The Battle of Greece (also known as Operation Marita, German: Unternehmen Marita) is the common name for the invasion of Greece by Germany and Italy in April 1941. It followed a previous, unsuccessful Italian invasion known as the Greco-Italian War. It is usually distinguished from the Battle of Crete, which came after mainland Greece had been subdued. These operations were part of the greater Balkan Campaign of Germany in World War II.
At the time of the German invasion, Greece was already at war with Italy, following the Italian invasion on 28 October 1940. Greece successfully defeated the initial attack and the counterattack of March 1941. When Operation Marita began on 6 April, the bulk of the Greek army was on the Albanian border, from which the Italians were trying to enter Greece. German troops invaded through Bulgaria, creating a second front. Greece had already received a small reinforcement from British Empire forces in anticipation of the German attack but no more help was sent after the invasion began. The Greek army found itself vastly outnumbered in its effort to defend against both Italian and German troops. As a result, the Bulgarian defensive line did not receive adequate troop reinforcements and was quickly overrun by the Germans who then outflanked the Greek forces in the Albanian borders, forcing their surrender. The British Empire forces then performed a tactical retreat with an ultimate goal of evacuation. The German army reached the city of Athens on 27 April and Greece’s southern shore on 30 April, capturing 7,000 British Empire forces, and ending the battle with a decisive victory. The conquest of Greece was completed with the capture of Crete a month later. Following its conquest, Greece was occupied by military forces of Germany, Italy, and Bulgaria.
Looking back near the end of the war, as Germany’s inevitable and impending defeat loomed ever closer, Hitler attributed great blame to Mussolini’s Greek fiasco as the cause of his own subsequent catastrophe.
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