Tyskerne erobrer Kreta

Tyskerne erobrer Kreta


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31. mai 1941 evakuerer de siste av de allierte etter 11 dager med kamp mot en vellykket tysk fallskjerminvasjon på øya Kreta. Kreta er nå akse-okkupert territorium.

Om morgenen 20. mai landet rundt 3000 medlemmer av Tysklands divisjon på Kreta, som ble patruljert og beskyttet av mer enn 28 000 allierte tropper og et nesten like stort antall greske soldater. Den tyske invasjonen, selv om den var forventet, ble ikke tatt på alvor; den virkelige frykten var for et angrep fra sjøen. De første 3000 fallskjermhopperne ble forsterket - til et beløp på ytterligere 19 000 mann, som ankom med fallskjermfall, seilfly og troppsbærer.

De allierte forble optimistiske; mange av de tyske soldatene som falt fra himmelen døde eller ble skadet ved påkjørsel. Resten var underforsynte og uerfarne. Men innen 26. mai rapporterte britiske general Bernard Freyberg, sjef for forsvaret på Kreta, allerede at deres posisjon var håpløs. Evakueringen av de allierte troppene begynte den 28. Om natten den 31. hadde den siste av de allierte som ville komme seg ut, forlatt havnen i Sphakia; 5000 mann ville bli etterlatt i hendene på tyskerne. Det totale tapet av allierte landsoldater i kretensiske engasjementer var 1742; ytterligere 2 265 sjømenn gikk tapt til sjøs. Tre kryssere og seks destroyere hadde blitt senket. Tyskerne led et tap på rundt 4000 mann.

Merkelig nok, til tross for seieren, anså Hitler "tapene" for store for å forfølge ytterligere gevinster i Middelhavet og til slutt drive Storbritannia ut av området.

LES MER: Hvordan tapte nazistene virkelig andre verdenskrig?


Tyskerne erobrer Kreta - HISTORIE

Skisserte historien til øya Kreta, fra neolitisk tid til i dag.
NEOLITISK PERIODE (6500 - 2600 f.Kr.)
Det er ikke funnet rester fra skipet fra preneolitikum på Kreta.
Før den neolitiske perioden må folk først ha bodd i huler og forsørget seg med jakt og fiske, ved bruk av stein- og beinverktøy, og de må ha visst hvordan de kan lage enkle leirgryter.

Senere ser det ut til at de har utviklet et primitivt jordbruk og begynte å lage leirehus på steinfundamenter, temme dyr og dekorere keramikk med forskjellige farger og mønstre, samt lage leirebilder av dyr. De forskjellige funnene og plasseringen av de første boligene fører til antagelsen om at denne primitive sivilisasjonen ikke var innfødt og unik, men en del av den vanlige østlige Middelhavssivilisasjonen.

PREPALATIAL (EARLY MINOAN I, II, III) PERIODE (2600 - 2000 f.Kr.)
I løpet av de siste stadiene av den neolitiske perioden (opptil 2600 f.Kr.) nådde denne høyt utviklede sivilisasjonen sitt karakteristiske topp, kjent som Minion Era. Folk var korte- gjennomsnittlig mannlig høyde var omtrent 1,60 m. Ingenting er kjent om handel i perioden, men det antas at det var handel med øyene i nærheten og øst.

Keramikkproduksjonen blomstret og kobber og senere bronse begynte å bli bearbeidet. Α særegen kunstnerisk følsomhet kan gjenkjennes i seglene fra den perioden, bearbeidet i halvverdige steiner. Etter å ha revidert Evans, kaller arkeologer denne perioden frem til 2000 f.Kr. Prepalatial.

PROTOPALATIAL (MIDDLE MINOAN I, II, IIIA) PERIODE (2000 - 1700 f.Kr.)
Perioden fra 2000 f.Kr. til 1700 f.Kr. kalles Protopalatial, med byggingen av den første palasser i Knossos, Phaestos og Malia, som et resultat av konsentrasjonen av rikdom og makt i hendene på de herskende familiene i disse bosetningene.

Etter produktivitetsutviklingen hadde et organisert og hierarkisk samfunn allerede blitt til, med en tilsvarende nedgang i klansystemet. Økende handel med de andre egeiske øyene, Egypt og resten av Afrika, Lilleasia og hele Middelhavet førte til fremveksten av Kreta som en sjømakt. Import, bearbeiding og re-eksport av metall, sammen med mellomhandel, samlet rikdom til øya. Skriving ble brukt, i form av hieroglyfer, sannsynligvis stammer fra Egypt. Arbeid i gull og edelstener, skulptur og keramikk nådde fantastiske høyder.

Palassene ble ødelagt, tilsynelatende av jordskjelv, i 1700 f.Kr., men dette avbrøt imidlertid ikke utviklingen av sivilisasjonen. På omtrent dette tidspunktet, en ny form for skriving, kjent som Lineær Α, viste seg at den sannsynligvis ble brukt til å registrere kommersielle og administrative spørsmål. Det er fortsatt ikke bestemt om røttene til dette forfatterskapet var indoeuropeisk eller semittisk.

NEOPALATIAL (MIDDLE MINOAN IIIB - LATE MINOAN I, II) PERIODE (1700 - 1400 f.Kr.)
I den såkalte Neopalatial perioden (1700 f.Kr. -1400 f.Kr.) ble palassene i Knossos, Phaestos og Malia gjenoppbygd i en mye større skala de ble avansert selv dømt etter moderne standarder. Hoveddelen av minoisk makt var utvilsomt sentrert rundt Knossos, men de andre stedene i det sentrale og østlige Kreta viser bevis på minoernes rikdom og aktivitet. Det minoiske samfunnet lignet en pyramide, med bøndene og arbeiderne ved basen og de legendariske Minos på toppen. Vanlige folk visste ingenting om det luksuriøse og komfortable livet i palassene. Selv om dette ikke var et matriarkalsamfunn, kvinner hadde et privilegert sted og noen av dem må ha hatt betydelig innflytelse på palasset.

Mor-gudinnen, kilde til liv og fruktbarhet inntok førsteplassen i religionen. Symbolene hennes var dobbel øks, horn, fugler, slanger og blomster, som alle kan sees i de store kalkmaleriene som pryder palasset, så vel som på keramikken. Kunsten i denne perioden når toppen av makeløs delikatesse.
I løpet av denne perioden deltok Kreta i internasjonal handel, og det er bevis på at rav ble importert fra Østersjøen langs "ravruten", over hele Europa. Deres rikdom og makt ga minoerne tillit til å bygge sine palasser stolt, uten beskyttelse av festningsverk.

Omkring 1500 f.Kr. ble en ny form for skriving kalt Lineær Β, hadde tatt i bruk arkeologer har gjenkjent det som gresk, noe som viser at det var en forbindelse mellom innbyggerne på fastlands -Hellas, akaerne (mykenerne) og de på Kreta.

POSTPALATIAL (LATE MINOAN III) PERIODE (1400 - 1100 f.Kr.)
Omkring 1450 f.Kr. ødela en forferdelig katastrofe alle sentrene på det minoiske Kreta.
Var det jordskjelv igjen eller revolusjon eller ble stedene brent av inntrengere?
Det som imidlertid er sikkert er at nye herskere dukket opp i Egeerhavet på den tiden.
Den siste blomstringen av minoisk kunst, kjent som "Postpalatial stil", endte med erobringen av øya av achaeanerne. Ikke bare forsvant de typiske minoiske egenskapene fra samfunn, kunst og religion, men minoisk nåde og delikatesse forsvant også fra kunst og håndverk i perioden, som ble grov og klønete.
Knossos, Tylissos, Agia Triada og Palekastro ble delvis gjenoppbygd og bebodd, mens Μinoans bosatte seg samtidig i nye landsbyer på Øst -Kreta.

Den delen øya spilte i handel, og dens innflytelse generelt, var begrenset fra da av, men Kreta deltok i Trojan -krigen med sin egen hær.
Bronsealderen og dens verden tok slutt. Kriger, sosiale kamper, økonomisk utmattelse banet alle vei for Dorian invasjon.

UNDERMINOANSK PERIODE (1100 - 1000 f.Kr.)
Omkring 1100 f.Kr. erobret dorianerne - en gresk rase - de minoiske festningene etter hverandre og satte en stopper for den mykeniske staten. Kreta ble deretter påvirket av de nye herskerne og dermed avsluttet den siste minoiske perioden - Postpalatial (1400 f.Kr. til 1100 f.Kr.).

Med okkupasjonen av Kreta av dorianerne bevæpnet med jernvåpen, ble lokalbefolkningen redusert til slavestatus. En del av befolkningen (kalt Eteokretaner av grekerne) søkte tilflukt på platået Lassithi og i det ekstreme øst på Kreta, hvor de beholdt arven etter det minoiske språket til den hellenistiske perioden.

DORIAN PERIOD (100 - 67 f.Kr.)
Kreta gikk deretter over i fullstendig uklarhet, og det eneste arbeidet som ble videreført var produksjon av store keramikkglass (pithoi). Jern tok sakte plassen til bronse, og i denne nye perioden var det fønecierne som dominerte Middelhavet. Kreta gjenopprettet kontakten med områdene rundt og startet et nytt liv, spesielt vest på øya.
Fønecisk, assyrisk og egyptisk innflytelse førte til at den geometriske erstattet den østlige stilen. Kreta var nå bare en del av den da kjente verden og viste ingen tegn til noen spesiell egen kultur. Grunnlaget for datidens sosiale struktur var grunneier. Aristokratiet til store grunneiere dannet den herskende klassen av dorianerne som hadde sivile rettigheter og levde under et sosialistisk regime. De store klanfamiliene kom til makten hvert år etter tur, og de ble representert av ti adelsmenn som hadde sivile, militære, religiøse og rettslige plikter. Tidligere representanter dannet et senat hvis makt i viktige saker var ubegrenset selv av samlingen av innbyggere. Unge menn gjennomgikk militær opplæring i "flokk" før de avla ed. De ble deretter gruppert i selskaper og spiste måltider ved felles rotbord, for offentlig regning. Innbyggerne var frie, men var forpliktet til å verve seg i hæren. Bøndene ble delt inn i Perioikioi (naboer) og livegne, etter fødsel.
Dorianerne på Kreta var spesielt avanserte når det gjelder lovgivning, som det fremgår av lover funnet hos Gortys. Takket være handelen var det fremdeles en viss velstand på øya, noe som gjorde at de kretiske byene, som allerede var dannet i uavhengige bystater, kunne bygge vakre bygninger og utstede sin egen mynt. Knossos, Gortys og Kydonia regjerte over de mindre bosetningene.

Omkring 300 f.Kr. dannet seks av de sørvestlige byene "Highland Confederation" som Iater inngikk allianser med Gortys, Cyrenaica og Pergamos. Andre kretensiske byer inngikk allianser med andre makter, som Sparta og Rhodos, men disse alliansene var aldri lenge.
Uendelige trefninger, raid og kriger brakte øya til vanry og på dette tidspunktet var Kreta kjent som et tilfluktssted for pirater, tiggere og løgnere. Det var nå ingen stopp for Kretas fall.

ROMANSK PERIODE (67 f.Kr. - 395 e.Kr.)
Romerne ankom Kreta som meklere og slo seg ned som erobrere. Etter tre års sporadiske kamper ble Kreta en romersk provins, med Gortys som hovedstad på både Kreta og Cyrenaica. Under romersk styre, som brakte fred og litt autonomi til øya, likte Kreta en periode med velstand, som de mange romerske levningene viser.

FØRSTE BYZANTINTID (395 - 824 e.Kr.)
Titus, den første biskopen av Gortys. konverterte befolkningen til kristendommen, etter ordre fra apostelen Paulus, ifølge tradisjonen. Etter inndelingen av Romerriket i vestlige og østlige sektorer kom Kreta under den bysantinske innflytelsessfæren.
I løpet av denne perioden spredte kristendommen seg og mange kirker ble bygget på Kreta. En av de største er Ayios Titus på Gortys (AD 600). Fra politisk og kulturelt synspunkt mangler Kreta imidlertid interesse i denne tiden.

ARABISK YRKE (824-961 e.Kr.)
Fra 824 til 961 ble Kreta okkupert av araberne. Sentrum av øya var fortet Rabd el Khandak, som senere ble kjent som Handax Or Candia og som nå er byen Heraklion. Bortsett fra mynter, det er ikke funnet rester fra denne perioden. Etter en kamp som varte i mange år, lyktes Nikiforos Fokas endelig i å frigjøre Kreta fra araberne og andre bysantinske periode varte fra AD 961 -AD 1204.

ANDRE BYZANTINTID (961 - 1204 e.Kr.)
Adelige familier fra Bysans, kjøpmenn fra Europa og kristne fra østlige land bosatte seg på Kreta. Det ble gjort forsøk på å ødelegge alle spor etter araberne og å bringe tilbake alle kristne som var blitt muslimer til kristendommen. Kreta ble av en viss betydning igjen. Da Byzantium ble offer for det fjerde korstoget, ble Kreta gitt til Boniface II, grev av Momferato, som deretter solgte det til venetianerne.
Før de kunne ta besittelse, grep imidlertid genoesen under Erico Pescatori øya. De bygde 14 fort rundt øya og kjempet mot den venetianske flåten i fire år før de endelig ga etter i 1210.

VENETIANSK YRKE (1204 - 1669 e.Kr.)
Den venetianske okkupasjonen varte i 450 år. Kreta ble delt inn i len (føydale territorier), som ble overlevert til venetianske kolonister og gründere. De kalte øya og hovedstaden "Candia" fra det arabiske navnet på byen de organiserte og befestet og ga Kreta et nytt glans. De overlevende venetianske festningsverkene og slottene er fortsatt i god stand i dag. I løpet av første halvdel av den venetianske okkupasjonen var det mange blodige opprør mot de grusomme overherrene og deres forsøk på å pålegge deres fremmede livsstil og konvertere den kretensiske befolkningen fra ortodoks kristendom til romersk katolisisme -fra toppen med erkebiskopen og biskopene.
Selv venetianerne deltok i opprøret i 1363 mot innføringen av skatter og privilegiene som Venezia krevde. Noen ganger ble disse opprørene knust og blodige represalier tatt, og andre ganger endte de i kompromiss med innrømmelser til opprørerne.
Mange kunstnere og lærde hadde funnet tilflukt på Kreta under tilbakegangen til det bysantinske riket og etter Byzantiums fall. De etablerte skoler og ortodokse klostre og litteratur og kunst blomstret. Til tross for den venetianske innflytelsen, fortsatte kretensiske tradisjoner.

TYRKISK YRKE (1669 - 1898 e.Kr.)
Det tyrkiske forsøket på å erobre øya startet med et piratangrep mot kystbyene, og i 1645 tok tyrkerne Chania og deretter Rethymnon et år senere, til tross for venetiansk motstand.
Beleiringen og heroisk forsvar av Candia (Heraklion) begynte i 1648 og skulle vare i 22 år. Med stoppet pust så Europa på den lengste beleiringen i historien. Det var kristendommens siste høyborg i området, og paven ba generelt om hjelp til den beleirede byen. Francesco Morosini ledet forsvaret av øya, men måtte til slutt overgi seg.
Tyrkerne tillot forsvarerne å reise med ære og nesten hele den kretiske befolkningen forlot byen, sammen med utlendingene. Kretenserne forlot øya og bosatte seg på de loniske øyene og i Venezia og Mani. Fra Mani dro noen videre til Korsika, hvor en form for den kretiske dialekten fremdeles kan høres i dag. Historien forteller at under kampen om Heraklion mistet venetianerne og deres allierte 31.000 mann og tyrkerne tapte 118.000.

Kreta ble deretter delt ut blant pashas, ​​med unntak av Sfakia som, selv om det betalte en symbolsk skatt til tyrkerne, forble uavhengig og ble et tilfluktssted for opprørere og forfulgte kretere. Selv om relativt få tyrkere bosatte seg på øya, ble mange kristne tvunget til å bli muslimer for å overleve, og mange flere måtte forlate byene for å gå til fjells. Dette var et resultat av fallende landbruk og handel forårsaket av tyrkernes svake administrative organisasjon og av de stadig økende skatter og takster som vilkårlig ble pålagt lokalbefolkningen.
Under disse umenneskelige forholdene hadde ingen lyst til å jobbe, og dette gjorde igjen de forferdelige posisjonene til lokalbefolkningen enda verre, mens jordskjelv og opprør ødela landsbyene. Det første store opprøret fant sted i 1770, ledet av Sfakian, Daskalogiannis. Da den greske revolusjonen startet i 1821, reiste Kreta seg også, men ble skammelig forlatt av stormaktene og avga egypterne, som hadde blitt kalt inn av tyrkerne for å hjelpe dem. Tyrkerne overtok igjen i 1840, men kretenserne ga seg ikke og revolusjonen fortsatte, med sin ubesparende strøm av blod. Årene 1866-69 skiller seg spesielt ut, det samme gjør det typiske, rørende eksemplet på Holocaust i Arkadi.


Kreta -kampanjen

Kretas posisjon i sentrum av det østlige Middelhavet gjorde det til en sentral strategisk ressurs under andre verdenskrig. For de allierte tilbød det potensial som en base for operasjoner på Balkan, og for tyskerne, en base for operasjoner mot Nord -Afrika. Storbritannia hadde etablert en garnison på øya i november 1940, men få forberedelser hadde blitt gjort for forsvaret da den tyske erobringen av Hellas i april 1941 utsatte den for alvorlig trussel. Garnisonen ble raskt styrket med tropper evakuert fra Hellas, men de manglet kjøretøyer, artilleri og andre tunge våpen. Forsvarernes vanskeligheter ble ytterligere komplisert av geografien på øya - alle dens store byer, flyplasser og havneanlegg lå på nordkysten - og tyskernes kontroll med luften negerte nesten fullstendig Storbritannias marine styrke i det østlige Middelhavet. Øyas forsvar var basert på tre hovedforsvarlige områder: Heraklion og Retimo, hvert område for et flyplass, og Canea-Suda Bay-området, som inneholdt havneanleggene ved Suda og flyplassen ved Maleme. De australske enhetene som utgjorde en del av den forsvarende styrken var: 2/2 og 2/3 Field Field Regiments, 2/1st, 2/4, 2/7th, 2/8th, 2/11th, 16th Brigade Composite og 17th Brigade Sammensatte bataljoner, et batteri fra 2/3 Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment, og flere sammensatte grupper av diverse australske tropper.

I en operasjon med kodenavnet "Mercur" (Merkur) landet over 9 500 tyske luftbårne tropper på Kreta 20. mai 1941, og deres hovedmål var de tre flyplassene. De led i utgangspunktet tungt i forsvarernes hender, men selv om de ble holdt i sjakk ved Retimo og Heraklion, klarte de å ta kontroll over Maleme flyplass natt til 21. mai. Dette tillot et stort antall tyske forsterkninger å bli fløyet inn og begynne å skyve de allierte styrkene tilbake mot Canea. Mai tvang det pågående presset fra Luftwaffe de britiske marinestyrker til å trekke seg fra vannet nord for Kreta slik at tysk skipsfart kunne flyttes fra Hellas, som hittil hadde blitt forhindret. Mai ble det gitt ordre om å evakuere øya, og styrkene i Canea-Suda Bay-området begynte å trekke seg over øya til landsbyen Sphakia på sørkysten. Over 12 000 allierte tropper ble evakuert fra Sphakia over fire netter, som begynte 28. mai. Tilbaketrekningen i vest forseglet skjebnen til garnisonene i Retimo og Heraklion, som begge effektivt hadde beseiret tyskerne. Heraklion -styrken ble evakuert til sjøs natten 28. mai, men omgitt av tropper som gikk videre fra Canea, ble Retimo -styrken tvunget til å overgi seg 29. mai.

Den ulykkelige kampen om Kreta kostet de britiske samveldestyrker 1.742 drepte og 2.225 sårede. Ytterligere 11 370 tropper ble tatt til fange - vedvarende tyske luftangrep og uholdbare marinetap hadde forårsaket at evakueringen i Sphakia ble forlatt for tidlig. Royal Navy mistet ni skip rundt Kreta og over 2000 sjømenn ble drept. Operation & quot Tekst fra AWM

Enheter involvert

Statistikk : Over 35 millioner sidebesøkende siden 11. november 2002


Rethymno historie

Den lange historien til Rethymno spores tilbake til de neolitiske årene hvor en mengde arkeologiske funn, inkludert mynter, skilt og skrifter fra gamle historikere, er vitne til at fiskerne bor i Gerani Cave. I løpet av den minoiske perioden blomstret Rethymno og resten av kretensiske byer sterkt på et økonomisk og kulturelt nivå. Fra det 12. til det 11. århundre f.Kr. utviklet den minoiske sivilisasjonen seg raskt innen handel og kultur.

Mange byer ble bygget den perioden på Kreta. Den viktigste minoiske byen i Rethymno var Ancient Eleftherna. Den katastrofale ereksjonen av vulkanen Santorini markerte imidlertid slutten på denne velstående perioden. De påfølgende årene er de vakre byene på Kreta inkludert Rethymno erobret av dorianerne, romerne, venetianerne, tyrkerne og tyskerne, og de modige kreterne kan ikke opprettholde sin uavhengighet.

I 1204 startet en ny periode for Kreta og spesielt Rethymno. Med avskaffelsen av det bysantinske riket overga øya seg til venetianerne. På grunn av deres mange erobringer i Peloponissos og Egeerhavet, forsømte venetianere imidlertid at deres nye tiltredelse ga tilgang til de andre erobrerne av Kreta. Tilstedeværelsen av den legendariske piraten Barbarossa i byen i 1538 var ganske viktig for Rethymno. Angrepet hans førte til bygging av omfattende festningsverk for beskyttelse av Rethymno.

Den blomstrende perioden i Rethymno begynte tidlig på 1500 -tallet og fremhevet byens historie, en unik blanding av kretisk og venetiansk kultur. Byen ble nesten helt gjenoppbygd av venetianerne. Dette førte til kretensisk renessanse, en gullperiode med kunst og bokstaver som bare er tydelig på Kreta og de joniske øyene. Rethymno blomstrer raskt med ankomsten av nye forskere og intellektuelle. Mange litterære samfunn og et offentlig bibliotek ble opprettet i Rethymno. Dessverre ender denne kulturtiden i 1669 da tyrkerne erobret Kreta som førte til nedgangen i Rethymno. Lokalbefolkningen i Rethymno fortsatte kampen mot tyrkerne, noe som førte til mange tap. Til slutt, i 1897, fikk Kreta sin uavhengighet, og i 1913 ble det forent med den nyetablerte greske staten.

I dag er Rethymno en av de best bevarte byene på Kreta som opprettholder sin aristokratiske karakter, med en mengde elegante bygninger fra 1500-tallet, buede passasjer, smale smug og bysantinske monumenter. Likevel er det viktigste venetianske verket Fortezza over byen.


Invasjon av Kreta: Den første (og eneste) store tyske luftbårne operasjonen under andre verdenskrig

Tyskerne ble oppmuntret av tidligere suksesser og startet Operation Mercury, og droppet tusenvis av fallskjermjegere på den forsvarte øya Kreta.

Her er hva du trenger å vite: Tyskerne ville seire på Kreta, men seieren deres var bittersøt.

I mai 1941 hadde den tyske Luftwaffes formuer steget til store høyder og falt til like oppsiktsvekkende dybder i løpet av et enkelt år med lynkrigskrig i Vest -Europa. Ledet av den narsissistiske Hermann Göring, et tidligere flygende ess fra første verdenskrig, hadde Luftwaffe vært det perfekte komplementet til den landbaserte Wehrmacht i de første månedene av krigen. I Skandinavia og lavlandene våren 1940 hadde Luftwaffes lette infanteri i fallskjerm, eller Fallschirmjäger, tatt hovedmål for å fremskynde Tysklands panserkrefter, mens høynivå- og dykkbomber hadde fremskyndet kapitulasjonen av sta nasjoner med bevisst, ubarmhjertig bombing av europeiske byer som våget å trosse Adolf Hitler.

Men Luftwaffe -formuer surret under evakueringen av Dunkerque og det påfølgende slaget ved Storbritannia, da luftvåpenet ikke klarte å levere lovede seire. I kjølvannet av den katastrofale luftkrigen var Göring som en gambler på lykken. Reichsmarschall var desperat etter å gjenopprette sin prestisje og hans kjære Luftwaffe. Royal Air Force kan ha blitt bedre av Luftwaffe i himmelen over Storbritannia, men Görings fallskjermjegere var ennå ubeseiret. Etter at nazistene styrket seg inn på Balkan våren 1941 for å forløse den italienske diktatoren Benito Mussolinis misfødte invasjon av Hellas, håpet Göring at Luftwaffe ville få en ny mulighet til å skinne for den notorisk vanskelig å behage Führer.

For Pride of the Luftwaffe

Generalløytnant Alexander Löhr, generalsjef for Luftwaffes fjerde luftflåte, og generalmajor Kurt Student, sjef for XI Air Corps, presenterte planer for en invasjon av Kreta som utelukkende ville bli utført av Luftwaffe fallskjermjegere. Göring ble solgt på ideen umiddelbart. En vellykket luftbåren invasjon av Kreta ville gjenopprette ham til Führerens gode nåde. Innsatsen var høy - Göring satset på at hans luftbårne korps kunne erobre den strategiske øya med liten eller ingen hjelp fra Wehrmacht.

Øya, som ligger 60 miles fra den sørligste spissen av fastlands -Hellas, måler 160 miles øst til vest og varierer fra 12 til 30 miles nord til sør. Befolkningen lever for det meste på smale strimler av fruktbart land på nord- og sørkysten. De fruktbare beltene viker for foten, som overskygges av vulkanske fjell som svever til mer enn 8000 fot. Den store størrelsen kunne romme flere flyplasser, og en enorm naturlig havn ved Suda Bay kan ly for et stort antall fartøyer. Studentenes plan for å invadere Kreta var å gjøre samtidige fall mot syv hovedmål på øyas nordlige kyst og forsterke disse brohodene mens de separate gruppene knyttet seg til hverandre. Men Löhr ønsket å konsentrere hele invasjonen på den vestlige enden av Kreta, der Maleme flyplass og Suda havn lå, og deretter marsjere østover for å fange resten av øya.

For å løse tvisten, fant Göring et kompromiss. Under den endelige planen for Operasjon Merkur, ville Student kommandere mer enn 22 000 tropper, som alle ville delta i invasjonen, enten i den første angrepsrekken eller som forsterkninger. Students XI Air Corps omfattet den 7. luftbårne divisjonen så vel som den femte fjelldivisjonen, under kommando av brig. General Julius Ringel. Sistnevnte erstattet den 22. luftlandingsdivisjonen, som hadde blitt løsrevet for å vokte de rumenske oljefeltene. Planen ba om at 750 tropper, trukket fra fallskjermdivisjonen, skulle lande med seilfly, 9 250 med fallskjerm, 5 000 for å lande på erobrede flyplasser og 7 000 for å ankomme sjøveien. Siden det ikke var nok transportfly til å slippe alle fallskjermjegerne på en gang, ville det være nødvendig med to skyttelbusser. Planen var å droppe den første bølgen like etter daggry og den andre bølgen midt på ettermiddagen. Den første ville fokusere på å fange Maleme flyplass, hovedstaden i Canea, og havnen i Suda, mens den andre ville konsentrere seg om å ta Retimo og Heraklion flyplasser.

Om morgenen den første dagen ville de fire bataljonene i det 7. luftdivisjonens stormregiment stige ned på Maleme flyplass med seilfly og fallskjerm, mens det tredje fallskjermregimentet skulle lande i nærheten av Canea, hovedstaden på Kreta, og fange det så vel som havnen i Suda. Flytransportflåten på rundt 500 Junkers Ju-52s ville deretter returnere til fastlandet, hvor den skulle fylle bensin og returnere med de gjenværende fallskjermjegerne seks timer senere. I den andre bølgen ville det andre fallskjermregimentet falle på Retimo, mens det første fallskjermregimentet ville lande på toppen av Heraklion.

Angrepsstyrkene ble delt inn i tre grupper. Brig. General Eugene Meindl kommanderte Stormregimentet som dannet vestlig gruppe, generalmajor Wilhelm Sussman kommanderte 2. og 3. fallskjermregiment i mellomgruppen, og oberst Bruno Brauer kommanderte det første fallskjermregimentet i den østlige gruppen. På den andre dagen ville 5. fjeldivisjon bli fraktet til de tre erobrede flyplassene, og aksekonvoier ville lande tropper, stridsvogner, artilleri og forsyninger ved dypvannshavnene i Suda Bay og Heraklion. VIII Air Corps, under general Wolfram von Richthofen, ville gi luftstøtte før og under invasjonen, ved å bruke 650 fly, inkludert 280 mellomstore bombefly, 150 dykkbombere, 180 jagerfly og 40 rekognoseringsfly.

Innen 14. mai hadde enhetene i 7. luftdivisjon rapportert til de syv flyplassene som de skulle flys til Kreta. Dagen etter ble regiment- og bataljonkommandører orientert av Student ved hovedkvarteret hans på Hotel Grande Bretagne i Athen. Selv om seilflyene og fallskjermhoppene opprinnelig var planlagt til 17. mai, tvang en forsinkelse i transport av 5.000 tonn flydrivstoff med tankskip gjennom Adriaterhavet til å utsette angrepet til 20. mai. For å komplisere saken ytterligere hadde tyskerne ikke klart å nøyaktig anslå størrelsen på fiendens styrke på Kreta, til tross for vanlige rekognoseringsfly. Først de siste timene før invasjonen fikk Student og hans menn vite at den allierte styrken på Kreta var fire ganger større enn tidligere anslag på 10 000 tropper.

Da fastlands -Hellas falt til tyskerne i april dro rundt 18 000 soldater til Kreta, hvor de fikk selskap av 12 000 ferske tropper fra Egypt. De allierte enhetene ble i teorien integrert med 12 000 greske tropper fordelt på åtte regimenter, for en total troppestyrke på rundt 42 000. General Sir Archibald Wavell, sjefen for den britiske Midtøsten-kommandoen, fløy til Kreta 30. april og erstattet umiddelbart general Maitland "Jumbo" Wilson med generalmajor Bernard "Tiny" Freyberg, sjef for New Zealand-divisjonen , som hadde kjempet under Wilson på det greske fastlandet. Britisk statsminister Winston Churchill sendte Wavell en melding som gjorde det klart at de allierte ikke ville gi opp øya uten kamp. "Det burde være en fin mulighet til å drepe fallskjermtroppene," skrev Churchill. "Øya må forsvares hardnakket."

“Øya må stå hardt i forsvar”

Freyberg arvet en vanskelig situasjon. De allierte troppene som ble evakuert fra Hellas hadde forlatt nesten alle kjøretøyer og tunge våpen. På Kreta besto deres magre arsenal av 49 feltkanoner, åtte 3,7-tommers haubitser og 22 stridsvogner. Luftdeksel fantes ikke. Alle fly som fortsatt kunne fly hadde kommet tilbake til Egypt. De forskjellige posisjonene rundt øya var ikke befestede, og de fleste enhetene var uten radioer. Når det gjelder grekerne, var de bevæpnet med antikke rifler og så lite som tre runder ammunisjon hver.

Britene hadde imidlertid flere fordeler som kan hjelpe dem med å stoppe eller til og med avvise de nazistiske inntrengerne. Det viktigste var at de kontrollerte havene og derfor kunne fange opp eventuelle tyske forsterkninger, utstyr eller forsyninger som ankom med båt til øya. De allierte ville også ha flere menn på bakken i løpet av kampens første dag enn tyskerne kunne slippe ned fra himmelen. Takket være Ultra, navnet gitt til de dechifrerte tyske kodene, visste Freyberg kort tid etter at han ankom at tyskerne planla en massiv luftbåren invasjon med sikte på å fange de tre store flyplassene på nordkysten av Kreta i Maleme, Retimo og Heraklion. Britisk etterretning trodde feilaktig at tyskerne kan storme strendene i Maleme -sektoren ved hjelp av den italienske marinen, men tyskerne hadde ikke til hensikt å foreta noen form for strandangrep.

Den allierte planen

I troen på at de en dag ville gjenerobre øya hvis de mistet den for tyskerne, ødela de allierte ikke flyplassene for å hindre fienden i å bruke dem. I stedet valgte Freyberg fem hovedmål å forsvare. I tillegg til de tre fungerende flyplassene, ville han også forsvare Canea og havnen i Suda. Holde nede Maleme var New Zealand -divisjonen, bestående av 4., 5. og 10. brigade, sammen med 1., 6. og 8. greske regiment. At Suda Bay, the defense consisted of the Mobile Naval Base Defence Organization under Maj. Gen. Eric Weston, reinforced by two Australian battalions and the 2nd Greek Regiment. In close proximity and guarding the capital of Canea were the 1st Battalion (Royal Welsh Fusiliers), the 1st Ranger Battalion, and the Northumberland Hussars. Freyberg’s headquarters was hidden in a quarry near Canea.


Hitler's Invasion of Crete – The First Airborne Invasion in Military History

In the late spring of 1941 the German juggernaut was still rolling across Europe, and had recently conquered Yugoslavia and Greece—and set its eyes on the more than forty thousand British, Commonwealth and Greek troops that were determined to hold the island of Crete. Under the leadership of General Kurt Student the German's conceived Operation Merkur (Mercury).

It was a daring plan that resulted in a costly victory for the Germans. It saw the first use of Germany's elite Fallschirmjäger en mass but was also the last significant airborne operation conducted by the Nazis in World War II.

The prelude to the battle began in October 1940 when the Italians attacked Greece, which required the government in Athens to deploy the Fifth Cretan Division to stop the invasion from Italian dictator Benito Mussolini's forces on the mainland. The British brokered a deal with the Greeks to garrison the island and use it as a base in the eastern Mediterranean.

The Greek military performed far better against the Italians, who were forced to retreat, and in early April the Germans came to the aid of their Axis partners and invaded Greece. By the end of the month, most of the British and Commonwealth forces had been evacuated to North Africa, while some were sent to Crete but without the heavy equipment, which they left behind.

The combined Allied units on Crete were designated “Creforce” under the command of Major-General Bernard Freyberg, who led the 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force (2NZEF). Defending the island presented challenges including the fact that the airfields were near the northern coast and faced German-occupied Greece.

The Germans—who were already preparing for Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union—both didn't want the British to have a foothold on the island, but also saw that it could be a forward base from which to carry on its own air operations to support the campaign in North Africa.

General Student devised a plan that would employ the Fallschirmjägers in landings to capture the airfields of Maleme, Rethymnon and Heraklion so that their reinforcements could be flown in by the air. It required a total of 500 Junkers Ju-52/3m transport planes—however, those aircraft had been overworked in the recent campaigns and while nearly all were ready the Germans also lacked an appropriate staging area for its airborne armada.

Operation Merkur was launched on May 20.

Creforce had a significant advantage—naming that they were fully aware of the German plans as information was deciphered from German codes. That should have ensured victory for the Allies and a devastating blow to Student's paratroops. However, the British were still unaware of the comparative strength of Germany's sea and airborne forces.

When the German attack began, Freyberg misinterpreted the intelligence and was overly concerned about the seaborne invasion—which in reality was a minor part of the German operation. The British, Commonwealth and Greek forces were deployed to meet the threat from an amphibious assault and that left the largest and most important airfield at Maleme practically open to attack.

Because the Allies knew an attack was coming, even if they didn't know the exact "when," the invaders suffered heavy casualties. German paratroopers landed among Allied defensive positions and most tended to jump with just a sidearm while their main weapons were deployed in separate containers. Even the Germans arriving by glider fared little better and came under immediate fire as they left the aircraft.

The initial assaults against Maleme airfield were repulsed, while subsequent landings near Rethymnon and Heraklion were also pushed back. Even worse for the Germans was that during the first two days of the attack many of the Ju-52s were damaged or shot down. The German high command was even concerned about future airdrops.

However, despite the setbacks and after hard fighting, the Germans were able to turn the tide. This was aided by the use of false radio signals. The Germans gained control of an airfield and were able to fly in additional reinforcements.

Freyberg's forces engaged in a slow, fighting retreat towards the southern coast, and on May 27 he was ordered to evacuate the island. In a show of determination, the 8th Greek Regiment succeeded in holding back a German attack for a week, which allowed Allied forces to move to the port of Sphakia, while the New Zealand 28th (Maori) Battalion also performed heroically in covering the withdrawal.

The bulk of the Allied forces escaped again, but five thousand men protecting the port were forced to surrender on June 1.

It was a hollow victory for the Germans. It cost so many transport aircraft that the Germans never mounted another airborne invasion. Adolf Hitler also believed airborne troops lost the advantage of surprise and he personally directed that paratroopers were only to be employed as ground-based troops from that point on.

The Allies learned valuable lessons and proved Hitler wrong when they used airborne troops effectively during the D-Day operations just three years later.


Battle of Crete: It Began with Germany’s Airborne Invasion—Operation Mercury

In the fall of 1940, Adolf Hitler was certain that Josef Stalin was preparing to attack him. Word of the Soviet dictator’s paranoid purges of his military’s high command in the late 1930s had been reassuring news to the German Führer in Berlin. But when news reached Hitler in 1940 that the Soviets were busily training an entire new officer corps, the Führer began to worry again and ordered his generals to draw up plans for the invasion of the Soviet Union. His timetable was thrown off, however, by a series of unexpected developments in the south.

Chagrined over his own lack of conquests while Hitler’s forces were overrunning most of Western Europe, Italian dictator Benito Mussolini invaded Greece on October 28, 1940. Undertaken at the wrong time of year, the offensive quickly bogged down in the autumn rains, and when the Greeks counterattacked on November 5, they drove il Duce‘s forces back to their starting point on the Albanian frontier.

British forces were fighting alongside the Greeks, and Hitler was forced to intervene lest his enemies establish a foothold on his southern flank. German armies surged into and subdued the Balkans, saving Mussolini and securing the south — most of it. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill then sent units of the Royal Navy into the eastern portion of the Mediterranean in anticipation of a German invasion of Crete, the largest of the Greek isles, off the southeastern coast of the Greek mainland.

It was a foregone conclusion that the Germans would target the big island next. Britain’s presence there gave the Allies an invaluable base for their air and sea fleets to threaten supplies and reinforcements destined for Axis forces in North Africa. Royal Air Force bombers based on Crete could also reach the vital Romanian oil fields, which fueled the German war machine, and Crete might even provide a staging area for an Allied invasion of Southern Europe.

For the Germans, time was of the essence. Operations in Greece and Crete had to be concluded successfully before the invasion of the Soviet Union could be undertaken with prospects for a speedy victory before winter. The elite airborne forces commanded by General Kurt Student were placed on alert on May 1, 1941. They would have only 20 days to prepare for the assault on this distant, unfamiliar island. Operation Mercury, as it was called, was set in motion.

Because the campaign had to be carried out in great haste, there was little time for preparation on any level. A total of 500 Junkers Ju-52/3m transport planes would be required to convey the airborne troops into battle. The planes had been severely overworked during the recent attacks on Yugoslavia and Greece, however, and their airframes and engines were in need of major servicing. On May 1, the entire fleet flew north to dozens of aircraft maintenance facilities scattered throughout Germany, Austria and Bohemia-Moravia. By May 15, 493 overhauled, rewelded and otherwise repaired Ju-52s were back in Greece. The next problem to be dealt with was locating appropriate staging areas for the airborne armada.

The handful of Greek airfields with paved runaways were already occupied by the German VIII Air Corps’ bomber units. The transports would have to make do with dusty fields and dirt roads. When Colonel Rudiger von Heyking surveyed the runways for his 150 Ju-52s, he reported to his superiors: ‘They are nothing but deserts! Heavy-laden aircraft will sink up to their ankles.’

Heyking’s dismay was warranted. His airfield outside Topolia had been plowed up by its previous commander in an attempt ‘to make it more level.’ The result was that takeoffs and landings raised dense clouds of dust that rose to 3,000 feet and made it impossible for formations to follow each other at intervals of less than 17 minutes. It was a problem that plagued the Germans throughout the developing theater. Transport groups at Dadion, Megara, Corinth and Tanagra were forced to use fields made of shifting, unstable sand.

The Germans also suffered from a severe fuel shortage. The three flights by 493 Junkers to deliver the paratroopers to Crete would require an estimated 650,000 gallons of gasoline. As of May 17, no fuel had arrived. On April 26, British infantry had captured the bridge over the Corinth canal, through which the Germans’ fuel-carrying tanker had to pass en route from Italy. The British blew up the bridge, which fell into the canal and effectively blocked it. By May 17, Kriegsmarine divers had managed to clear the debris sufficiently to permit the tanker to pass, and the next day she docked at the Greek port of Piraeus, where the precious fuel was pumped into 45-gallon barrels and loaded onto trucks for transport to the airfields.

Because of the delayed tanker, the invasion had been postponed from May 15 to the 18th, and finally to May 20. By midnight of May 19-20, some transport squadrons were still waiting for their fuel, and when it finally arrived, time was so short that paratroopers had to help unload the drums, roll them to the planes and then assist as the tanks were slowly filled by hand-cranked pumps. To compensate for the hard night’s work, the soldiers were issued amphetamines to keep them awake through the long days ahead.

The airborne assault commenced at dawn, with fleets of Ju-52s roaring over the Cretan coast, disgorging clouds of tired paratroopers while additional soldiers arrived via glider. The initial airdrops were made by a force of 3,000 men under the command of Maj. Gen. Eugen Meindl near Maleme and Canea on Crete’s northwest coast. These were followed on the afternoon of the 20th by 2,600 soldiers at Heraklion and 1,500 at Rethymnon.

Student’s forces suffered such ghastly casualties that massive reinforcements became necessary to stave off outright defeat. Opposition to the invasion was much stiffer than had been anticipated. More than 40,000 troops, including Greek soldiers evacuated from the mainland and British Commonwealth forces under the command of Maj. Gen. Bernard Freyberg, a New Zealander, fought ferociously.

The primitive conditions and murderous anti-aircraft fire over Crete claimed so many of the crucial Ju-52s during the first two days of the attack that the German high command doubted further airdrops were advisable.

Apart from the heavy losses of Luftwaffe transports, there was the problem of delivering sorely needed artillery, ammunition, tanks and other heavy equipment, all of which were too heavy to be carried by aircraft. The solution was to dispatch a convoy of commandeered Greek fishing and merchant vessels carrying 2,331 soldiers of the 100th Mountain Regiment’s 3rd Battalion, fully armed and equipped, on the evening of May 20. The Germans tried to convince their Italian allies to launch a major naval sortie to the west to draw the Royal Navy away from the convoy, but Mussolini’s admiralty expressed little interest in such a risky ploy. Instead, the Germans hoped to deceive their enemy with false radio signals and make for Crete under cover of darkness.

The problem with that plan was that Luftwaffe air superiority was meaningless at night, and if the Royal Navy was able to locate the sea train, nothing could prevent a massacre. Sure enough, the heavily laden and elderly vessels were slowed by contrary winds and were still far short of their destination at dawn, when Luftwaffe reconnaissance warned them of approaching British warships. The motley fleet reversed direction and returned to its starting point, the coastal island of Menlos.

Six hours later the Germans tried again, hoping that the enemy would not expect another attempt so soon. But by starting so late in the day they forfeited any chance of reaching Crete before dark. Elements of the British Mediterranean Fleet had been patrolling off the north coast of Crete in anticipation of such a move. Just before midnight three cruisers and four destroyers of Admiral Sir Andrew Cunningham’s command tore into the virtually unprotected German convoy.

A survivor of the attack later wrote: ‘To us the searchlights appear like fingers of death. Sharply cut against the darkness they grope here and there over the water. For a moment they touch our mast tips in brilliant light, then wander on. Are we too small to be seen?’ Apparently not, for as the terrified German looked up he saw a destroyer churn out of the blackness. ‘The thing is right in front of us,’ he continued. ‘A dark shadow high as a church tower. The searchlights flash out again, drenching our tiny vessel in light as bright as day. `Everybody overboard!’ As we leap into the water the first salvoes crash into us like a tempest, sending showers of wood and debris about our ears.’

For 2 1/2 hours it was a turkey shoot. Then the warships broke off and retired, leaving the shattered remains of the flotilla dead in the water to drift northward toward Greece. Cunningham estimated that 4,000 Germans had been killed. In fact, just over 800 had died, and at dawn Axis forces mounted a massive rescue effort. A second convoy, carrying the 2nd Battalion of the 85th Mountain Regiment, was sighted that same morning but escaped back to the mainland with a British flotilla hard on its rudders.

Developments along the entire eastern seacoast would soon turn the tide in the bloody battle for Crete. For several days Luftwaffe combat squadrons had been massing at newly captured airfields on islands in the Aegean Sea, at the Peloponnesian cities of Argos, Mycenae and Molae, and to the north in central Greece. The British lost the destroyer Juno to German aircraft on May 21, and on May 22 reconnaissance patrols pinpointed the locations of British naval units throughout the battle zone.

Cunningham was aware of his vulnerability to air attack and had accordingly refrained from drawing too near the combat areas. Imidlertid er Luftwaffe bomber units had been so preoccupied with supporting their beleaguered paratroops that they had so far virtually ignored the British fleet. Perhaps this lack of attention deceived the admiral into overconfidence.

On the night of May 21-22, Cunningham sent 14 of his cruisers and destroyers to positions off the island’s north coast to continue the blockade. It was these vessels that the German reconnaissance flights noticed. Soon after first light, hundreds of German bombers and fighters roared into the sky.

The first to lift off were the Junkers Ju-87B dive bombers of Stukageschwader 2, commanded by Lt. Col. Oskar Dinort. Twenty-five miles north of Crete they found targets — two cruisers and two destroyers. Screaming down from 12,000 feet, the Stukas ignored blistering anti-aircraft fire and unloaded on their marks. Under full steam and rudder, the ships zigzagged desperately as heavy bombs exploded so close that their decks were doused with seawater from the blasts.

The light cruisers Gloucester og Fiji were slightly damaged, while destroyers Greyhound og Griffin emerged unscathed. After 90 minutes of virtually fruitless attack, the Stukas returned to their airfields for rearming and refueling while the quartet of British vessels fled to rendezvous with the main fleet 30 miles off Crete’s west coast.

To the east the British were still pursuing the second troop flotilla when they were assaulted by twin-engine Junkers Ju-88 dive bombers. The Allies were already learning to fear these versatile planes, which combined speed, diving ability, bombload and accuracy to a devastating extent. In this attack, however, the initial wall of flak thrown up by the targets apparently so unnerved the German assailants that only two ships, the cruisers Naiad og Carlisle, were moderately damaged before the flotilla scattered and made good its escape to the west.

Cunningham was dismayed by this maneuver. He was convinced his vessels stood a better chance if they closed with the troopships and destroyed them at close quarters while the pilots, who he thought would be fearful of killing their own men, buzzed helplessly overhead. Also, he considered destruction of this reinforcement-carrying convoy worth any price. But by the time his order of ‘Stick to it!’ arrived from Alexandria, his task force had already retired.

By that time 19 British warships had gathered, led by the battleships Tapper og Warspite. They could throw up a withering screen of fire, but much of their ammunition had been expended in the previous day’s action. Furthermore, the commander of the VIII Air Corps, General Wolfram von Richthofen, had at his disposal a massive array of aerial firepower. May 22, 1941, would demonstrate how vulnerable even a powerful naval task force can be when an opponent has complete control of the sky.

At 12:30 p.m., flights of Messerschmitt Me-109s and Dornier Do-17s joined the Stukas chasing the westward-steaming British ships as they linked up with the rest of the fleet. Warspite immediately suffered a direct hit. Seeing her distress, the Me-109s pounced on her, spraying her with machine-gun fire that killed many sailors and knocked out her 4- and 6-inch starboard batteries.

At this point the planes of the refueled and rearmed Stukageschwader 2 arrived. Seeing the vast aerial armada descending upon them, the British turned and fled southwest in a desperate bid to get out of range. In essence they were abandoning their comrades on Crete and conceding defeat. The Germans, however, had no intention of allowing them to escape unmolested.

A couple of hours earlier, Greyhound had been dispatched alone to destroy a caique full of soldiers that had been spotted off Antikythera. The solitary destroyer was caught and quickly sunk by two Stuka bombs. Two other destroyers, Kandahar og Kingston, were ordered by Rear Adm. Edward King to return and pick up survivors while Gloucester og Fiji were to provide anti-aircraft cover. The admiral was unaware that the cruisers were almost out of ammunition, and by the time he was informed of that and radioed for them to return, it was too late.

Gloucester was mortally hit almost instantly. Ablaze along her entire length, she meandered aimlessly until 4 p.m., when she was sunk by an internal explosion. This time King gritted his teeth and left the surviving crew to what he assumed was certain death in the sea. Over the next 24 hours, however, German floatplanes picked up more than 500 British seamen.

I mellomtiden, Fiji and her destroyers set course for Alexandria. At 5:45 p.m. she was spotted by a lone Me-109 that was carrying a 550-pound bomb. Although at his extreme range limit, the pilot never wavered in his attack, planting his bomb alongside the ship and buckling her plates. The resultant flooding seriously reduced Fiji‘s speed and caused a severe list. Furthermore, the German pilot radioed his victim’s whereabouts, and when a bomber appeared 30 minutes later, there was little the cruiser could do to defend herself. The plane dropped three 110-pound bombs on the forward boiler room, and at nightfall Fiji turned turtle and sank.

Also at dusk five modern destroyers arrived from Malta and took up position off Crete’s north coast. Two of them, Kelly og Kashmir, shelled German positions at Maleme and torched a couple of troopships, but at dawn they were attacked by a swarm of 24 Stukas and quickly sent to the bottom. ødelegger Kipling rescued 279 survivors, including Kelly‘s captain, Lord Louis Mountbatten. At 7 a.m. on May 23, what was left of the British Mediterranean Fleet limped back to Alexandria.

The previous night a delighted Richthofen had written in his diary: ‘The British take hit after hit ships burn and sink. Others turn aside to help and are caught by bombs, too. Some limp along with a list, others with a trail of oil, to get out of this hell. Flight units that have flown the whole day, bombed, reloaded with time for naught else, at evening begin to let out triumphant shouts of joy. Results cannot yet be assessed, but I have the solid feeling of a grand and decisive success: Six cruisers and three destroyers are definitely sunk, others so damaged they will sink in the night. We have finally demonstrated that, if weather permits flying, a fleet cannot operate within range of the Luftwaffe.’ Richthofen hurriedly radioed Berlin to send immediate seaborne reinforcements to Crete. However, the high command was still shaken by the mauling of the first troop convoy and could not believe that the Royal Navy had been swept from the arena.

Although the toll on the British was less than Richthofen thought (only two destroyers had actually been sunk at the time of his diary entry), it was still considerable. Three other warships were damaged to the point of uselessness, and more than 1,000 men had been lost. Still, the exultant Luftwaffe general could not prevail on his distant, overly cautious superiors to launch another fleet of troop-carrying boats. Help would continue to arrive with maddening slowness via the depleted squadrons of cargo planes.

If the upper echelons of the Wehrmacht were unconvinced of their own success, the British certainly were not. By retiring to Alexandria, Cunningham was disobeying direct orders from London to retain control of the sea lanes north of Crete at all costs. The rueful admiral could see that control of the sea had passed from surface forces to air power and that his superiors’ notion of war at sea was outmoded. He radioed the chiefs of staff that his losses were too great to justify trying to prevent further attacks on Crete, adding that his men and the vessels they sailed were nearing exhaustion.

‘The operations of the last four days have been nothing short of a test of strength between the Mediterranean Fleet and the German Air Force,’ Cunningham reported on May 23. ‘I am afraid that, in the coastal area, we have to admit defeat and accept the fact that losses are too great to justify us in trying to prevent seaborne attacks on Crete. This is a melancholy conclusion, but it must be faced.’

There would be no landings of seaborne Germans, however, and the battered Ju-52s resolutely continued to land with their human cargo. The 100th Mountain Regiment, some of the men still wet from the previous day’s abortive cruise, was gradually brought up to strength with airlifted new arrivals. The tough, well-equipped veterans began to prevail in this confused campaign so marred by crucial blunders on both sides. The Allies, bereft of air support due to a lack of aircraft carriers or suitable airfields in range of the combat zone, were gradually pushed to the coastal areas of the island’s eastern end, where they awaited evacuation by what remained of the demoralized British fleet.

As late as May 27, Churchill telegraphed General Sir Archibald Wavell, commander in chief of Middle East forces, ‘Victory in Crete essential at this turning-point in the war.’ The same day Wavell despondently replied, ‘Fear we must recognise that Crete is no longer tenable….’

The British evacuation would have been a suicidal venture if Hitler had not already begun withdrawing his air units in preparation for the invasion of the Soviet Union. At Heraklion, however, destroyer Imperial‘s rudder became hopelessly jammed, compelling the British to transfer her crew and troops to destroyer Hotspur, and then scuttle her. A handful of remaining Stukas came across the rescue force on May 29, damaging cruisers Ajax og Orion and several destroyers, sinking the destroyer Fremover, and killing another 800 men.

Selv om Luftwaffe‘s neutralization of the Royal Navy’s Mediterranean Fleet made it possible for Germany to conquer Crete, it would be a hollow victory, so costly that Hitler swore off any further large-scale paratroop operations. He did not bother turning his expensive acquisition into a Nazi bastion to dominate the eastern Mediterranean and possibly secure victory in North Africa. Crete proved little more than a cemetery for thousands of wasted German lives — a sacrifice General Julius Ringel, commander of the 5th Mountain Division, said ‘would not have been too great had it meant a beginning, not an end.’

The Royal Navy lost a total of nine ships and 2,000 sailors during the campaign for Crete. On land, 1,700 Allied soldiers were killed and 12,000 captured. A total of 4,000 German soldiers were killed, and 220 of the nearly 500 transport aircraft involved were lost. After the invasion of Crete, Hitler told Student that the day of the paratrooper was over. The German armed forces would never again launch a large-scale airborne assault. The Allies, however, proved Hitler incorrect when they used airborne troops effectively against him during the D-Day operations three years later.

This article was written by Kelly Bell and originally appeared in the May 1999 issue of Andre verdenskrig.

For flere flotte artikler, husk å hente din kopi av Andre verdenskrig.


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. Kilde.
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. Kilde.

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]

Lese 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, s. 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,” Journal of Historical Review, Bind. 8, No. 4, Winter 1988-1989, pp. 394-395.

[10] Keegan, John, Andre verdenskrig, New York: Viking Penguin, 1990, pp. 151, 155-156.


The Two Faces of Memory: How Germans and Cretans Honor their Dead on Crete

A series of mixed emotions overcame me during a drive home from Elafonisi Beach in Western Crete. We took a detour to take the coastal road and visit some important sites from World War II history on this extraordinary island.

For students of World War II history, the names Maleme and Kontomari are places out of history books.

Numerous epic events took place along the coastline of Western Crete in late May and early June of 1941. The town of Maleme, with its strategic airstrip, saw fierce fighting as thousands of Nazi Germans parachuted out of airplanes as hundreds of gliders descended on the island.

A few kilometers up the hillside is the village of Kontomari where on June 2, 1941, one of the most atrocious acts of all of World War II took place as the invading Nazis rounded up the entire village and led them into nearby olive groves where they separated the men from everyone else.

A half dozen soldiers lined up the men of the village and began shooting them in firing squad formation while the women and children sat as spectators to this disgusting German spectacle.

Fast forward seventy plus years and visit today, the areas of Maleme and Kontomari.

At Maleme, on a hill overlooking the blueness of the sea and the actual airstrip where they invaded is the German Cemetery– the final resting place for almost 5,000 Nazi soldiers who were killed while trying to take Crete. The site is spectacle to the eye and soul. The beauty of the location– fertile and hospitable and the historic irony of the fact that these men are resting so peacefully below the land they brutally and violently conquered.

The sight and thought is provoking– five thousand men, some still teenagers– are buried on a hillside overlooking the foreign land they were sent to conquer, on land that was given to their predecessors by the very people they occupied and tortured.

The land was given to a private organization based in Kassel, Germany by the Greek government in the 1970s to build and manage the cemetery.

Today, the German cemetery greets thousands of visitors annually— including family members in search of their ancestors to pay respects. The site is complete with a welcome center, a guest book that is signed by people entering the cemetery and a well-thought exhibition that tells the story of the Battle of Crete and the German invasion of the island.

The deceased are in tidy graves with headstones, each marking the name, birth and death date of the soldier, lined perfectly— in perfect German order one might say— along the hillside.

A few kilometers down the road towards Hania there’s a sign for Kontomari, up a windy road into the hills.

We entered the village looking for a sign or something to point us in the direction of a memorial or even a plaque. The village’s main road is named after those who were massacred— a fitting tribute indeed but without any English (or even German) translation underneath as many Greek road signs offer these days— especially in tourist areas.

After driving up and down the road and seeing nothing, I stopped to ask some locals if there was a memorial. “Go up a bit, you’ll see it,” an elderly man said to me.

I drove up a bit— and found nothing, turned around and went back down the hill when I realized I was almost upon the next village.

I asked another lady who was walking up the hill with her dog. “Keep going down, past a big house and down the drive way you’ll see it on the left. I continued— but didn’t see anything. I ended up driving up and down the same road a half dozen times until parking and beginning to explore by foot. Villagers peered out their windows. I overheard one say from inside her window “enas Germanos einai…” (It’s a German).

I finally stumbled upon a wreck of a monument in between houses and trees, saddled by a crooked road that seemed to have been built around the monument or vice versa.

I was shocked— and saddened.

I have spent months researching and working on a short film that I want to produce, highlighting the story of the Kontomari massacre and how a Nazi photographer documented the events and secretly sent the images to the resistance to let the world know of the atrocities happening on Crete by the Nazis.

The photographer was eventually caught and sent to jail in Berlin. He survived to share his testimony at Nuremberg.

Dozens of Cretan men from Kontomari were brutally killed on June 2nd 1941 and in their memory, there is a ramshackle memorial with dead tree leaves and branches strewn about, an illegible monument that is covered in filth and a badly-faded photographic display bearing no explanation of anything.

Not only is the Kontomari monument hard to find in the village— if a would-be traveler were to stumble upon it, he/she would be hard pressed to know what it was or in whose memory it was created.

The activist in me immediately thought— start a fundraising campaign, mobilize the Cretans in America, call the local town council and complain… But given that we are the nation of excuses and bureaucracy, I walked away quietly knowing that I had paid my tribute— and I will continue to do so via the short film that I will produce on the topic and hopefully, some day I’ll be able to do something.

Unless, of course someone with both deeper pockets and more political influence might be inspired to do something before me and give these men the memorial that their sacrifice truly deserves.


THE GERMAN INVASION OF CRETE, MAY 1941

German paratroopers dropping from Junkers Ju 52s over Crete, 20 May 1941. One of the aircraft burns after being hit by ground fire. The Germans lost 150 transport aircraft during the operation.

By the end of the day, the Germans had gained none of their objectives. It appeared the operation had been a costly failure. But Allied communications had broken down and Freyberg and his commanders – still expecting an assault from the sea – made a crucial mistake. Instead of committing their reserves to an immediate counterattack against Maleme, they sanctioned a withdrawal, effectively giving up control of the airfield. This was the tipping point. On the second day the Germans threw everything at Maleme, with troop carriers landing and disembarking in the face of British artillery fire.

The battle continued for several more days, but as further German units arrived the British position became hopeless. On 27 May Freyberg ordered an evacuation. The Royal Navy, which had already lost ships to air attacks while engaging German troop convoys from Greece, now suffered further losses as it evacuated troops. Between 28 May and 1 June, 18,000 Australian, New Zealand and British troops were evacuated.


Se videoen: Базар Ретимно Крит Местные магазины спортивной одежды Crete today Bazar Rethymno 2021


Kommentarer:

  1. Bolaji

    Jeg liker denne ideen, jeg er helt enig med deg.

  2. Wevers

    det raske svaret, det karakteristiske ved sinnet :)

  3. Karn

    Very interesting thoughts, well told, everything is just laid out on the shelves

  4. Momoztli

    I am am excited too with this question. You will not prompt to me, where I can read about it?

  5. Modal

    Jeg beklager at jeg forstyrrer ... Jeg er klar over denne situasjonen. Man kan diskutere.

  6. Kajijora

    Sagt i fortrolighet.



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