The Greco-Italian War 1940- 1941.

Greek soldiers fight the Italian Fascist invasion in the mountains of Albania in November 1940. In this photo, they prepare to fire a 65mm mountain gun. The artillery target officer is on the right calculating t


Italian Campaign of Greece was a conflict between Fascist 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"

Imperial ambitions of Fascist Italy in Europe in 1936


After the French defeat, the Italian leadership was thinking about the next move. The most obvious were to attack the British in Egypt. Chief of the Italian General Staff, Marshal Badoglio,  agrees to attack the English in Egypt only when the first German troops disembark in England. Badoglio actually did not want to fight, but he had to obey the orders of Mussolini and the Ministry of War. And this commandment was more and more diverged. Mussolini was undecided whom to attack Yugoslavia or Greece while the Ministry of War proposed disarmament part of the army. And this was the most complicated by Ciano, Mussolini's son in law and foreign minister, who was the most wanted to attack Greece.



Italian general staff, meanwhile, prepared two plans. plan of attack on Yugoslavia with security measures against Greece. Plan C attack on Greece with security measures against Yugoslavia. On 15th October, the Military Council was made  the final decision on attacking Greece. Mussolini had ordered to General Visconti Prasca "offensive on the Epirus, the pressure on the Thessaloniki, and in the second phase  a breakthrough to Athens."

Contstruction of fortifications in Eleas-Kalama sector (Epirus-Greece), March 1939, before the outbreak of the Greco-Italian War (1940-1941)


On 28. October to the Greek dictator Metaxas, at three o'clock in the morning, was presented to the Italian ultimatum. By six o'clock that morning, he had time to surrender. But it would not help much because the Italian troops already at 5.30 am attacked Greece.

Italy
The XXV Ciamuria Corps:
The 23rd Infantry Division Ferrara (12,785 men, 60 guns and 3,500 Albanian auxiliary troops)
The 51st Infantry Division Siena (9,200 men and 50 guns)
The 131st Armoured Division Centauro (4,037 men, 24 guns and 163 light tanks, of which only 90 operational)
The XXV Corps:
22 infantry battalions
three cavalry regiments
61 artillery batteries (18 heavy) and 90 tanks
The  XXVI Corizza Corps:
The 29th Infantry Division Piemonte (9,300 men and 32 guns)
The 49th Infantry Division Parma (12,000 men and 60 guns)
The Venezia Division (10,000 men and 40 guns)

The elite 3rd Alpine Division Julia with (10,800 men and 29 guns), was placed between the corps to cover the advance of XXV Corps along the Pindus mountains.
The Regia Aeronautica had 380 aircraft available for operations against Greece.

Bristol Blenheim bomber of No. 211 Squadron RAF at Menidi, Greece


Greece
The 8th Infantry Division with 16 artillery batteries
The 2/39 Evzone Regiment
The Western Macedonia Army Section (TSDM) with the II Army Corps and III Army Corps
The Royal Hellenic Air Force (Ellinikí Vasilikí Aeroporía, RHAF) had to face the numerically and technologically superior Regia Aeronautica. It comprised 45 fighters, 24 light bombers, nine reconnaissance aircraft, about 65 auxiliary aeroplanes and 28 naval cooperation aircraft. It consisted of the 21st, 22nd, 23rd and 24th pursuit squadrons, the 31st, 32nd, 33rd bomber squadrons, the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th military cooperation squadrons, the 2828 Independent Military Cooperation Flight and the 11th, 12th and 13th naval cooperation squadrons.
Support of RAF Squadrons.

Greek soldiers on the mountains of Albania fighting the Italian fascist invasion of Greece, winter 1940-41.


The beginning of invasion

The Italians were in the first days achieved success thanks to the superiority in the air. The hardest battles were fought on the mountain Pinda. On this sector were clashed elite unit, the Italian 3rd Alpine Division Julia and Greece Euzoni from 1st Division. In the night between 9 and 10, November Euzoni were started on storm the side of the Division Julia. Leaving the wounded and much of  war material Italian division Julia had to withdraw to the Albania. With this defeat,  the Italian troops had to stop offensive operations. The Italians were on other sectors achieved a partial success.

Italian invasion of Greece


On 14 November the Greek forces launched a counter attack. By 27 November, TSDM had captured the entire Korçë plateau, suffering 624 dead and 2,348 wounded.Further south and west, I and II Corps had moved to evict the Italians from Greek territory, which they achieved by 23 November.
In Rome, was Panic prevailed and Mussolini looking for help from Germany. And Germany was concerned about the Greek success because the British RAF provided assistance to the Greeks. The Germans were afraid for the Romanian oil fields.

Greek troops during the spring offensive


After the Metaxas rejected Hitler's conditions, Hitler had ordered general staff to prepare a plan of attack in northern Greece and eventually on the whole country. Later, the plan will get the code name "Marita".

Greek counter-offensive (13 November 1940 – 7 April 1941)


On 4 March, the British sent the first convoy of Operation Lustre, with troops and supplies to Greece under the command of Lieutenant-General Sir Henry Maitland Wilson.
The Italian attack, observed by Mussolini in person, was launched on 9 March with a heavy artillery barrage and air bombardment; on the main sector, held by the Greek 1st Division, over 100,000 shells were dropped on a 6 km front. Despite repeated assaults and heavy shelling, the positions of 1st Division held. After several consecutive attacks, Italian offensive collapsed.
On 19 January, Mussolini decided to visit Hitler and ask for help. The same day, Mussolini received the news that his best division "Lupi di Toscana" defeated.

Greek military uniforms from 1941 on display in Athens War Museum


Mussolini admitted that the result of the Italian offensive was zero. Italian casualties amounted over 11,800 dead and wounded while the Greeks suffered 1,243 dead, 4,016 wounded and 42 missing in action.

The capture of Tepelene by Italian troops in the winter of 1941


Sources:
en.wikipedia.org
Drugi svjetski rat, Mladost, Ljubljana. 1980. Org. BERICHT VAN DE TWEEDE WERELD OORLOG, Amsteradam, 1975.

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