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World War II

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'''World War II''', also known as the '''Second World War''', was a mid-20th-century conflict that engulfed much of the globe and is generally accepted as the largest and deadliest continuous war in human history. World War II resulted in the direct or indirect death of anywhere from 50 to 60 million people, over 3% of the world population at that time. It is estimated to have cost more money and resources than all other wars combined: about 1 trillion United States dollars in [[1945]] (roughly 10.5 trillion in [[2005]]), not including subsequent reconstruction [http://www.historychannel.com/worldwartwo/?page=triumph5].
The conflict began by most Western accounts on [[September 1]] , [[1939]] with the German invasion of Poland (the Pacific war is taken to have started on [[July 7]] , [[1937]] with the Japanese attack on China) and lasted until the summer of [[1945]], involving many of the world's countries. Some historians contend that the Italian occupation of Ethiopia (The Second Italo-Abyssinian War) which lasted seven months in 1935-1936 was the actual start of World War II. Virtually all countries that participated in [[World War I]] were involved in World War II. Many consider World War II to be the only true world war due to the overwhelming number of nations involved and the extraordinary number of theatres—from Europe and the Soviet Union to North Africa, China, South East Asia and the Pacific. In World War I non-European theatres had seen quick and short colonial battles, but in World War II these theatres demanded far more resources and human sacrifice.
In Europe, the war ended with the surrender of Germany on [[May 8 May]] , [[1945]] (V-E Day), but continued in Asia until Japan surrendered on [[August 15]], [[1945]] (V-J Day).
== [[Greece]] and World War II ==
For Greece, the conflict began on [[October 28]], [[1940]], when Italian Ambassador, Emmanuele Grazzi, handed an ultimatum to Greek Prime Minister [[Ioannes Metaxas]] at 03:00 AM, demanding free passage for Italian troops only to receive the one-word answer "ΟΧΙ" ("no").
The armed campaign lasted from [[October 28]] , [[1940]] to [[April 6]], [[1941]].
It marked the beginning of the Balkans Campaign of [[World War II]].
==Background==
===Cause===
Fascist Italy had long-term plans for the establishment of a new Roman Empire, which included [[Greece]]. Italy’s immediate reason for seeking war with [[Greece ]] was a desire to emulate its German ally’s triumphs. Mussolini also wanted to reassert Italy’s interest in the [[Balkans]] (he was piqued that Romania, an Italian client, had accepted German protection for its Ploesti oil fields earlier in October) and secure bases from which the British eastern Mediterranean outposts could be attacked. As the Kingdom of Yugoslavia was perceived as too strong, the obvious victim was [[Greece]], which the Italians thought to be weak and internally divided. Furthermore, Italy had been occupying the predominantly-Greek [[Dodecanese]] islands in the southeastern [[Aegean Sea|Aegean]] since [[1911]].
After the Greco-Turkish treaty of [[1930 ]] and the [[Balkan Pact]] of [[1934]], the threat from Greece's traditional enemy, Turkey, was no more. Albania was too weak to be a threat and the Kingdom of Yugoslavia did not seriously press its claims on southern [[Macedonia]]. Therefore, during the [[1930s]], the main threat was perceived to be Bulgaria and her aspirations to reclaim [[Western Thrace]]. Thus, when, in [[1936]], [[Ioannis Metaxas|Metaxas]] came to power in [[Greece]], plans had been laid down for the reorganization of the country's armed forces and for a fortified defensive line along the Greco-Bulgarian frontier. The line was constructed under Metaxas' regime and named after the dictator: the [[Metaxas Line|Grammi Metaxa]]. During the following years, the Army benefited from great investments aiming at its modernization: it was technologically upgraded, enlarged, largely re-equipped and as a whole dramatically improved from its previous deplorable state. The Greek government purchased new arms for the three Armies, and the Navy was added new ships. However, due to the increasing threat and the eventual outbreak of the war, the most significant purchases from abroad, made during the years [[1938–]]-[[1939]], were never or only partially delivered. Also, a massive contingency plan was developed and great amounts of food and utilities were stockpiled by the Army in many parts of [[Greece ]] for the eventuality of war.
In early [[1939]], Italian troops occupied Albania, long under Italian influence, thereby gaining an immediate border with [[Greece]]. This new development cancelled all previous plans, and hasty preparations started for the event of an Italian attack. As war exploded in Central Europe, [[Ioannis Metaxas |Metaxas]] tried to keep Greece out of the conflict, but as the conflict progressed, Metaxas felt increasingly closer to Great Britain, encouraged by the ardent anglophile [[King George II]], who provided the main support for the regime. This was ironic for [[Ioannis Metaxas|Metaxas]], who had always been a germanophile and who had built strong ties with Hitler's Germany.
A mounting propaganda campaign against [[Greece ]] was launced in mid-[[1940 ]] in Italy, and the repeated acts of provocation, such as overflights of Greek territory, reached their peak with the torpedoing and sinking of the Greek light cruiser Elli in [[Tinos]] on [[August 15]], [[1940]] (a national religious holiday), by an Italian submarine. Despite undeniable evidence of Italian responsibility, the Greek government announced that the attack had been carried out by a submarine of "unknown nationality". Although the façade of neutrality was thus preserved, the people were well aware of the real perpetrator.
===Italian ultimatum===
On In the eve wee hours of the morning of [[October 28]], [[1940]], Italy's ambassador in [[Athens]] handed an ultimatum from Mussolini to [[Ioannis Metaxas|Metaxas]]. By then Italy had concentrated a large part of the Italian Army in neighboring Albania, and the Duce demanded free passage for his troops to occupy unspecified "strategic points" inside Greek territory. Greece had been friendly towards Germany, especially profiting from mutual trade relations, but now Germany's ally Italy was to invade Greece (without Hitler's awareness and against his designs), partly to prove that Italians could match the military successes of the German Army in Poland and France. Metaxas rejected the ultimatum, echoing the will of the Greek people to resist, a will which was popularly expressed in one word: "[[Oxi Day|Ohi]]" (Greek for "No"). Within 3 hours Italy was attacking [[Greece ]] from Albania.
Shortly thereafter, [[Ioannis Metaxas |Metaxas]] addressed the Greek people with these words: "The time has come for [[Greece ]] to fight for her independence. Greeks, now we must prove ourselves worthy of our forefathers and the freedom they bestowed upon us. Greeks, now fight for your Fatherland, for your wives, for your children and the sacred traditions. Now, over all things, fight!". In response to this address, the people of [[Greece ]] reportedly spontaneously went out to the streets singing Greek patriotic songs and shouting anti-Italian slogans, and hundreds of thousands of volunteers, men and women, in all parts of [[Greece ]] headed to the Army's offices to enlist for the war. The whole nation was united in the face of aggression. Even the imprisoned leader of [[Greece]]'s banned [[KKE|Communist Party]], [[Nikolaos Zachariadis]], issued an open letter advocating resistance, despite the still existing Nazi-Soviet Pact, thereby contravening the current Comintern line.
==Summary of campaign==
=== German intervention ===
At the time of the German attack ([[April 6 April]] , [[1941]]) the bulk of the Greek forces were facing the Italians in Albania. Some of the remaining Greek forces were deployed in the [[Metaxas Line]] and most of the rest were with the British intervention forces deploying north of [[Larissa]]. The British wanted the Greeks to abandon the Metaxas Line and deploy north of Larissa; the Greeks vacillated, as this would mean abandoning half the country, along with Greece's second largest city, [[Thessaloniki]], without a shot fired. The Germans invaded Yugoslavia at the same time as Greece and so were able to outflank the Metaxas line by moving through southern Yugoslavia after the rapid decomposition of the Yugoslav resistance. This necessitated a Greco-British retreat further to the narrow pass at [[Thermopylae]], where the Germans broke through again, all the way down until German forces were at the [[Acropolis]]. After some brief actions on the [[Peloponnese]], the Greeks and British Commonwealth forces retreated to Crete.
===The [[Battle of Crete]]===The [[Battle of Crete]] began on the morning of [[May 20]] , [[1941]], when Germany launched an airborne invasion under the code-name '''Unternehmen Merkur''' (Operation Mercury). The Germans succeeded in taking the island from the Greek and Allied forces holding it, but the victory was so costly that the Germans never again launched a major airborne mission.  ===The [[Greek Resistance]]===The war did not end for Greece with the capitulation of its regular forces. Armed resistance groups appeared, of different political ideologies, that bogged down German forces that could have been used elsewhere. They supported the Allied effort with acts of sabotage and attacks on German troops. In addition, many Greeks left for Egypt where they built an army of 30,000 men attached to the British army. They were used in the battles of El Alamein and Tobruk in North Africa and subsequently in the invasion of Italy. ===Cyprus===Cypriots, being outside of the realm of the Kingdom of Greece, were not subject to conscription. Yet an estimated 35,000 Cypriot volunteers served in the armed forces during the war. 650 died, 2,500 were taken prisoner. In addition, collections were taken up for the war effort and many Cypriot women spent their free time knitting sweaters and gloves for the troops in Epirus.Cypriot President, [[Glafkos Clerides]], himself served in the Royal Air Force and was taken prisoner by the Germans. In [[1943]], PM Winston Churchill visited the island and praised its people for their part in was effort.
==Stages of campaign==
===Initial Italian Offensive (28 Oct 1940 – 13 Nov 1940)===
Italian troops invaded Greece by land, sea and air with 2,000 planes and five infantry divisions but despite repeated attacks failed to achieve a breakthrough. In the Epirus sector, the Italian attack ground to a halt by [[November 9]]. A greater threat was posed by the advance of the 'Julia' Division, but it was checked by the forces of the II Greek Army Corps, which had taken over the Pindus sector. The Greeks managed to encircle and practically destroy 'Julia' by [[November 13]]. In Western Macedonia, in the face of Italian inactivity and as to relieve the Epirus front, on the 31st, the Greek High Command moved III Corps (10th and 11th Infantry Divisions and the Cavalry Brigade, under Lt Gen [[Gen Georgios Tsolakoglou]]) into the area and ordered it to attack into Albania together with TSDM. For logistical reasons this attack was repeatedly postponed until the 14th of November.The unexpected Greek resistance caught the Italians, who were expecting a 'military picnic', by surprise. Several divisions were hastily sent to Albania, among them the division (47th 'Bari') intended for the invasion of [[Corfu]]. Enraged about the bogging down of the offensive, Mussolini replaced Prasca with General Umbaldo SoduUbaldo Soddu, his former Vice-Minister of War, on [[November 9]]. Immediately upon arrival, Sodu Soddu ordered his forces to turn to the defesivedefensive. It was clear that the Italian invasion had failed.   
===Greek counter-offensive and stalemate (14 Nov 1940 – March 1941)===
The Greek reserves started reaching the front in early November, and with the proceeding mobilization, the Greek Commander-in-Chief, Lt Gen [[Alexandros Papagos|Papagos]], had sufficient forces to launch his counter-offensive. TSDM and III Corps, continuously reinforced with units from all over northern Greece, launched their attack on [[November 14]], in the direction of [[Korytsa]]. After bitter fighting on the fortified frontier line, the Greeks broke through on the [[November 17|17th]], entering Korytsa on the [[November 22|22nd]]. However, due to indecisiveness among the Greek High Command, the Italians were allowed to break contact and regroup, avoiding a complete collapse. The attack from Western Macedonia was combined with a general offensive along the entire front. I and II Corps advanced in Epirus, and after hard fighting captured [[Agioi Saranda]], [[Argyrokastron]] and [[Himara]] by early December, practically occupying the area the Greeks called '[[Northern Epirus]]'. A final Greek success was the forcing of the strategically important and heavily fortified [[Klisura ]] pass on [[January 10]] by II Corps, but the heavy winter, the Italian numerical superiority and the bad logistical situation of the Greeks forced a stalemate by the end of the month. Meanwhile, General Sodu Soddu had been replaced in mid-December by Gen Ugo Cavallero.  
===Italian Spring Offensive and German Attack (March 1941 – 23 April 1941)===
==Military insights gained from the war==
#The poor performance of the Italian forces can be blamed on many things. Some sources state nationality and motivational factors, others blame the weakness of the Italian forces, especially in infantry, with only two regiments per division. However the Italians were stronger in artillery and mortars than the Greeks, had much better supply and enjoyed absolute superiority in air forces, which they failed to exploit. Another notable failure is the lack of any attack on the [[Ionian Islands]], which were obvious and relatively undefended targets, and could have provided Italy with strong forward naval and air bases. General Sebastiano Visconti Prasca attributes the failure of the campaign to poor organization, personal agendas, corruption and lack of cooperation among the top ranks of Italy's Armed Forces.
 #It can be has been claimed that the intervention of the British Imperial forces did more harm than good, giving Hitler an excuse to invade Greece and disorganising the Greek strategy. The force was not strong enough to stop the Germans. Perhaps the Allied forces could have been better used in North Africa, where their removal may have prevented the Allies from totally expelling the Axis from North Africa.
# It has been argued that the Balkan Campaign decisively delayed the German invasion of Russia. For example, during the Nuremberg trials after WWII, Hitler's Chief of Staff Field Marshall Keitel stated that "The unbelievable strong resistance of the Greeks delayed by two or more vital months the German attack against Russia; if we did not have this long delay, the outcome of the war would have been different in the eastern front and in the war in general, and others would have been accused and would be occupying this seat as defendants today".
#*[http://www.comandosupremo.com/Greece1940.html Comando Supremo: Invasion of Greece 28 October - Italian Order of battle]
==See also== [[Battle Category:Wars of Greece]][[Category:World War II]]
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