte Duitser opkyk, sien hy 'n verwoester uit die donkerte. Die ding is reg voor ons, en hy het voortgegaan. 'N Donker skaduwee hoog soos 'n kerktoring. Die soekligte flits weer en laat ons klein vaartuig so helder soos die dag deurdrenk. 'Almal oorboord! ’ Terwyl ons in die water spring spring die eerste salwe soos 'n storm in ons neer en stort hout en puin om ons ore. ’

Vir 2 1/2 uur was dit 'n kalkoenskiet. Toe breek die oorlogskepe af en tree af, en laat die stukkende oorblyfsels van die vloot dood in die water om noordwaarts na Griekeland te dryf. Cunningham beraam dat 4 000 Duitsers dood is. Trouens, net meer as 800 het gesterf, en met dagbreek het die asmagte 'n massiewe reddingspoging uitgevoer. 'N Tweede konvooi, wat die 2de bataljon van die 85ste bergregiment dra, is dieselfde oggend gesien, maar het met 'n Britse vloot hardnekkig na die vasteland ontsnap.

Ontwikkelings langs die hele oostelike kus sou binnekort die vloed laat draai in die bloedige stryd om Kreta. Vir 'n paar dae Luftwaffe gevegseskaders was besig om op nuut gevange vliegvelde op eilande in die Egeïese See, by die Peloponnesiese stede Argos, Mykene en Molae, en in die noorde in die middel van Griekeland, te versamel. Die Britte het die verwoester verloor Juno op 21 Mei na Duitse vliegtuie, en op 22 Mei het verkenningspatrollies die liggings van Britse vlooteenhede in die hele gevegsgebied bepaal.

Cunningham was bewus van sy kwesbaarheid vir lugaanvalle en het hom daarom daarvan weerhou om te naby die gevegsgebiede te kom. Die Luftwaffe bomwerper -eenhede was so besig om hul beleërde valskermsoldate te ondersteun dat hulle die Britse vloot tot dusver feitlik geïgnoreer het. Miskien het hierdie gebrek aan aandag die admiraal tot te veel selfvertroue bedrieg.

In die nag van 21 tot 22 Mei het Cunningham 14 van sy kruisers en vernietigers na posisies langs die noordkus van die eiland gestuur om die blokkade voort te sit. Dit was hierdie vaartuie wat die Duitse verkenningsvlugte opgemerk het. Kort na die eerste lig brul honderde Duitse bomwerpers en vegters die lug in.

Die eerste wat opgehef het, was die Junkers Ju-87B duikbomwerpers van Stukageschwader 2, onder bevel van luitenant -kolonel Oskar Dinort. Vyf en twintig myl noord van Kreta het hulle teikens gevind, twee kruisers en twee verwoesters. Die Stukas skree van 12 000 voet af en ignoreer die blaasvliegtuigvuur en laai dit op hul merke af. Onder volle stoom en roer het die skepe wanhopig gesig terwyl swaar bomme so naby ontplof het dat hul dekke met seewater van die ontploffings oorstroom is.

Die ligte kruisers Gloucester en Fidji is effens beskadig, terwyl vernietigers Windhond en Griffin ongedeerd na vore gekom. Na 90 minute van feitlik vrugtelose aanval, keer die Stukas terug na hul vliegvelde vir herbewapening en brandstof, terwyl die kwartet Britse vaartuie na die ontmoetingsplek vlug, met die hoofvloot 30 myl van die weskus van Kreta af.

In die ooste was die Britte nog besig om die tweede troepe-flottielie agterna te jaag toe hulle deur 'n tweemotorige Junkers Ju-88 duikbomwerpers aangerand is. Die Geallieerdes het reeds geleer om bang te wees vir hierdie veelsydige vliegtuie, wat spoed, duikvermoë, bomblaas en akkuraatheid in 'n verwoestende mate kombineer. In hierdie aanval het die aanvanklike vlokmuur wat deur die teikens opgegooi is, blykbaar die Duitse aanvallers so ontstel dat slegs twee skepe, die kruisers Naiad en Carlisle, is matig beskadig voordat die vloot versprei het en die ontsnapping na die weste goed gemaak het.

Cunningham was ontsteld oor hierdie maneuver. Hy was oortuig dat sy vaartuie 'n beter kans het as hulle met die troepeskepe sluit en hulle van naby vernietig, terwyl die vlieëniers, wat hy gedink het bang sou wees om hul eie manne te vermoor, hulpeloos oor die kop gons. Hy het ook die vernietiging van hierdie wapensdraende konvooi ter waarde van elke prys beskou. Maar teen die tyd dat sy bevel van ‘Stick daarby! ’ uit Alexandria aankom, het sy taakspan reeds afgetree.

Teen daardie tyd het 19 Britse oorlogskepe vergader, gelei deur die slagskepe Dapper en Warspite. Hulle kan 'n verdorende vuurskerm gooi, maar baie van hul ammunisie is in die vorige dag gebruik. Verder beskik die bevelvoerder van die VIII Lugkorps, generaal Wolfram von Richthofen, oor 'n groot verskeidenheid vuurkragte. 22 Mei 1941 sou aantoon hoe kwesbaar selfs 'n kragtige vloot taakmag kan wees as 'n teenstander die volle beheer oor die lug het.

Om 12:30 het vlugte van Messerschmitt Me-109's en Dornier Do-17's by die Stukas aangesluit om die Britse skepe in die westelike rigting te jaag terwyl hulle met die res van die vloot verbind het. Warspite het onmiddellik 'n direkte treffer gekry. Toe sy haar nood sien, het die Me-109's op haar afgestorm en met 'n masjiengeweer gespuit wat baie matrose doodgemaak het en haar 4- en 6-duim stuurboordbatterye uitgeskakel het.

Op hierdie punt is die vliegtuie van die gevulde en toegeruste Stukageschwader 2 aangekom. Toe die Britte die groot lugarmada oor hulle sien neerdaal, draai hulle om en vlug suidwes in 'n desperate poging om buite bereik te kom. In wese het hulle hul kamerade op Kreta laat vaar en 'n nederlaag toegegee. Die Duitsers was egter nie van plan om hulle ongemaklik te laat ontsnap nie.

'N Paar uur vroeër, Windhond is alleen gestuur om 'n caique vol soldate wat by Antikythera opgemerk is, te vernietig. Die eensame verwoester is gevang en vinnig deur twee Stuka -bomme gesink. Twee ander vernietigers, Kandahar en Kingston, is deur die agterhoof Edward King beveel om terug te keer en die oorlewendes op te laai Gloucester en Fidji sou 'n lugafweerbedekking bied. Die admiraal was nie bewus daarvan dat die kruisers amper ammunisie op was nie, en toe hy daarvan in kennis gestel is en 'n radio gestuur het om terug te keer, was dit te laat.

Gloucester is byna onmiddellik doodgeslaan. Vuur oor haar hele lengte, kronkel sy doelloos tot 16:00, toe sy deur 'n inwendige ontploffing ingesink is. Hierdie keer het King op sy tande gebars en die oorlewende bemanning oorgelaat aan wat hy aangeneem het dat dit 'n dood in die see was. Gedurende die volgende 24 uur het Duitse vlotvliegtuie egter meer as 500 Britse seemanne opgetel.

Intussen het Fidji en haar verwoesters het koers na Alexandrië gegee. Om 17:45 sy is opgemerk deur 'n eensame Me-109 wat 'n bom van 550 pond gedra het. Alhoewel die vlieënier by sy uiterste grens bereik het, het hy nooit gewankel in sy aanval nie, sy bom langs die skip geplant en haar borde vasgemaak. Die gevolglike oorstromings het ernstig verminder Fidji‘s spoed en veroorsaak 'n ernstige lys. Verder het die Duitse vlieënier sy slagoffer se radio gestuur, en toe 'n bomwerper 30 minute later verskyn, was daar min wat die kruiser kon doen om haarself te verdedig. Die vliegtuig het drie bomme van 110 pond op die voorste ketelkamer laat val, en in die nag Fidji draai skilpad en sak.

Ook teen skemer kom vyf moderne vernietigers uit Malta aan en neem hul posisie aan by die noordkus van Kreta. Twee van hulle, Kelly en Kasjmir, het Duitse posisies by Maleme afgedank en 'n paar troepeskepe aangevuur, maar met dagbreek is hulle deur 'n swerm van 24 Stukas aangeval en vinnig na die onderkant gestuur. Vernietiger Kipling 279 oorlewendes gered, insluitend KellyKaptein, Lord Louis Mountbatten. Op 23 Mei om 07:00 het die wat oorgebly het van die Britse Middellandse See -vloot teruggesak na Alexandria.

Die vorige aand het 'n verheugde Richthofen in sy dagboek geskryf: ‘Die Britte vat skip na trefskepe wat brand en sink. Ander draai om om te help en word ook deur bomme betrap. Sommige slap saam met 'n lys, ander met 'n spoor olie, om uit hierdie hel te kom. Vliegtuie wat die hele dag gevlieg het, gebombardeer het, met niks herlaai nie, begin saans triomfantlike blydskapskreeu. Die resultate kan nog nie beoordeel word nie, maar ek het die vaste gevoel van 'n groot en beslissende sukses: Ses kruisers en drie verwoesters is beslis gesink, ander so beskadig dat hulle in die nag sal sink. Ons het uiteindelik getoon dat, as die weer dit toelaat, 'n vloot nie binne die omvang van die vlug kan werk nie Luftwaffe. ’ Richthofen het Berlyn inderhaas uitgestuur om onmiddellike versterkings aan die see na Kreta te stuur. Die hoë bevel was egter nog steeds geskud deur die slag van die eerste troepekonvooi en kon nie glo dat die Royal Navy uit die arena gevee is nie.

Alhoewel die tol van die Britte minder was as wat Richthofen gedink het (slegs twee vernietigers was ten tyde van sy dagboekinskrywing eintlik gesink), was dit steeds aansienlik. Drie ander oorlogskepe is tot nutteloosheid beskadig en meer as 1 000 man het verlore gegaan. Tog, die uitgelate Luftwaffe generaal kon nie die oorhand kry op sy ver, te versigtige meerderes om nog 'n vloot troepedraende bote te lanseer nie. Hulp sou voortgaan om te kom met traagheid deur die uitgeputte eskaders van vragvliegtuie.

As die boonste rakke van die Wehrmacht Die Britte was beslis nie oortuig van hul eie sukses nie. Deur terug te keer na Alexandria, was Cunningham ongehoorsaam aan direkte bevele van Londen om ten alle koste beheer oor die seebane noord van Kreta te behou. Die grusame admiraal kon sien dat die beheer van die see van oppervlakmagte na lugmag oorgegaan het en dat sy meerderjarige idee van oorlog op see verouderd was. Hy stuur die stafhoofde uit dat sy verliese te groot is om te probeer regverdig om verdere aanvalle op Kreta te voorkom, en voeg by dat sy manne en die vaartuie wat hulle vaar, uitputting nader.

Die operasies van die afgelope vier dae was niks anders as 'n sterk toets tussen die Middellandse See -vloot en die Duitse Lugmag nie, en Cunningham berig op 23 Mei. Ek is bevrees dat ons in die kusgebied moet nederlaag erken en aanvaar dat verliese te groot is om ons te regverdig om aanvalle op Kreta deur die see te voorkom. Dit is 'n weemoedige gevolgtrekking, maar dit moet in die gesig gestaar word. ’

Daar sou egter geen Duitsers op die see beland nie, en die gehawende Ju-52's het resoluut voortgegaan om met hul menslike vrag te land. Die 100ste bergregiment, sommige van die mans wat nog nat was van die vorige dag se aborsiewe vaart, word geleidelik sterk met nuwe aankomelinge. Die moeilike, goed toegeruste veterane het begin seëvier in hierdie deurmekaar veldtog wat deur kritieke foute aan beide kante bedwelm is. Die Geallieerdes, sonder lugondersteuning weens 'n gebrek aan vliegdekskepe of geskikte vliegvelde binne die gevegsgebied, is geleidelik na die kusgebiede van die eiland se oostelike uiteinde gestoot, waar hulle wag op ontruiming deur die oorblywende van die gedemoraliseerde Britse vloot.

So laat as 27 Mei tel Churchill generaal Sir Archibald Wavell, opperbevelhebber van die Midde-Oosterse magte, en#8216Victory in Kreta noodsaaklik op hierdie keerpunt in die oorlog. ’ Dieselfde dag antwoord Wavell moedeloos, ‘ Vrees ons moet erken dat Kreta nie meer lewensvatbaar is nie …. ’

Die Britse ontruiming sou 'n selfmoordprojek gewees het as Hitler nie reeds begin het om sy lugeenhede terug te trek ter voorbereiding op die inval in die Sowjetunie nie. By Heraklion egter vernietiger KeiserlikRoer raak hopeloos vas, wat die Britte dwing om haar bemanning en troepe na die vernietiger oor te plaas Hotspuren skud haar dan. 'N Handjievol oorblywende Stukas het op 29 Mei op die reddingsmag afgekom en cruisers beskadig Ajax en Orion en verskeie vernietigers wat die vernietiger laat sink het Hierna, en nog 800 mans vermoor.

Alhoewel die LuftwaffeDie neutralisering van die Royal Navy en die Middellandse See-vloot het dit vir Duitsland moontlik gemaak om Kreta te verower, dit sou 'n hol oorwinning wees, so duur dat Hitler enige verdere grootskaalse valskermsweerbedrywighede afgelê het. Hy het nie die moeite gedoen om van sy duur verkryging 'n Nazi -bastion te maak om die oostelike Middellandse See te oorheers en moontlik 'n oorwinning in Noord -Afrika te verseker nie. Kreta was weinig meer as 'n begraafplaas vir duisende vermorste Duitse lewens en 'n opoffering Generaal Julius Ringel, bevelvoerder van die 5de Bergafdeling, het gesê dat dit nie te groot sou gewees het as dit 'n begin, nie 'n einde beteken het nie. 8217

Die Royal Navy het altesaam nege skepe en 2 000 matrose verloor tydens die veldtog vir Kreta. Op die land is 1 700 geallieerde soldate dood en 12 000 gevange geneem. Altesaam 4 000 Duitse soldate is dood, en 220 van die bykans 500 betrokke vervoervliegtuie het verlore gegaan. Na die inval van Kreta het Hitler aan Student gesê dat die dag van die valskermsoldaat verby was. Die Duitse weermag sou nooit weer 'n grootskaalse lugaanval begin nie. Die Geallieerdes het egter bewys dat Hitler verkeerd was toe hulle drie jaar later doeltreffende lugtroepe teen hom gebruik het tydens die D-Day-operasies.

Hierdie artikel is geskryf deur Kelly Bell en verskyn oorspronklik in die Mei 1999 -uitgawe van Tweede Wereldoorlog.

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Die Desert War – Mei 1941

25 Desember 1942, Mena
Voorheen ongepubliseerde foto met vergunning van DJM se oom David, © 2021

Nog 'n besiger maand as April, baie gebeur in Noord -Afrika, Kreta en Abessinië. Die Duitsers en Italianers het Tobruk beleër, Duitse valskermsoldate het Kreta binnegeval en nog meer dele van Abessinië het die Geallieerdes te beurt geval, en Malta het voortdurend aangeval; dit was 'n baie nuttige plek om as -konvooie na Libië aan te val.

Aangesien dit veronderstel is om te gaan oor die Noord -Afrikaanse veldtog, begin ons in Libië. Op die 1ste Duitse tenks val Tobruk om 07:15 aan, deur 'n mynveld, teen-tenkgewere en daarna Britse tenks. Hulle het 12 tenks aan 4 Britte verloor. Die aand het die 2/48ste Australiese Bataljon se toonbank aangeval, maar het groot ongevalle gely. 300 km weswaarts is Benghazi aangeval deur die RAF wat 'n vragskip gesink het en van Tunisië af is 2 Duitse handelskepe deur 'n Britse duikboot gesink. Op die 2de was daar sandstorms, maar HMS Ladybird het Derna gebombardeer, maar die vernietiger HMS Jersey het 'n myn uit die Grand Harbour in Malta getref en gesink. Op die 3de Australiese troepe val weer 'n teenaanval by Tobruk aan, maar hierdie keer het die Italianers hulle weerhou. Op die 4de, toe Paulus die aanval op die Tobruk -stalletjie sien, het Paulus Rommel beveel om Tobruk te beleer eerder as om uit te skakel, en die mynveër HMS Fermoy is deur Duitse vliegtuie in 'n beskuldigdebank op Malta laat sink.

Op die 5de Britse vragskip met 295 tenks vir Egipte het Gibraltar verbygesteek. Op die 6de het die Duitse 8ste Panzer Regiment in Tripoli aangekom en twee Australiese verwoesters het Tobruk bereik, dit was die eerste voorraad wat daar gekom het sedert die beleg begin het. Op die 7de Duitse bomwerpers sink nog 'n mynerweerder, HMS Stoke, in Tobruk en drie Britse vernietigers bombardeer Benghazi wat twee Italiaanse skepe laat sink. Op die 9de onderskep die Duitse intelligensie 'n radioboodskap met weerinligting vir die grens tussen Libië en Egipte. Dit was die eerste vermoede dat daar waarskynlik 'n aanval sou wees. Op die 10de vyf Britse verwoesters het Benghazi beskiet, het hulle daarin geslaag om skade deur duikbomaanvallers te vermy en na donker het HMS Ladybird Gazala naby Tobruk beskiet.

Op die 12de het die Britse konvooi met 295 tenks en 43 orkane in Alexandria aangekom. 47 Duitse duikbomwerpers het die Tobruk -hawe aangeval en HMS Ladybird sink. Die skip het in 10 voet water gesak en haar geweer van 6 duim was nog bo die water, sodat sy in diens gebly het as 'n stilstaande geweerplatform. Twee Italiaanse torpedobote het die Britse duikboot HMS Onaangeraak van Tripoli gesink en die hele bemanning doodgemaak. Op die 13de begin Britse troepe bymekaarkom op die grens tussen Libië en Egipte ter voorbereiding op Operasie Brevity, sommige is deur 'n Duitse vliegtuig raakgesien en een groep tenks is aangeval. Gunboat HMS Gnat het die vliegveld in Gazala gebombardeer om Duitse lugaanvalle op Tobruk te ontwrig. Op die 14de as -vliegtuig het die Britse troepe naby die grens aanhou soek, maar geen gevind nie. Op die 15de vorder die Britte in 3 kolomme en verower Fort Capuzzo en die Halfaya -pas. 'n Duitse Panzer Battalion -toonbank het Fort Capuzzo voor 15:00 aangeval en herower.

Op die 16de het Brigadier -generaal Gott Britse tenks en infanterie uit die woestyn rondom Sollum en Fort Capuzzo onttrek om sy houvas op die Halfaya -pas te versterk. Op die 17de operasie was Brevity baie kort, want die Duitsers het 'n teenaanval geloods en generaal Gott het al sy magte na die Halfaya -pas teruggetrek. Die Australiese vernietiger HMAS Vampire het Tobruk bereik met vars Australiese troepe en artillerie wat om 05:30 by die voorste linie ontplooi was.

Dit het nou 'n bietjie bedaar. Op die 26ste val die Duitsers Halfayapas aan en neem dit vas. Op die 27ste Italiaanse duikboot het Scirè weer die hawe van Gibraltar bereik met 3 bemande torpedo's, maar hulle kon geen skepe beskadig nie. Op die 28ste beveel generaal Wavell Operation Battleaxe, wat op 7 Junie beplan word. Op die 30ste het Erich Raeder 'n aanval op die Suez -kanaal aan die Führer aanbeveel.

In Malta was daar 'n welkome verslapping van die Duitse lugveldtog, aangesien die erics konsentreer op die geallieerde terugtrekking na Kreta. Generaals Keitel en Jodl was ten gunste van 'n aanval op Malta, maar die hoë kommando en veral Goering wou op Kreta konsentreer. 'N Besluit wat hulle sal byt.

In die Italiaanse Oos -Afrika, of wat daarvan oorgebly het, was daar nog steeds aksie. Op die 1ste was die onderkoning van Italiaanse Oos -Afrika, die hertog van Aosta, en 7 000 troepe in Amba Alagi, Abessinië, met die Indiese 5de afdeling in die noorde en die Suid -Afrikaanse 1ste brigade in die suide. Op die 3de begin gevegte by Amba Alagi. Op die 4de het die 29ste Brigade van die Indiese 5de Divisie 3 heuwels noord van Amba Alagi ingeneem. Op die 5de is die 3/2de Punjab -bataljon deur 12 Italiaanse masjiengewere voorgekeer en hul aanval teen die nag afgeskakel. Op die 8ste het Indiese troepe Amba Alagi weer aangeval en nog drie heuwels geneem, die Italianers het teen die heuwels aangeval en weer ingeneem.

Op die 9de neem Indiese troepe die Falagi -pas en die volgende dag marsjeer hulle na Mount Gumsa, 11,400 voet hoog en ten ooste van Amba Alagi. Toe die nag val, het die Italianers by Mount Gumsa teruggetrek na Amba Alagi. Op die 11de het die Suid -Afrikaanse 1ste brigade by Amba Alagi aangekom. Op die 15de het Suid -Afrikaanse en Indiese troepe by Triangle Hill naby Amba Alagi saamgevoeg. Gedurende die dag het geallieerde beskieting van die Italiaanse vesting 'n groot olie lek in die enigste bron van drinkwater in die fort veroorsaak. Op die 16de het die hertog van Aosta die Britte gevra om vars water te stuur wat duidelik geweier is. Hy het toe 'n skietstilstand gevra om oorhandigingsonderhandelinge moontlik te maak. Teen hierdie tyd het sy magte 289,000 slagoffers gely ter verdediging van hul Oos -Afrikaanse Ryk.

Op die 17de het die hertog van Aosta om 17:30 Amba Alagi aan die Britte oorgegee. Op die 18de Brigadier -generaal Mosley Mayne, die Britse bevelvoerder van die Indiese 5de afdeling, het saam met die hertog by Amba Alagi geëet. Die hertog het ingestem om nie gewere of voorrade te vernietig nie en om nie myne af te breek of te identifiseer nie. Op die 19de het 4.777 Italiaanse en koloniale troepe oorgegee by Amba Alagi en op die 20ste het die hertog self oorgegee in Britse gevangenskap. Dit was nog nie die einde van die verhaal nie; daar was nog 'n paar sakke Italianers om af te handel, maar effektief was Italiaanse Oos -Afrika nie meer nie.

Orde Wingate het met sy Gideon Force kolonel Maraventa gejaag en hom uiteindelik in die hoek geslaan. Met minder as 2 000 man het Wingate die Italianer oortuig dat sy 14 000 mans in die minderheid was en dat hy uiteindelik oorgegee het en sodoende 'n einde gemaak het aan Mussolini se drome van 'n Oos -Afrikaanse Ryk.

Noudat Griekeland in Duitse hande was en die Britte teruggetrek het na Kreta, weet ons almal wat volgende gaan gebeur, die inval in Kreta. Op die 1ste kom generaal Bernard Freyberg in Kreta aan waar hy van plan was om sy verdediging op die vliegveld by Maleme te baseer. Op die 6de is hy ingelig dat die Duitsers waarskynlik op die 17de sou aanval, maar hy verwag 'n amfibiese inval. Op die 11de het die Duitsers uiteindelik die eilande in die Egeïese See beset. Op die 14de kruiser verlaat HMS Dido met 'n begeleiding van 4 vernietigers Sudabaai op pad na Alexandria met £ 7.000.000 goud in Griekse besit. Dit is ongelooflik hoeveel goud in hierdie oorlog omgeskuif is.

Op die 15de het twee Britse kruisers die skuif van die 2de Bataljon van die Leicester Regiment van Alexandrië na Heraklion op Kreta voltooi en die Luftwaffe het die vlootwerwe by Sudabaai aangeval. Op die 16de kom nog meer Britse versterkings in Kreta aan en weer bombardeer die Duitsers verskeie vliegvelde en die dokke by Sudabaai. Op die 18de Duitse duikbomwerpers het die Britse hospitaalskip Aba 50 myl suid van Kreta aangeval en 700 Argyle en Sutherland Highlanders is van Port Said na Tymbaki op Kreta vervoer. Op die 19de Duitse vliegtuig wat vliegvelde op Kreta aangeval het, was die Britse reaksie om alle vliegtuie van Kreta na Egipte te ontruim.

Op die 20ste het die lugaanval om 08:00 op die vliegveld van Maleme plaasgevind, en om 16:15 en 17:30 het die tweede aanval op die lug by Rethimnon en Heraklion begin. Tydens die tweede golf van aanvalle is 1 856 Duitse troepe dood, by die mynaveër HMS Widnes in Sudabaai is gesink, maar in die aand het 3 Britse vernietigers Duitse vliegvelde op Karpathos gebombardeer. Op die 21ste het die Royal Navy 11 klein as -skepe gesink, maar die Duitsers het steeds daarin geslaag om nog 650 troepe te land om hul valskermsoldate op die Maleme -vliegveld te ondersteun; baie van hul vervoervliegtuie sou beskadig of vernietig word voordat hulle weer kon vertrek. NZ General Freyberg held back his reserves because he was still convinced he would have to fight the Germans on the beaches. Out at sea 3 British ships were damaged and one sunk.

On the 22nd British warships were searching for an Axis convoy off the island of Milos, The Germans found them and their aircraft damaged 4 ships and sank 4 more. At 3:30am Australian and NZ troops attacked the Germans at Maleme but were beaten back. During the day the Germans flew in another Battalion of troops on Ju-52s . On the 23rd more German reinforcements arrived at Maleme but an attempt to land on the beaches was repulsed. Another British destroyer was sunk by Stukas and 5 motor torpedo boats were sunk in Suda Bay, by the end of the day the Germans controlled the western end of the island. On the 24th the Greek King George II left Crete for Cairo and Allied troops began falling back while 200 commandos were landed at Suda Bay.

German Stukas were now based at Maleme and attacked Allied lines at 4pm in preparation for a ground assault and General Kurt Student, head of the German paratroops, arrived at Maleme airfield. On the 26th Allied troops at Canea were surrounded and 3 Royal Navy ships arrived in Suda bay with 750 commandos under Colonel Laycock. These ships evacuated personnel from the naval base when they returned to Egypt. On the 27th the Germans took Canea giving them control of Suda Bay. On the 28th the evacuation of British and Commonwealth troops from Crete began. The action so far had been in the north of the island, the evacuation was running from Sphakia on the south coast. Colonel Laycock was controlling the rearguard action to delay the Germans. 3 cruisers and 6 destroyers left Alexandria to help with the evacuation. One cruiser was damaged by German aircraft and had to return to Alexandria. On the 29th and 30th about 10,000 troops were evacuated from Crete but were under German attack and two ships were lost.

On the 31st the evacuation was complete including the senior officers who were flown out. In what was not the first order of its kind, General Student authorised his troops to take reprisals against the civilian population of Crete, including women and boys, for involvement in fighting, committing sabotage and mutilating or killing wounded soldiers. Reprisals could be shooting, fines, burning villages or extermination of the male population. Several senior officers stormed out the conference where this was announced but more than enough were quite prepared to take part in executions. I know almost any nation could find people prepared to do this but the Germans always seem to find more than enough. General Student survived until 1978 having served a relatively short time in prison after the war. He should have danced the Tyburn Jig.

The one lasting result of the German invasion of Crete was a rule of thumb for invading islands. It cannot be done until you have air superiority. Even Adolf was horrified at the 3,774 killed and missing rate of the German troops plus 2,120 wounded and they were not used in airborne assaults for the rest of the war. The plans to invade Malta now included the requirement for air superiority before any troops could be landed this is something the Luftwaffe nearly but did not quite achieve and saved Malta being overrun.

At the end of April Dudley Clarke had set off for Istanbul for some skulduggery. In the middle of May he returned via Vichy French Syria where Luftwaffe airplanes had begun landing on their way to support the rebellion in Iraq. The RAF bombed the airbases in Syria. Clarke then put about a story that the Allies were not going to invade Syria because of disagreements with the Free French. The rumour was that General de Gaulle had stormed off in a huff (well within possibilities). Anyway, the invasion did begin and was over by Bastille Day.

And in other news …. on the 2nd a German plan to remove large quantities of food from Eastern Europe to feed Germany would likely result in millions of deaths but they did it anyway (they call it Lidl/Aldi these days but without the deaths so we are told), on the 3rd a bomb hit a shelter in North Shields at Wilkinson’s Lemonade factory killing 107 poor souls, more than half of the people in it, on the 5th a shipment of US flour arrived in Vichy France, on the 6th Henry Stimson, US Secretary for War, said the US must use its Navy to ensure the triumph of democracy, on the 10th Rudolf Hess landed in Scotland in a wild attempt to secure peace, the next day Adolf gathered top Nazis together to discuss Hess’s flight and work out how to spin the story, on the 12th despite Stalin’s refusal to believe the Germans were about to attack, General Zhukov moved 4 armies closer to the border, on the 15th the RAF formed 121 Squadron, aka the 2nd Eagle Squadron, it was made up of American volunteers, on the 15th Dr Sigmund Rascher asked Himmler for concentration camp prisoners to be made available for altitude testing (another bloody Mengele or Hancock), on the 16th German bombers performed what would be their last major raid against London (they were off to the eastern front), on the 17th Pilot Officer Mike Kolendorski became the first member of 121 Squadron to be killed, on the 18th Italy annexed Dalmatia to be within its borders, on the 21st the Vichy government confiscated all property owned by Free French troops, on the 24th HMS Hood and Princes of Wales engaged the Bismarck, HMS Hood was lost, on the 25th Bismark sailed for Saint Nazaire, on the 26th Bismark was hunted down and on the 27th she was finally sunk, on the 29th 13 British and Polish PoWs attempted an unsuccessful escape from Colditz, on the 30th Richard Sorge, one of Stalin’s top spies, reported from Japan that the Germans were planning to invade but still Uncle Joe refused to believe it and finally on the 31st British Lieutenant Anthony Allan tried to get help from the US Consulate in Vienna having escaped from Colditz earlier in the month but they refused to help him, he gave up and turned himself in to the local police and was sent back to Colditz.

Although the US did not join the war until December after the attack on Pearl Harbour, it was both getting more involved and taking steps to position itself ready to fight when the time came. The Germans were not attacking US ships but the US started attacking German submarines and there were various troop movements that placed US forces in more strategic locations. The US joining the war was not a spur of the moment event whatever their official position.


Paratroops boarding a Junkers 52

German mountain troops of the 5th Gebirgs-Division boarding a Junkers 52 at a Greek airfield, before flying to Crete, 20 May 1941. On that morning 3000 German paratroops landed at Maleme, Rethymno, Chania and Heraklion.

The German plan hinged on quickly capturing the airfields of Maleme, Rethymno and Heraklion so that reinforcements could be flown in by air. But Freyberg misinterpreted his intelligence and placed too much emphasis on a seaborne invasion, which in reality was only a minor part of the German scheme. He deployed most of his troops to meet this threat and crucially left the largest and most important airfield at Maleme exposed on its western side.

Operation 'Merkur' (Mercury) began on the morning of 20 May, when German glider and parachute troops were dropped around Maleme and Chania in the west. Some landed among Allied defensive positions and suffered heavy casualties in hand-to-hand fighting. Others were shot in their harnesses before they even reached the ground. Later that day a second wave of parachutists descended around Rethymno and Heraklion. They too suffered heavy losses and many German transport aircraft were shot down.


Invasion of Crete - WW2 Timeline (May 20th - June 1st, 1941)

With most of Western and Eastern Europe until Axis control, the German/Italian war machine once again jumped into action - literally - as a combined force of German and Italian paratroopers took part in landings on the strategically important island of Crete. Allied air defenses proved deadly at first where some 50% of Axis transports were destroyed while still in the air though any presumed Allied victory was short-lived as the enemy force quickly engaged strategic points. The Germans committed 14,000 paratroopers and were further backed by 15,000 mountain troops as well as air support through bombers, dive bombers, and fighters. For their part, the Italians used 2,700 men. All this was against an Allied force made up of 15,000 British, 11,451 Greek, 7,100 Australian, and 6,700 New Zealanders in defense of the island. The invasion began on May 20th, 1941.

The valiant Allied troops battled it out with modest success until eventually being forced on the run. By the end of May, the Allies were forced to evacuate and relinquish control of the island to the invaders. Additionally, several important Royal Navy ships were also lost in the fighting. The war dead included 4,123 Allied personnel with 2,750 wounded and 17,090 captured. The enemy lost 370 aircraft in the fighting - which ended on June 1st, 1941 - just eleven days after the initial assault wave.

The Invasion of Crete marked the first large scale use of paratroopers in an attempt to overtake an enemy-held territory. German airborne troops made up most of the ground fighting force which forced the Allies to take a closer look into developing their own respective airborne elements. The battle also marked the first useful application of intelligence garnered from German Enigma code machines. Despite the success of the German airborne force, the losses were such that Adolf Hitler limited their large-scale use in operations going forward.


There are a total of (25) Invasion of Crete - WW2 Timeline (May 20th - June 1st, 1941) events in the Second World War timeline database. Entries are listed below by date-of-occurrence ascending (first-to-last). Other leading and trailing events may also be included for perspective.

Fuhrer Directive No.28 is issued by Adolf Hitler, calling for the invasion of the island of Crete through Operation Mercury led by General Kurt Student.

Allied codebreakers intercept word of the impending German invasion of Crete.

Wednesday, April 30th, 1941

Allied forces based on Crete receive a new leader in the form of Major-General Bernard Freyberg.

In advance of the Crete invasion, RAF fighters are relocated to Egypt for safe-keeping.

Allied codebreakers intercept word that Operation Mercury will commence the very next day. The Allies begin preparations.

Allied flak teams destroy as many as 50% of the invading German transport planes in the first few hours of the operation.

Operation Mercury is officially launched.

At approximately 7:00 AM, the first German airborne troops land at locations near Maleme and Khania.

At least 500 Junkers Ju 52 transport aircraft are utilized in the first wave of airdrops over Crete.

Between 1:30 and 2:00 PM, the second wave of German airborne troops take off from Greece towards drop zones in Crete.

In-air losses for the second wave of German paratroopers is nearly equal to the first thanks to the stellar Allied flak defenses on Crete.

At about 2:00 PM, the second wave of German paratroops land around Heraklion and Rethymnon.

The first day of the German invasion of Crete sees little progress as many strategic positions are not under German control yet.

A German offensive against Heraklion is pushed away by at least 8,000 dug-in Allied soldiers.

German Army troops making their way to Crete via the sea are intercepted and pummeled by elements of the Royal Navy. Just 60 of these German soldiers live to see another day.

The HMS Greyhound, a British destroyer, is downed by German bombers.

New Zealand troops are repelled from an attempt to retake the airfield at Maleme from the Germans.

German dive bombers destroy the HMS Kelly and HMS Kashmir, two Royal Navy destroyers.

German dive bombers destroy the HMS Gloucester and the HMS Fiji, two Royal Navy cruisers.

The German Army takes Heraklion and her all-important airfield.

Allied forces retreat to defensive positions at Galatas.

The brave defense of Rethymnon by Australian soldiers finally falters under intense pressure from the German Army.

By this date, Crete is firmly entrenched under German rule.

Heraklion in the north and Sphakia in the south of Crete will serve as major evacuation junctions for the Allies.

The evacuation order is given by Major-General Freyberg for the gradual withdrawel of Allied troops from the island of Crete.


The history of the Battle of Crete – A quick overview

Early in the morning bombers are hitting the island hard for hours! And then silence… Suddenly the sky is full of multi-color parachutes. Soldiers looked like puppets! The people of Crete and its defenders could not believe that this is true! It was 20th of May 1941. This was the start of what is known as the Battle for Crete. For 12 dramatic days New Zealanders, British, Australian and Greek troops, assisted by Cretan civilians, tried to repel a huge airborne assault by the Germans. They almost succeeded…

The Battle of Crete was fought during the World War II on the Greek island of Crete. It began in the morning of May 20th 1941, when Nazi Germany activated the airborne invasion of Crete. Greek forces and other Allied forces, along with the people of Crete, defended the island. After one day of fighting, the Germans had suffered appalling casualties and the Allied troops were confident that they would defeat the invasion. The next day, through communication failures, Allied tactical hesitation and German offensive operations, Maleme Airfield in western Crete fell, enabling the Germans to land reinforcements and overwhelm the defensive positions on the north-west of the island. After a few more days of fighting, Allied forces withdrew to the south coast. Over half were evacuated by the British Royal Navy and the remainder surrendered or joined the Cretan resistance. The defense of Crete evolved into a costly naval engagement, the Royal Navy’s eastern Mediterranean strength had been reduced to only two battleships and three cruisers.

The Battle of Crete was the first occasion where Fallschirmjäger (German paratroops) were used en masse, the first mainly airborne invasion in military history, the first time the Allies made significant use of intelligence from decrypted German messages from the Enigma machine, and the first time German troops encountered mass resistance from a civilian population. Due to the number of casualties and the belief that airborne forces no longer had the advantage of surprise, Adolf Hitler became reluctant to authorize further large airborne operations, preferring instead to employ paratroopers as ground troops. In contrast, the Allies were impressed by the potential of paratroopers and started to form airborne-assault and airfield-defense regiments.

[…] Turning to Student, the Fuhrer said quietly: “Of course, General you know that after Crete we shall never do another Airborne operation. The parachute arm is one that relies entirely on surprise. That surprise factor has now exhausted itself…the day of the Paratroops is over”.

Adolf Hitler, Wolfschanze July 1941…

Crete, May 1941. A second wave of paratroopers lands on the already occupied airfield of Maleme.

Crete became a German target following their rapid occupation of the Greek mainland in April 1941. After the Italian failure in the Albanian front, German forces had surged into the Balkans, quickly defeating Yugoslavia and outflanking Greek border defenses. The 80% of the Greek army was still in Albania defending the recent occupied cities and enjoying the victorious battles against the Italians during the operation “Primavera” in the end of March 1941. In the beginning of April Greece had to to face a triple invasion of the German, Bulgarian and Italian armies. The allied expeditionary forces and the Greek army could not defend the north borders any more and they withdrew south. During the last week of April more than 50,000 Allied troops were evacuated from the mainland. By the end of April Greece was under Axis occupation.

May 1941. German mountain troops advance to Crete.

Attention now turned to Crete. The German High Command debated whether to seize the island or focus efforts on the planned invasion of the Soviet Union. Capturing Crete would have its advantages. It would both give the Germans a good base in the eastern Mediterranean and prevent the British using it to mount operations in the Balkans. A seaborne invasion ran the risk of disruption by British naval forces, but the Germans could also call on highly trained airborne forces. After being assured that it would not seriously disrupt his plans in Eastern Europe, Adolf Hitler reluctantly agreed to the invasion of Crete – Operation Merkur (Mercury).

Most of the Allied troops evacuated from Greece were sent to Crete. By the end of April there were more than 44,000 British, Commonwealth and Greek soldiers on the island.

18,300 British Troops, 11,500 Greeks, 6.500 Australians and 7,700 New Zealanders

Crete,April 1941.Australian and New Zealand troops disembark at Souda bay after their evacuation from mainland Greece.

Allied troops arrive in Crete after the evacuation of mainly Greece, 1941 April.

On 30 April command of “Creforce” – the designation for the Allied troops on the island – was entrusted to Major-General Bernard Freyberg, who led the 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force (2NZEF). He faced a daunting task. During the withdrawal from Greece the British had been forced to abandon their heavy equipment and transport. Most soldiers arrived on Crete with little more than their personal weapons. Ammunition and stores were in short supply, and a lack of tools saw troops digging defensive positions with steel helmets. Heavy weapons – tanks and artillery – were few and far between. Air support was also scarce as the Royal Air Force (RAF) was preoccupied elsewhere in the Mediterranean.

Crete,1941. Greek and NZ soldiers together.

Geography also made the job of defending Crete tough. The key points on the island were the airfields at Maleme, Rethimnon and Heraklion, and the port at Souda Bay. All were located on the northern coast and faced German-occupied Greece – at its nearest point little more than 100 km away. The loss of any of these positions would make the defense of the island virtually impossible, given the Germans’ ability to quickly deliver men and supplies from bases on the mainland. Yet the British were unwilling to destroy them – the port at Suda Bay was essential to the supply of Creforce, and it was still hoped that the RAF could operate from the island in the future.

Crete 1941.Greek and British soldiers man an anti-aircraft gun, (Bofor type)

Despite these problems, the British had one major advantage – they were fully aware of German plans for an invasion of Crete. This information was derived from deciphered German codes, dubbed ULTRA intelligence by the Allies. The only details that the British were not aware of were the invasion date and the comparative strengths of German sea and airborne forces. Armed with this knowledge, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill was convinced that the defenders of Crete stood a good chance of repelling the invasion and achieving a morale-boosting victory over the Germans.

The British expected the Germans to launch their attack on the island in mid-May 1941. The Germans planned to begin the invasion on the 15th, but supply problems in Greece delayed the assault by a week. Informed by ULTRA sources of these changes, Freyberg was confident that he had done all that was possible to meet it with the limited resources and time available.

The invasion began on the morning of 20 May. Shortly after 8 a.m., the men of “Creforce” saw gliders in the sky overhead, quickly followed by the rumbling of an approaching air armada. Hundreds of planes lumbered through the sky, dropping German paratroops into the area around Maleme and the township of Chania. Later in the day, paratroops dropped into the area around the airfields at Rethimnon and Heraklion.

During the battle of Crete Germans used 22,750 soldiers, 1370 airplanes, 70 gliders and 70 ships

German casualties mounted quickly. Many paratroops died before they could reach the ground, others were mown down after landing as they struggled to release themselves from their parachutes. Despite heavy losses, enough troops landed safely to secure tenuous footholds west of Maleme (an area mistakenly left unguarded by Freyberg) and in the Prison Valley, south-west of Chania.

By the end of the day German forces around Maleme, Rethimnon and Heraklion had failed to secure any of their objectives. Their commanders in Athens feared the operation was a failure and the prospect of a humiliating defeat loomed. It was decided to throw all available resources into an attack on Maleme the next day. Securing the airfield was the key to the success of the invasion, without it, reinforcements could not be sent in.

The decision to concentrate on Maleme paid off for the Germans. On the morning of 21 May it became clear that the New Zealand infantry battalions defending the airfield and the key high ground overlooking it had withdrawn. This crucial mistake effectively sealed the fate of “Creforce”. Although the airfield was still under artillery fire, the Germans wasted no time flying in reinforcements which tipped the balance of the battle in their favor.

May 27,1941. Germans enter Chania.

Fresh troop reinforcements and the dominance of the Luftwaffe (German air force) above Crete left the defenders facing impossible odds. After six days of hard fighting Freyberg received the order to evacuate his weary forces. Parts of “Creforce” pulled back to Sfakia on the south coast, and from here about 10,500 troops left the island over four nights. A separate evacuation at Heraklion rescued a further 6000 soldiers, although a number of these men were killed by air attacks on their ships during the return journey to Egypt.

British Troops Evacuating Crete (27/5 – 31/5/1941)

The soldiers left behind – around 6500 – formally surrendered to the Germans on 1 June. The majority would spend the rest of the war in prisoner of war camps – initially in Italy and later in Germany and Poland. Others took to the hills, some later escaping to Egypt by submarine or fishing boat. With the help of Cretan civilians, a handful of men eluded capture on the island for years and took part in resistance fighting.


Why Germany Was Forced Into Invading Greece, Crete, North Africa & Yugoslavia: It Was Not For Territorial Expansion

Operation Merkur (Mercury) – The airborne invasion of Crete May, 1941. Many German paratroopers died before they could reach the ground others, their equipment tangled in trees, were mown down as they struggled to release themselves. In one German battalion alone, about two-thirds of the men along with its officers were dead before the day was over. Source.
Why Germany Invaded Greece, Crete, North Africa and Yugoslavia

Keeping the lid on simmering tensions in the Balkans was a high priority for Germany during the war. Hitler told Italian Foreign Minister Ciano on July 20, 1940, that he attached “the greatest importance to the maintenance of peace in the Danube and Balkan regions.” The Germans were eager to prevent disturbance in the region, both to prevent further Soviet encroachment and to retain German access to oil from Romania. Impulsive Italian action against Yugoslavia could lead to Soviet intervention, and Italian action against Greece could let in the British through the back door.[1]

In August 1940, German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop twice repeated to Italian Ambassador Dino Alfieri that Hitler wanted to keep peace in the Balkans. Despite these and other German warnings, Mussolini decided to attack Greece from occupied Albania on October 28, 1940. The Greek army was deemed to be weak, and Mussolini had expected a swift victory. Instead, the Greek forces fought valiantly, helped by good organization, knowledge of difficult terrain, and the superior motivation of troops protecting their homeland. The Italian campaign rapidly proved to be a fiasco, and what was supposed to have been an easy victory turned into a humiliation for Mussolini’s regime.[2]

Mussolini reviews 5th Alpine Mobile Black Brigade “E. Quagliata“, Brescia, 1945. Source.

Within little over a week the Italians were forced to halt their offensive in Greece, and a week later the Italians were being pushed back over the Albanian border by a Greek counterattack. The Italian front finally stabilized about 30 miles within Albania. To make matters worse, the Italian fleet anchored at Taranto in southern Italy was severely damaged by a British torpedo attack in November 1940. Half of the Italian warships were put out of action, and Italian dreams of empire sank along with the ships. The balance of naval power in the Mediterranean was decisively altered with this highly successful attack.[3]

The military situation in Greece could only be remedied with German help. This was a situation that both Mussolini and Hitler had hoped to avoid. Hitler had wanted the Balkans to remain quiet, but he could not ignore the threat now posed by intensified British military involvement in Greece. Hitler eventually decided in March 1941 that a major military operation would be necessary to evict the British from the whole of the Greek mainland. The German invasion of Greece to bail out Mussolini’s ill-fated invasion resulted in Greece’s surrender on April 23, 1941.[4]

Hitler in his last testament in 1945 states his displeasure with Italy’s attack on Greece:

But for the difficulties created for us by the Italians and their idiotic campaign in Greece, I should have attacked Russia a few weeks earlier.”[5]

Hitler had unquestionably wanted Greece and the other Balkan countries to stay neutral during the war.

The remaining Greek, British and other Allied forces as well as the Greek government and King retreated to Crete. German airborne forces landed in Crete on May 20, 1941, and quickly seized control of the main airfields. A chaotic evacuation of British forces began on May 28, 1941, but more than 11,000 British troops were captured and nearly 3,000 British soldiers and sailors killed. The whole operation was a disaster for Great Britain. Churchill and his advisors conceded it had been a mistake to send troops to Greece in the first place.[6]

Weary German paratroops of ll Sturm Regiment, Crete – Skartsilakis Dimitris Collection. Source.

Italian military incompetence was also the reason Hitler had to send troops to North Africa. Italy’s attempt to invade British-held Egypt from the Italian colony of Libya in December 1940 had been repulsed by a well-trained Anglo-Indian force of 35,000 men. Britain took 130,000 Italian prisoners and captured 380 tanks in this conflict. In April 1941, a force of 92,000 Italian and 250,000 Abyssinian soldiers was defeated at the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa by 40,000 British-led African troops. The Allies took control of Addis Ababa and the whole northeast part of Africa after this conflict.

Gen. Erwin Rommel arrived in Africa on February 12, 1941, with the assignment to rescue the situation in North Africa. Appointed to head the newly formed African Corps, Rommel was told to prevent any further Italian collapse in Libya. Building on his previous experience of combined air and armored warfare, Rommel’s troops took the key Libyan seaport of Tobruk in June 1942 and forced the British back deep into Egypt. Rommel was within striking distance of the Suez Canal, threatening a major British supply route with the potential to gain access to the vast oilfields of the Middle East.[7]

Gen. Rommel, June 1942.

Difficulties in supplying his troops by either land or sea eventually weakened Rommel’s position in North Africa. The British stood their ground at El Alamein, and the Allies recaptured Tobruk in November 1942. Rommel returned to Germany on sick leave in March 1943. Defeat in North Africa was complete when 250,000 Axis troops, half of them German, surrendered to the Allies in May 1943.[8] The German invasion of North Africa had been designed to shore up Italian forces and later to possibly disrupt British oil supplies and gain access to Middle East oil. Germany’s participation in North Africa was not about German territorial expansion.

The German invasion of Yugoslavia was in response to an unexpected military takeover of that country. On the night of March 26-27, 1941, a group of Serb officers executed a coup and established military control of the Yugoslav government. Hitler stated in regard to the Yugoslavia coup:

Although Britain played a major role in that coup, Soviet Russia played the main role. What I had refused to Mr. Molotov during his visit to Berlin, Stalin believed he could obtain indirectly against our will by revolutionary activity. Without regard for the treaties they had signed, the Bolshevik rulers expanded their ambitions. The [Soviet] treaty of friendship with the new revolutionary regime [in Belgrade] showed very quickly just how threatening the danger had become.”[9]

The coup in Yugoslavia divided an already politically unstable country and provoked the Germans to denounce the illegitimate new government. Germany attacked Yugoslavia on April 6, 1941, and quickly defeated the Yugoslav military in 12 days. The defeat of Yugoslavia was made easier because Yugoslavia was not a nationally unified country, and large portions of its population did not support the new government. The Yugoslav army’s feeble resistance resulted in only 151 German fatalities during the brief campaign.[10]

Lees Germany’s War

[1] Kershaw, Ian, Fateful Choices: Ten Decisions That Changed the World, 1940-1941, New York: The Penguin Press, 2007, pp. 165-166.

[5] Fraser, L. Craig, The Testament of Adolf Hitler: The Hitler-Bormann Documents, bl. 39.

[6] Evans, Richard J., The Third Reich at War, 1939-1945, London: Penguin Books, 2008, p. 155.

[9] Weber, Mark, “The Reichstag Speech of 11 December 1941: Hitler’s Declaration of War Against the United States,” The Journal of Historical Review, Vol. 8, No. 4, Winter 1988-1989, pp. 394-395.

[10] Keegan, John, Die Tweede Wêreldoorlog, New York: Viking Penguin, 1990, pp. 151, 155-156.


Battle of Crete: May 1941


The seizure of Crete (Operation Mercury), May 1941.
Click image for larger image.

The fall of Greece resulted in a flow of refugees to the Greek island of Crete, strategically located in the center of the Eastern Mediterranean and within air strike distance of the Ploesti oil fields in Rumania. The refugees included the remaining British Commonwealth forces (including two New Zealand Brigades) who had tried to help the Greeks stop the German invasion. On 20 May 1941 the Germans launched Operation Mercury (Merkur in German), the first airborne invasion in history, attacking Crete. Over 13,000 paratroopers and glider-borne soldiers were augmented by another 9,000 mountain troops brought in by Junkers Ju-52 transports.

The assault began early in the morning of the 20th, with bombardments, strafing and landings directed against Crete's airports and coast defenses, particularly in the northwestern areas including Maleme, Hania, and Souda Bay. British ground forces battled the Germans for control of the airstrips and were initially able to destroy many of the attackers and hold the line even though the Luftwaffe had control of the airspace. British Admiral Sir Andrew Cunningham attempted to run a naval and air defense from his headquarters in Alexandria, Egypt.

On the second day, 21 May, ships carrying a wave of about 2,300 German reinforcements were sunk by British destroyers. The British continued to block the sea approaches for a few days, at great cost in ships, planes and men, but the Germans managed to seize the airfield at Maleme in northwestern Crete, driving British defenders off the strategic Hill 107, and began to reinforce heavily by air transport.

On May 25th, King George of Greece abandoned Crete, relocating to Cairo in a narrow escape from the German forces. By 27 May, Cunningham and staff made the decision to evacuate British troops on Crete by sea. Blacked out destroyers made daring midnight trips to southern Crete ports on 28-30 May rescuing about 16,000 of the 50,000 men who had reached Crete from Greece. However, many of the ships and their escort vessels were detected and engaged by German and Italian ships or the Luftwaffe. The British Mediterranean fleet suffered serious losses from the attempted defense of Crete and the evacuation runs, losing three cruisers, and six destroyers and sustaining heavy damage to other battleships, cruisers, and destroyers. Over 2,000 sailors were lost.

On 1 June 1941 Crete surrendered to the Germans. British Commonwealth soldiers remaining on the island evaded capture for a period of time, helped by courageous Cretan civilians. Eventually German troops had control, although partisans never gave up resistance, lasting until the end of the war.

Casualties were shocking on both sides of the Battle of Crete and the German airborne division in particular was decimated. As a result, Germany did not continue their interest in airborne assaults.


Geskiedenis

Buildup

The buildup to the battle began on April 25th 1941, when Adolf Hitler - ignoring opposition from senior personnel Ώ] - issued orders for an airborne invasion of Crete. ΐ] The island was strategically important to both sides, due to its location 335 miles from Alexandria and 450 miles from the Suez canal. Α] As a prelude to the invasion, the island came under heavy German air attack on May 15th, which prompted the removal by Great Britain of their aircraft from Crete on May 19th, without rendering the airfields inoperable. Β ]

Die veldslag

At dawn on May 20th, 1941, a German force consisting of 22,750 paratroopers and glider-borne units landed on Crete's northwestern coast - the first time an entire invasion force was moved by air. Defending the island were 28,000 British troops, augmented by two Greek divisions totaling 14,500 men. During the first day of fighting, the Germans suffered heavy casualties, Α] with the DFS 230 troop gliders overshooting their assigned landing areas, coming down on Hill 107 next to positions held by the 5th NZ Brigade, who quickly neutralised the attackers. In addition, 400 of the 600 paratroops of III/FJStR were also lost, while heavy casualties were also inflicted against the attackers at Rethimnon and Heraklion. Ώ] However, some of the pressure on the Germans was relieved by a second wave (including supporting Italian fighters and bombers) landing around Heraklion and Retino in the east.

On 21 May, the Germans captured the airfield at Maleme, fighting off a British counter-attack. Α] That day, supporting Italian CANT Z.1007 Alcione (Kingfisher) bombers direct hits on the British destroyer, HMS Juno, which exploded and sank southeast of the Aegean island, allowing German naval reinforcements forces to conduct their landngs unopposed.

On 22 May, four British warships in action around Crete were put out of action - the cruisers Gloucester en Fidji were sunk, and the battleships Warspite en Dapper beskadig is. The next day, the Royal Navy retaliated with a bombardment of Maleme.

During the night of 24/25 May, alerted by British ULTRA of a planned landing at Sitia in the east by Italian reinforcements from the Dodecanese, HMS Ajax, HMS Dido, HMS Kimberley en HMS Hotspur patrolled Kaso Strait, but sighted nothing.

On 25 May, British naval forces in the area were further depleted when the carrier Formidabel was damaged by Stuka dive bombers. Γ ]

On 26 May, with the German attack around Galatas stalled and the Fallschirmjäger units suffering heavy losses, Reich Marshal Hermann Göring requested Mussolini to commit air force, naval and army units to Crete and thus take some of the pressure off the German invaders. Mussolini immediately agreed, and two days later a reinforced Italian regiment from the Regina Division, with supporting units, landed near Sitia in the eastern part of the island. By the end of the month, Italian reinforcements reached Ierapetra on the south coast, linking up with a German detachment.

On 27 May, the Italian Army Regina brigade (protected by the Regia Marina destroyer Crispi and the Spica-class destroyer-escorts Lira, Lince en Libra), lands behind British lines at Sitia Bay, slipping past HMS Ajax, HMS Dido, HMS Kimberley en HMS Hotspur, forcing the British 14th Infantry Brigade to issue orders to abandon Herakleion. 

That day, New Zealand Major General Bernard Freyberg was given permission to evacuate all British Commonwealth troops from Crete, a decision complicated by the surprise landing of the Italian amphibious force on the east of the island. Δ ]

Despite the defeat on land, the Royal Navy was able to evacuate approximately 14,800 men and return them to Egypt. Subjected to severe losses and constant harassment by the Lutfwaffe and Regia Aeronautica, the British performed the evacuation during four nights.

On 28 May, Italian SM.84 bombers crippled the British destroyer HMS Imperial (later scuttled) and damaged the cruiser HMS Ajax.

On 29 May, Luftwaffe attacks badly damaged the cruisers HMS Dido en HMS Orion and crippled HMS Hereward, that was scuttled when Italian fast attack-craft approached to deliver the coup de grâce met torpedo's.


Kyk die video: De slag om Kreta 1941 (Januarie 2022).