26 August 2010

World War II In Greece

I'm reliably told that August 26, 1944 was the day that Nazi Germany began withdrawing its forces from Greece.

This is an appropriate time to reflect, then, on the war in Greece. The looting thereof during the period of the Nazi occupation was a very successful element of Germany's war finance. Occupied Greece sent massive quantities of food to German armnies around Europe, during a period when more than 250,000 Greek civilians died of starvation.

The first Axis attack on Greece was the Italian invasion in October 1940. Il Duce was sure he'd have help from the Bulgarians. Bulgaria might have been amenable had the Italian government done the necessary diplomatic work. But Mussolini was too sure of himself and didn't bother even asking until ten days before the scheduled day for the start of the campaign. King Boris declined.

This was worse than a faux pas. It helped make the Italian campaign in Greece a disaster for Italy. When the Greeks figured out Bulgarian wasn't joining in, they re-assigned troops from their border with Bulgaria to aid in resisting the Italians.

By April 1941 the Italian phase of the war in Greece was over, Mussolini had failed, Greece was still independent, and the Italians had lost 38,380 men in the effort. Greek fatalities were about a third of that. Germany swooped in. Why? Other than bailing out a troublesome ally, what was the strategic significance of Greece for Germany?

There were several elements to it. One was the prospect of booty I mentioned above. Another was a matter of securing the right flank for an eventual attack on Russia. A third was the prospect for using Greece as a staging point for Mediterranean operations, increasing the pressure on the Brits in Egypt from the north, while Rommel pressed against them from the west.

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Knowledge is warranted belief -- it is the body of belief that we build up because, while living in this world, we've developed good reasons for believing it. What we know, then, is what works -- and it is, necessarily, what has worked for us, each of us individually, as a first approximation. For my other blog, on the struggles for control in the corporate suites, see www.proxypartisans.blogspot.com.