The Pyrrhic Battle: Crete 1941.

by Daniel Russ on November 28, 2017

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The German Airborne Assault on Crete might have seemed like a wanton and unessential battle to engage. Massed German paratrooper attacks had already been staged successfully inside Belgian and French lines at the outset of the war. Hitler loved his paratroopers because they were ruthless winners and zealous Nazis and a few historians have opined that Hitler wanted to spotlight them. The 10,000 man force under the purview of General Kurt Student would be dropped into place with 75 gliders and 500 transport aircraft (100 gliders cited from competing sources). On the ground they would attack airbases, naval bases and urban redoubts in the western portion of the island

German Gliders Were Easy Targets For A Force  Forewarned.

 

Crete is about 160 miles long and sits about 60 miles from the Greek shoreline. In 1941, it was last piece of Greek territory under Allied control. It also featured a natural and large harbor that provided ample platform for Naval operations against the German presence in the Mediterranean. Hitler was also planning to invade Russia and felt strongly that forces in Crete would secure his Balkan flank. He also wanted to make certain that Afrika Korps could be resupplied in the Mediterranean without interruption.

 

History tells us that Ultra decoding efforts had revealed the invasion well in advance and the Allies, reinforced by thousands of auxiliaries from British units in North Africa, put up firewalls of bullets and bombs. The Battle of Crete was a clear victory for the Germans, but a Pyrrhic victory. With one in four paratroopers a casualty, it was so devastating a loss that Hitler never again allowed an air assault.

 

Greek Partisan Casualties

 

Some put total casualties at 5346.

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