• The Greco-Italian War, also known as the Italo-Greek War, was a conflict between Italy and Greece, which lasted from 28 October 1940 to 23 April 1941. The conflict marked the beginning of the Balkans campaign of World War II and the initial Greek counter-offensive, the first successful land campaign against the Axis powers in the war. The conflict known as the Battle of Greece began with the intervention of Nazi Germany on 6 April 1941. In Greece, the war against Italy is known as the “War of '40”

    Italy had invaded Albania in the spring of 1939 and attacked the British Empire in Africa, completing the conquest of British Somaliland and began an invasion of Egypt in the summer of 1940 but could not claim victories like those of Nazi Germany. Benito Mussolini wanted to reassert Italian interests in the Balkans, feeling threatened by German encroachments (the Kingdom of Romania in the supposed Italian sphere of influence, had accepted German protection for the Ploiești oil fields in mid-October) and secure bases from which British outposts in the eastern Mediterranean could be attacked.

    On 28 October 1940, after Greek prime minister Ioannis Metaxas rejected an Italian ultimatum demanding the occupation of Greek territory, Italian forces invaded Greece from Albania. The Greek army counter-attacked and forced the Italians to retreat. By mid-December, the Greeks occupied nearly a quarter of Albania, tying down 530,000 Italian troops. In March 1941, Operation Spring (Operazione Primavera), an Italian counter-offensive failed and on 6 April, Nazi Germany invaded Greece through Bulgaria and Yugoslavia, beginning the Battle of Greece.

    On 12 April, the Greek army retreated from Albania to avoid being cut off by the rapid German advance and on 20 April, the Greek Epirus Army Section surrendered to the Germans. On 23 April, the armistice with Germany was repeated with the Italians, ending the Greco-Italian war. By the end of April, the Axis occupation of Greece had been completed by Italian, German and Bulgarian forces, with Italy occupying nearly two thirds of the country. The Greek victory over the initial Italian offensive of October 1940 was the first Allied land victory of the Second World War and helped raise morale in occupied Europe.


    Adolf Hitler was not very pleased with Mussolini’s initiative to invade Greece which started The Balkans Campaign of WWII.  You are Germany.  Instead of being angry with Italy…do you decide to help Mussolini earlier in the campaign, intercede historically, or help later?

  • 2022 2021 '20 '19 '18 '17 '16

    I will await other more knowledgeable contributions before I vote RJL.

    The answer seems to me to depend on the succession of G targets before Barbarossa and so the practicalities and possibilities. Will be interesting to find out!

  • 2021 '20 '19 '18 '17 '16 '15 '14 Customizer '13 '12 '11 '10

    The Balkan Campaign is a good example of the law of unintended consequences.  Let’s look at the row of dominos that got knocked over:

    • Italy invades Greece from Albania, hoping for a quick victory.

    • Greece unexpectedly throws back the Italians (in part with support from Britain’s Royal Air Force) and advances into Albania.

    • Germany makes plans to assist Italy by intervening militarily in Greece, both for PR reasons (Axis prestige was taking a beating) and out of concern that RAF aircraft operating out of Greece would bomb the Romanian oilfields which were vital to German interests.

    • Germany pressures Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and Yugoslavia to join the Tripartite Pact, in part to help him pre-position ground troops for an invasion of Greece. He succeeeds in all four cases.

    • The Yugoslav decision to join the Tripartite Pact proves so unpopular domestically that it triggers a coup, which succeeeds in overthrowing the Regent and the government.

    • Hitler, enraged by the Yugoslav coup, makes plans to invade not just Greece but Yugoslavia too.

    • Germany succeeds in conquering Greece and Yugoslavia, but this Balkan Campaign delays the start of Operation Barbarossa by about six weeks.

    • In early December, the German drive into the USSR grinds to a halt about 15 miles from Moscow.

    Barbarossa didn’t fail exclusively because of the six-week delay in its start (there were several other factors involved), but the delay certainly helped it to fail because it caused Germany to lose valuable time before the calendar-dependent arrival of “General Mud and General Winter”, the two great Russian military heroes who had previously defeated Napoleon.

    In retrospect, the Balkan Campaign was a serious mistake for Germany.  The trouble is that the mistake was only apparent in retrospect, because of the chain reaction of events it involved; in its earliest conceptual stage, the concept of invading Greece to protect the Romanian oilfields wasn’t a bad idea in and of itself.

  • Initially Greece had a two part response to the Italian invasion: 1) Beat the Italians. 2) Don’t provoke the Germans. Consistent with 2), the Greek government did not attempt to conquer large amounts of land from Italy, and did not invite the British Army to Greece. Due to this restraint, Germany did not intervene.

    However, those policies proved unpopular with the Greek people. The above-described Greek government was voted out of office; replaced by a new more aggressive Greek government. The new Greek government discarded the “don’t provoke Germany” element of its predecessor’s strategy. The new government had no objection to acquiring as much Italian land as possible, and the British military was invited in. Also, the Greek Army sold out in its bid to conquer as much Italian territory as possible, leaving itself open to a German invasion. (The German invasion would have come from someplace other than the Italian/Greek front.)

    Needless to say, this second Greek government seemed far more . . . lobotomized than the first one. Inviting the British in called for a German response, especially because of the importance of the Romanian oilfields. On the other hand, there was no reason for Germany to intervene as long as the Greek government was showing restraint. That’s why I voted for intervene historically. Historically, Germany did not intervene until after the British were invited in. Given what they knew and when they knew it, I think that was the right call.

  • 2022 2021 '20 '19 '18 '17 '16

    Given Marc & Kurt’s as always well informed replies I will vote for whatever option you gave (cannot see it as I type) that means leave Greece to the Italians and focus on Barbarossa. Hindsight allows me to make that call.

    I am making the assumption that Italy would have turned things around somewhat against Greece and have the advantage that hindsight cannot tell me otherwise. 🙂

  • The Barbarossa aspect of this could be argued two ways. Would a six week head start been to Germany’s benefit? The attack caught the Soviet Union completely off guard, and resulted in the rapid encirclement and surrender of millions of Soviet soldiers. Germany achieved a 10:1 exchange rate during Barbarossa.

    The problem with starting all that six weeks earlier was that spring rains were worse than usual that year, and persisted later into the spring than expected. The effect of surprise would, at least initially, have been largely counteracted by muddy roads. That would have given the Red Army the chance to get the worst of the surprise over with, and at least begin the process of getting its legs back underneath itself, at a time when Germany could not take maximum advantage of the situation. It’s possible that they could have accelerated the beginning of Barbarossa by a week or two without running into the muddy roads problem. But not six weeks.

    A second point to bear in mind is the value of not having the British military on the European mainland. Italy might have eventually been able to defeat the Greek army. But as Britain sent more and more reinforcements to Greece, the combined Anglo-Greek force would have quickly become too tough a nut for Italy to crack. Britain could draw troops not just from its home islands, but also from its enormous colonial empire. The last thing the Axis needed was for Egyptian or Indian soldiers to gain a stronghold in the Balkans. If that force grew strong enough Germany might eventually have been forced into a two front land war, even without American involvement. There was also–as I mentioned earlier–an absolute necessity to keep British bombers from bombing Romanian oilfields. Without that oil the German war machine could not function.

    I don’t think that the invasion of Greece was responsible for the full six week delay in Barbarossa. If Hitler had gone for Greece only, maybe it would only have been a three to four week delay. That’s acceptable due to the late spring rains. Unfortunately for the Axis, the government of Yugoslavia was overthrown in a military coup. As Hoover pointed out in his book, FDR encouraged that coup by falsely promising members of the Yugoslav military that, if they overthrew their own government, the United States would provide military aid against German retaliation. With perfect foresight, the Germans would have allowed Yugoslavia to remain neutral, instead of pressuring it to join the Axis.

    But let’s say their foresight wasn’t quite as good as that decision would have implied. The next-best decision would have been to launch Barbarossa even while mopping up opposition in Yugoslavia and/or Greece.

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