Why Did Italy Invade Greece?
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If you look at the timeline of World War II concerning Germany and leading up right up to Germany’s defeat, you may notice that Greece factors into this timeline of events. On October 28, 1940, Iannis Metaxas told Mussolini that under no circumstances would he agree to an Italian occupation of Greece. Because of this rejection, Mussolini invaded. This event is the basis behind Ochi Day, a national holiday in Greece.
There are many who believe that Italy’s insistence on invading Greece ultimately led to Germany’s defeat in Russia, which eventually ended the war. Whether or not this is actually true is under debate.
However, because we know that Germany suffered defeat in Russia, it has caused us to look back and wonder why Italy actually moved in on Greece when they did. Would things have turned out different had Mussolini waited?
Mussolini’s Initial Invasion
The Greco – Italian War, as Italy’s invasion of Greece is now referred to as, took place on October 28, 1940 and lasted until April 23, 1941. In Mussolini’s mind, the invasion should have taken two weeks, at the most.
At the time of the initial invasion, Mussolini wanted to impress Hitler and mimic his military success. Greece, he thought, would be a surefire way to give him the respect he so craved.
So, when Metaxas wouldn’t allow Mussolini to occupy Greece, he used this as an opportunity to invade in an attempt to show his allies his military prowess. At the time, Italy occupied Albania so they were bolstered by this initial success.
Difficult First Week of Battle
Rather than succumbing to the Italians’ show of force, the Greek army fought for a solid week and eventually pushed the Italian army back into Albania. This was humiliating for Mussolini who faced opposition for his attack into Greece by his allies and even some of his own generals. What was supposed to be an easy victory became a desperate fight for survival.
At this point, Hitler was in a tough situation. On the one hand, Mussolini was one of his strongest allies. On the other, he didn’t support Italy’s attack on Greece in the first place. An Italian defeat in Greece, however, would only serve to strengthen the Nazi cause. So, he was forced to step in and aid Italy. After several months, Greece finally did succumb and a period of German occupation followed.
Additional Reasons for Italy Invading Greece
Even though Hitler and Mussolini were strong allies, they also didn’t always get along. Mussolini wanted to believe that they were on an equal footing. However, Hitler launched several campaigns without first informing him. There are some who believe that Mussolini attacked Greece behind Hitler’s back out of retaliation.
Mussolini also understood that the airports and seaports in Greece were strategically important. Since England supported Greece, Mussolini believed that the British controlled these ports. If he were to attack and then occupy Greece, Italy would have control of these ports.
As you can see, there are a few reasons why Mussolini attacked Greece initially. However, things didn’t go as planned for him. Even though Germany eventually succeeded where Mussolini failed, Mussolini’s actions could have caused the ultimate defeat of Hitler and his allies during World War II.
Categorized in: Modern Greek History
This post was written by Greek Boston